Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Meat and Potatoes - Braised Chicken Pieces and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

What is THE BEST cooking method for chicken? For pork? For beef?

We favor two methods: #1: Roasting... the dry heat and even temperature can produce perfect results. Don't disturb the roast - but monitor that temperature!

#2: Braising. We love braising meat on the stovetop in the enameled cast iron pans we have. Loosley, braising usually consists of browning/searing the (rubbed) meat, then removing the meat and deglazing the pan (fancy term for adding some liquid - usually wine - and scraping the burnt bits from the bottom of the pan with a wood spoon, allowing the wine to cook and evaporate). Then adding water-based liquid, usually stock or broth (what's the difference?), getting that up to temperature and then adding the meat back in, covering, and letting it simmer til it's done.

This method produces results that are different than roasting, but equal in quality. The meat has a nice, seared crust - but the liquid has slowly cooked the flesh and kept it tender.

Last night we went for Braised Chicken with some Mashed Sweet Potatoes!

MEAT! We went with Braised Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks (bone-in, of course) - salt and pepper seasoned and we added a smokey rub - 4 parts paprika to 1 part cumin plus 1/2 parts onion and garlic powder. Seared, turned, removed; added garlic and onion; deglazed; added 2 cups chicken stock (actually 3/4 chicken, 1/4 beef - just an experiment!); lidded; cooked for about 30 minutes.

POTATOES! With this we went for mashed sweet potatoes. We normally do sweet potatos instead of regular because of the nutritional content as well as the taste - read up here for some great nutritional information. Basically, less carbs. We are no diet nuts, but we'll try to watch what we eat when we can by avoiding processed sugars, going with wheat breads and pastas, etc. We peeled and chopped up the potatoes then boiled them for 15 min or so, and we also threw some scallions in the water to give the orange sweet potato (our favorite color) some green (our other favorite) and some oniony flavor. The scallions and potatoes got mashed together with some Promise (fake butter) and milk til they were a nice, mashed consistency.

With all this we had some leftover Braised Cabbage.

* Chicken - 7 out of 10. One thing that is tough with braising is getting that chicken skin crispy. The dark meat comes out great, but the skin doesn't crisp up. Next time we may experiment going skinless when braising. Meat was DELICIOUSLY dark and moist - fell off the bones.
* Mashed Sweet Potatoes - 9 out of 10. This is a great recipe and the scallion gave it that extra flavor point!


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