Braised ribs & apple cake: Winter cooking class #3

On February 8th we enjoyed our third cooking class, which concluded our Wintertime Harvest cooking class series.

This week we were joined by instructor Jayne Wark, a professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design who has a secret passion for cooking. This was her first time leading a cooking class but she seemed to enjoy it just as much as everyone enjoyed the menu she had set out for them.

To begin our preparations, we started off with dessert! The apple cake we prepared is a great Nova Scotian recipe, as vanilla is the only non-local ingredient. The original recipe called for granulated sugar but we subbed this for some Cosman & Whidden honey, which ended up tasting better than the original recipe! The other beauty of this cake is that it is super easy to make so you can get it in the oven first then continue on with dinner preparations while it is baking for an hour or so.

While our cake was in the oven we started to prepare the entrée of a beef braise with cabbage and polenta. Jayne had prepared the beef braise before hand using some of Mike Oulton’s free range, organic beef short ribs, as the nature of a braise is that it is slow cooking and could not be prepared entirely during the period of one cooking class. Jayne went over the recipe she used (a Propeller porter ale and white onion recipe) and all the specific techniques of braising. The class then finished the final steps of the braise by coating the ribs in a rosemary infused maple syrup glaze. Some members of the group then prepared some pan-seared cabbage with white onion, garlic, free-range bacon (from Windy View Farms at the Seaport Market) and hard apple cider. Meanwhile other members prepared the polenta using course corn meal from Speerville, NB purchased from The Grainery on Agricola St. Jayne demonstrated her super easy method for making polenta that doesn’t involve constant stovetop stirring. Instead, using a Dutch oven, the polenta was baked in the oven at 350° for 20 minutes. Everyone was amazing by how easy it is to make polenta, a great food, especially for those who eat gluten-free.

While the braise, cabbage, polenta and apple cake were all in the oven, the group whipped up a smoked haddock pâté to snack on with bread from Boulangerie La Vendéenne. The original recipe called for cream, but due to some dairy sensitivities in the group Jayne showed the group how to make a substitute mayonnaise. A lot of people had never made a mayonnaise before, and the demonstration really showed everyone how easy it really is (common, you got to try it, folks!). While snacking away on the pâté, Rupert Jannasch from Ironwood Farm joined us to talk about his farm, his CSA program and his cattle. Rupert had a lot of insight on the kinds of beef on the market, the different species of cattle, different beef cuts etc. It was very interesting having Rupert around to answer our questions about beef and cattle farming, especially for a class where a beef braise was the main entrée.

Rupert answered questions and hosted conversation all the way to the dinner table once everything was ready. There, conversation ceased and everything became quiet except for the clinking of plates and sighs of enjoyment, as everyone delighted in the meal in front of them.

After our plates were cleared and our Wintertime Harvest cooking class series came to an end, many exchanged names and numbers in hopes of staying in contact with one another in the future. We all left, secretly knowing however, that we would all see each other sometime again. Perhaps at the market? Perhaps at The Grainery? Or perhaps at next season’s cooking class.

Until then,

Yours in food,
Lucy

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze
(from All About Braising by Molly Stevens)
Serves 6
Braising Time: 2 1/2 – 3 hrs

The ribs need to marinate for 12-24 hours, so be sure to allow time for this (steps 1 and 2). In addition, the flavour of short ribs improves if they are braised 1-2 days before you serve them. Complete the recipe through step 6, and after braising, let the ribs cool to room temperature in their braising liquid. Once they are cool, transfer the ribs and sauce to a glass or other nonreactive container, cover tightly, and refrigerate. To serve, scrape almost all of the solidified fat from the surface of the sauce. Arrange the ribs in a shallow baking dish, along with a sauce, discard the spice sack. Cover the ribs with foil and back in the center of a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, taste the sauce for salt and pepper, and baste the ribs with the sauce. Place back in the oven, uncovered, to heat another 10 minutes before serving.

The Marinade
3 1/2 to 4 pounds meaty bone-in short ribs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions (about 1 pound total). Sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 carrot, chopped to 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups of porter ale
3/4 beef stock
One 4 inch sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Aromatics and Braising Liquid
3 tablespoons pure maple suryp
Two 4 inch rosemary sprigs

Trimming and marinating the short ribs:
Trim away any thick layers of surface fat from the short ribs, but don’t remove the silver skin or tough looking tissue that holds the ribs together. Place the ribs in a large wide bowl or baking dish, season with the stalk and pour over the cooled marinade. Rearrange the ribs if necessary so that the marinade covers them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning the ribs once or twice so they marinate evenly.

Salting the ribs- 1 to 2 days before braising
Arrange the ribs in a loose layer on a tray or in a non reactive dish. Sprinkle them all over with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt and cover loosely with waxed paper or plastic rap. Refrigerate for a day or two.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees
Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel, but don’t rub off the salt. Season with pepper.

Browning the ribs.
Pour 2 tbsp oil into a Dutch oven or other heavy braising pot (4-6 quart) wide enough to accommodate the short ribs in a crowded single layer and heat over medium heat. Make sure the ribs are completely dry, and season them all over with salt and pepper. Add only as many ribs as will fit without crowding and sear them, turning with tongs, until deeply browned on all sides, 4-5 minutes per side. Set aside on a large plate or tray, without stacking and finish browning the remaining ribs. Set the pot aside. (The ribs may also be browned under the broiler.)

The aromatics
Pour off and discard all but about a tablespoon of fat from the pot. If there are any charred bits in the pot, wipe them down with a damp paper towel, being careful not to remove the precious caramelizzed drippings. Return the pot to medium-high heat until the vegetables start to brown and soften, about 5 minutes.

The braising liquids
Add the ale and bring to a full boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve any tasty bits cooked onto it. Pour in the stock, bring again to a boil, and reduce the hear to a simmer. Return the ribs to the pot, along with any juices released while sitting. Tuck the rosemary sprig and bay leaves in between the ribs. The ribs should be partially submerged in the liquid. If necessary add a bit more water.

The braise:
Cover the pot with parchment paper, pressing down on a paper so it nearly touches the ribs and so the paper hangs over the sides by an inch. Set the lid in place then slide the pot onto a rack in the lower third of the oven. Braise gently , turning the ribs with tongs so as not to tear up the meat every 40-45 minutes, until the meat is fork tender and falling away from the bones, 2 1/2-3 hours. After the first 20 minutes, lower the oven heat  10-15 degrees

Meanwhile prepare the glaze
While the ribs are braising, combine the maple syrup and rosemary sprig in a small saucepan. Heat to a gentle boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover and infuse for 1 hour.

Removing the ribs from the braising liquid
When the ribs are tender and the meat is pulling away from the bones, use tongs or a slotted spoon to carefully transfer them to a flameproof gratin dish or shallow baking dish that is large enough to accommodate them in a single layer. Try your best to keep the ribs on the bones and intact, but don’t worry if some bones slip out. Scoop out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and arrange them around the ribs.

Finishing the braising liquid
Tilt the braising pot to collect the juices in one end and skim off as much surface fat as you can with a large spoon. If thereis more fat than you care to skim off a spoonful at a time, transer the braising liquid to a gravy seperator and then pout the liquid into a medium saucepan leaving the fat behind. If the braising liquid exceeds 1/2 cup, bring it to a vigourous simmer over medium-high heat and cook it down to close to 1/2 up. It should have a syrupy consistency.

Glazing the short ribs
Heat the broiler on high. Remove the rosemary sprigs form the glaze, running your fingers down the length of the sprigs so you save every drop of glaze. Brush the glaze on top of the ribs. Pour the reduced brazing liquid around the ribs. Don’t pour directly on the ribs at it will wash off the glaze. Slide the ribs under the broiler and broil until the surface of the ribs develops a shiny, almost caramelized glaze and you can hear them sizzle, about 4 minutes.

Serving
Serve immediately.  Glazing the ribs should be the last step of your dinner preparations.

Just before the  plan to braise, soak mushrooms:
Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and pour over the warm water. Set aside to soak 20-30 minutes

Browning the short ribs:
Remove the ribs from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towns. Strain the marinade into a bowl. Reserve the wine and spice sachet and discard vegetables.
Pour 2 tbsp oil into a Dutch oven or other heavy braising pot (4-6 quart) wide enough to accommodate the short ribs in a crowded single layer and heat over medium heat. Make sure the ribs are completely dry, and season them all over with salt and pepper. Add only as many ribs as will fit without crowding and sear them, turning with tongs, until deeply browned on all sides, 4-5 minutes per side. Set aside on a large plate or tray, without stacking and finish browning the remaining ribs. Set the pot aside. (The ribs may also be browned under the broiler.)

Heat the oven to 325 degrees

Draining the mushrooms:
Life the softened mushrooms from the soaking liquid with your hands, and holding the mushrooms above soaking liquid, squeeze gently to  wring out any excess moisture. Set the mushrooms on a cutting board, and reserve the soaking liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms, and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a triple layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter to catch any sand or grit. Reserve the liquid.

The Aromatics and Braising liquid:
Pour off and discard any remaining fat from the braising pot. If there are lots of charred bits on the bottom, wipe these out with a damp paper towel, leaving behind any unburnt drippings. If there is a rich browned crust, leave it, add the remaining tsp of oil and heat over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté, stirring until browned and softened, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes with their juice, and the chopped mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes, stirring once or twice. Pour in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and wine and bring to a boil. Let the liquid boil until it is reduced by about half, 2-3 minutes.

The braise:
Return the short ribs to the pot, along with any juice. Tuck the reserved spice sack and rosemary springs in between the ribs. Cover the pot with parchment paper, pressing down on a paper so it nearly touches the ribs and so the paper hangs over the sides by an inch. Set the lid in place then slide the pot onto a rack in the lower third of the oven. Braise gently , turning the ribs with tongs so as not to tear up the mead every 40-45 minutes, until the meat is fork tender and falling away from the bones, 2 ½ -3 hours. After the first 20 minutes, lower the oven heat  10-15 degrees

The finish:
Transfer the ribs to a serving platter and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Discard the spice sack. To degrease the braising liquid, either pour into a gravy separator and then pour the liquid into a medium saucepan leaving the fat behind, or simply tilt the braising pan and skim the fat off with a large spoon. The liquid should be the consistency of thick vinaigrette. Heat the sauce to a simmer over medium- high heat, and taste for salt and pepper.

Serving:
Transfer the ribs to dinner plates, spoon sauce over and serve immediately.

Browning the short ribs under the broiler:
Another way to sear the ribs is to brown them under the broiler. This avoids the splatter of the grease onto the top of the stove when searing. In place of step 4, preheat the broiler on high and adjust the oven rack so that it sits about 6 inches from the flames or heating element. Arrange the ribs 1-2 inches apart on a rimmed baking sheet (a half sheet pan), or broiler pan, and slide them under the broiler. Broil, turning with tongs as each side browns, until sizzling and chestnut brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the ribs to a platter, without stacking them. Pour off and discard the grease left over, and deglaze to capture any precious caramelized beef drippings: set the pan over medium high heat, add about ¼ cup of red wine, stock, or water, and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up and dissolve the drippings. Reserve this liquid.
Proceed with step 5, chopping the mushrooms and straining their liquid. Then heat 1 tbsp of the oil (you will only needed 2 tbsp oil, not the 3 specified, if using this method) in a large Dutch oven or other heavy braising pot (5-6 quart) over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté as directed in step 7. The continue with step 7, adding the deglazing liquid from the broiler pan along with the short ribs, and proceed with the recipe.

Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake (from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan)

¾ cup all purpose ¾ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3.4 cup sugar
3 tbsp dark rum
1.2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.    Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
2.    Butter an 8 inch spring foam pan.
3.    Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the spring foam on it.
4.    Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl
5.    Peel the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1-2 inch chunks
6.    In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy. Pour in sugar, whisk for one minute to blend. Whisk in rum and vanilla. Whish in half of the flour, then remaining butter, mixing gently until smooth.
7.    Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it with spatula until even.
8.    Slide pan in oven and back 50-60 minutes, or until top of the cake is golden brown and the knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
9.    Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest 5 minutes
10.     Carefully run the blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the spring foam pan. (Open the spring foam slowly, and before its fully open,, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.)
Allow the cake to cool until it is justly slightly warm or at room temperature. if you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the spring roam pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto the rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

Haddock (or Mackerel) Pate

1 1/2 lb Smoked haddock/mackerel,  stripped of skin and  bones
2 oz. Butter
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp olive oil
4 tbsp whipping cream (or substitute mayonnaise, if avoiding dairy)
Freshly ground pepper (lots!)

Buzz in food processor:
fish + butter
oil + lemon juice
cream + pepper

Enough for 25 people!

World’s Best Braised Green Cabbage (from All About Braising by Molly Stevens)

1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs)
1 large yellow onion ( about 8 ounces), thickly sliced
1 large carrot, cut into ¼ inch rounds
¼ cup chicken stock or water
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8  tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt

1.    Heat the oven to 325 degrees:
Lightly oil a large gratin dish or baking dish (9 by 13 inches)
2.    Trimming the cabbage:
Peel off and discard any bruised or ragged outer leaves from the cabbage. The cabbage should weigh close to 2 lbs ( if you don’t have a kitchen scale, consult the grocery store receipt). If the cabbage weights more than 2 lbs., it won’t fit in the baking dish and wont braise beautifully. To remedy this, cut away a wedge of the cabbage to trim it down to size. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges in the baking dish in a single layer
3.    The braise:
Scatter in the onion and carrot. Drizzle over the oil and stock or water. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover tightly with foil and slide in middle of oven to braise until the vegetables are completely tender, about 2 hours. Turn the cabbage wedges with tongs after an house. If the dish is drying out at all, add a few tablespoons of water
4.    The finish:
Once the cabbage is completely tender, remove the oil, increase the oven heat to 400, and roast until the vegetables begin to brown, another 15 minutes or so. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkle with fleur de sel or other coarse salt.

Variation: Braised Green Cabbage with Balsamic Vinegar
I sometimes add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the cabbage to enhance the sweetness. In step 4, after you remove the foil, sprinkle 1 ½ tbsp balsamic and turn the cabbage with tongs to distribute the vinegar, then roast another 15 minutes, uncovered, as directed.

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