As I write we’ve had two days and nights of drizzly rain interspersed with showers and occasional bright spells, the kind of weather that’s cool enough for actual cooking. These are the days when you can start a pot of beans cooking, set a timer and forget about it except for checking now and then to be sure the pot doesn’t go dry. It’s weather that permits long slow cooking of tough meats.
Yesterday, my son had handed me a children’s book titled, intriguingly, "The Princess in the Pigpen". The cover showed a little girl wearing a dress made wide at the hips with a farthingale, much like one Queen Elizabeth I would have worn. It’s a book a five year-old would enjoy having read to her, and a little girl of eight or nine could read for herself. Appropriately, I had thawed a couple of chunks of pork to cook for supper. I could enjoy the book and call it research for (a) the children’s fiction book I’ve been fine-tuning for ages, and (b) practice the art of braising for my Loop column.
Braised meat with herbs and fruit can be made with pork, beef, or chicken. With pork, or beef, I use sage and apples or prunes. With chicken, I like tarragon, or oregano, or spices and cherries or apricots.
withHerbs & Fruit
Cook in a wide frying pan that owns a cover.
Olive oil spray
2 pork chops or small beef steaks
6 to 8 dried prunes
1 to 2 teaspoons finely crumbled dried sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Spray the cold frying pan with the olive oil. While it heats, pat the meat pieces dry with a paper towel. Brown them on each side. Sprinkle them with the sage, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add hottest possible tap water or boiling water to almost cover the meat. Cover the pan. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Check on the meat, adding more water if necessary, so the pan won’t go dry.
Tuck the prunes around the meat. Cook another 20 to 25 minutes, until the meat is very tender. Serve with microwave baked potatoes, a cooked vegetable and a salad.
Braised Chicken: Spray frying pan with olive oil. Heat the pan. Brown serving-size pieces, sprinkle them with tarragon or cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Add hot water to almost cover the chicken pieces, reduce the heat, cover the pan, set the timer for 25 minutes, turn the chicken pieces over, and tuck dried apricots around them, turn the heat to medium low, add water if needed and set the timer again for 20 minutes.