Monday, December 3, 2012

Tis the Season, for Braising!


I hope everyone has recovered from Thanksgiving and is gearing up for the rest of the festive season.

Charming Suitor and I have set up our first Xmas Tree/Hanukah Bush.  I think it is adorable.

(For the longer story of this special tree, CLICK HERE)

We kept it simple, little fairy lights, mini mirrored disco balls for sparkle, and a garland of felt balls in 40 different colors for bright.  And of course, the traditional Star of David topper.  It is made of salvaged staves from French oak wine barrels, and if you are curious, yes, wine does smell just as festive as pine.

Despite the fact that as I write this it is in the mid-60s outside, it is still Fall and for me, Fall means braising.  I love the way a slow cooked dish makes the house smell delicious, I love that they are dishes that are almost impossible to screw up and don't need fussing.  I love that they are the perfect thing for dinner parties, letting you make your main course the day or even two or three days before and reheat in a low oven, making for a relaxed hostess.

As promised, I want to share one of my new favorite braises, a basque-inspired stew of chicken thighs and chorizo sausage and chickpeas.  It is a wonderful bowl of spicy and savory warmth on a cold night, and is great for a casual Tuesday night dinner for two or a Saturday night dinner party for eight.  Serve it with a warming Spanish rioja or a crisp white Gruner Veltliner.  A simple salad of butter lettuce dressed with lemon, olive oil, and fried capers and some crusty bread are all you need for a complete and lovely meal.

And since it is time for a new recipe, how about a new gadget!

This is a recipe rock from Architec!  I'm loving this thing.  I keep all my recipes in my computer.  When I want to make something, I print a copy, that way it doesn't matter if it gets stained or shredded, I just throw it away when I am done.  But I'm always elbowing it off the counter, or trying to keep it out of my way.  For a while I was taping recipes to the kitchen cabinets.  Not anymore.  A very cool and simple item...there is a powerful magnet in the base, and a ball bearing.  You can take your recipe or recipe card and slide it between the ball bearing and the base and it holds it upright so you can read it easily, and it stays out of the way!  Even better, it is VERY reasonably priced and a perfect stocking stuffer or small Hanukkah present for your favorite cook, or a happy present for yourself.

Basque Braised Chicken Thighs with Artichokes, Chorizo and Chickpeas

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced 1/4-inch thick  (this is a cured sausage red with paprika, do not substitute fresh Mexican chorizo here, if you can’t find Spanish chorizo, use a stick of pepperoni)
3 pounds chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on)
Salt and pepper
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 small red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 cup dry sherry
2 c chicken stock
1 cup diced plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons Espelette or Aleppo pepper (if you can’t find these, substitute sweet paprika,  but try to get the Espelette, it is worth it!)
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Handful fresh basil, torn, for garnish

Put a large deep saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally, until chorizo has rendered its fat and is brown and crispy. Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon or spatula to your slow cooker, leaving the fat in the pan.

Season the thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet and brown well on both sides, especially making sure to render the skin so that it is crispy about ten minutes total. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.

Remove all but two tablespoons of fat in the skillet. Add the onions, garlic, artichokes and thyme. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about five minutes. Add the sherry, tomatoes, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to dislodge any browned bits and simmer for one minute.  Add this mixture to your slow cooker, put in the chickpeas, and stir to be sure it is all well combined.

Nestle the thighs in the mixture in your slow cooker.  Put in enough chicken stock to come up to the thighs, leaving the top ¼ inch uncovered.  Cover the slow cooker and turn on High for at least 3 hours.  You can then turn to low and hold till dinner time, or cook on low for up to 8 hours.  Before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with basil. Serve.

If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you can cook in a covered Dutch oven at 350 for 1 ½ hours. 

I also love this over cous cous or brown rice.

Also?   Charming Suitor and I were so hungry for it, and it smelled so delish that I totally forgot to take pictures for you, so you'll have to believe me when I say it was lovely to look at, all burnished reds and golden browns.  Very Autumnal.

So, to celebrate this season, comment with your favorite slow-cooker or braised recipe by 11:59 CST on Sunday Dec. 9, and I will pick one for a little prize package of a Hampton Forge Paring knife set (one veggie, one fruit, one tomato all with covers) and a small folding cutting board to easily get your chopped stuff to the pan.  Winner announced next Monday!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath


  1. Can't go wrong with pulled pork in the crock pot, meals for days!

  2. Best I ever had was a vegetarian Taco Dip. Tofurky, Black Beans, Sour Cream, LOTS of Cheese, and Salsa! It was AMAZING!

  3. My favorite slow cooker recipe is easy and it is stew the first night and pork tacos with leftovers:
    2 lbs of boneless pork cops or ribs or loin meat (well trimmeed)
    1/2 cup of teriaki sauce
    2 tbs of rice wine vinegar
    3 garlic cloves minced
    1 julienned red pepper
    1/2 tsp of red chili flakes

    Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. 1/2 hour before serving add 1/3 cup of peanut butter (chunky or creamy to your taste) to pot. Serve over rice with cliantro and peanuts and lime garnish

  4. My favorite slow cooker recipe is beans and ham. So tasty, and fills up my family of boys with one bowl.

  5. My hubby loves loves LOVES turkey. We stock up on frozen turkey breasts around the holidays and we roast a turkey breast in the slow cooker at least once a month.

    Dry rub for turkey:
    3 tsp salt
    2 tsp paprika
    1 tsp cayenne
    1 tsp onion powder
    1 tsp thyme
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp black pepper

    Mix together and rub on turkey breast.

    Chop 2 lemons, peel and smash 3 garlic cloves and pack inside the turkey.

    Slow cook on low for approx. 7 hours.

    The drippings from the turkey, although hinted with lemon, do make for an amazingly flavored gravy! Recipe also works for whole chicken! :-)

  6. My favorite recipe in the crock pot is:

    Pork and Three Bean Chili

    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 medium garlic cloves, minced
    1 cup carrot, chopped
    1 Tbs chili powder
    1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
    1 small jalapeno pepper seeded, chopped OR 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped (I don’t use either, b/c I don’t like the heat. . .)
    ½ tsp salt
    ½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
    2 lb lean pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1” chunks (I’ve used beef as well)
    15 oz canned black beans, drained and rinsed
    15 oz canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    15 oz canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    1 cup canned tomato puree
    29 oz canned diced tomatoes, with green pepper, celery and onion, untrained
    6 oz canned tomato paste

    Combine onion, garlic, carrots, chili powder, oregano, jalapeno/chipotle, salt and pepper in a 5-quart (or larger) slow cooker; stir. Add remaining ingredients; stir again.

    Cover and cook on HIGH setting for 6-8 hours. Yields about 10 - 1 cup servings

    It's even weight watcher friendly!

  7. My favorite crock pot recipe is my mother's meat soup. Easy and delicious! I'd put the recipe here, but I don't want to get in trouble =)

  8. My new fave recipe is Tomato Basil Parmesan soup!

    2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
    1 cup finely diced celery
    1 cup finely diced carrots
    1 cup finely diced onions
    1 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano
    1 T dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
    4 cups chicken broth
    ½ bay leaf
    ½ cup flour
    1 cup Parmesan cheese
    ½ cup butter
    2 cups half and half, warmed (or skim milk if you’re trying to cut some calories)
    1 tsp salt
    ¼ tsp black pepper

    1. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.
    2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.
    3. About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add all back into the slow cooker. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Add additional basil and oregano if needed (the slow cooker does a number on spices and they get bland over time, so don’t be afraid to always season to taste at the end).
    4. Cover and cook on LOW for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve.

  9. Here's my favorite, simple and delicious
    Chinese Barbecued Pork

    6 1/2 lbs pork shoulder or Boston butt
    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    2 tablespoon brown sugar
    2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
    2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
    2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper

    1. Place pork in crock. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over pork.

    2. Cover. Cook on LOW 10 hours or HIGH 6 hours. Remove pork from crock and shred meat. Discard fat but do not discard the liquid/sauce.

    3. Serve pork on sandwich buns, and spoon additional liquid/sauce on top as desired.

  10. My favorite slow cooker dish is Pumpkin Lentil Stew -- it's a fantastic filling stew that can also be used as a dip.

  11. One of our faves in the CrockPot is Italian Beef.
    2-3 lb. beef roast
    12 oz. beer
    1 small jar (with the juice) of pepperoncini peppers
    Cook on low for 8-10 hrs. Delicious served over a crunchy bread.

  12. My fav is corned beef and cabbage... thanks, Betty Croker:
    4 medium red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
    4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 medium onion, cut into 6 wedges
    1 corned beef brisket with seasoning packet (2 to 2 1/2 lb)
    1 can (12 oz) beer or nonalcoholic beer
    8 thin wedges cabbage

    Spray 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In cooker, place potatoes, carrots and onion. Top with corned beef (don't forget to rinse the beef REALLY well to get the excess salt off); sprinkle with contents of seasoning packet. Add beer and enough water to just cover corned beef (I have used just water and it works fine).

    Cook 10-12 hours on low.

    Remove corned beef from cooker; place on serving platter and cover to keep warm. Add cabbage wedges to vegetables and broth in cooker. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook 30 to 35 minutes longer or until cabbage is crisp-tender.

    Remove veggies from crock pot juices, slice beef thin and serve with veggies on serving dish.

    Happy Eating!

  13. One of my favorites is Hawaiian chicken.
    -1.5 to 2 lbs of chicken breasts
    -1 can crushed pineapple, juice and all
    - jar of Stubs bbq sauce
    -1 onion

    cook on low for 8 hours.

  14. Stacey, how cheesy is this: my favorite slow cook recipie is for the Chicken Soup with white beans that you posted on this site a couple of years became an INSTANT classic at my house and we just had it this weekend!

    I can't remember which post, exactly, but you had been sick and it was a cure-all chicken soup. I don't have the recipie in front of me but it involved white beans, leeks, carrots, sage and thyme sachets, and a whole chicken. The only thing I do differently is add some egg noodles at the very end for my kiddos. It's creamy and delicious and we all love it!!

    Jodie Spencer

  15. My absolute favorite braise: Syrah-braised short ribs. Mmmm, the layers of flavors are just amazing.

    This is honestly the best thing I've ever made:

  16. I found a weekday pot roast recipe on and it is amazing!! It uses canned gravy, which you would think wouldn't be that good. But, with the extra herbs and spices you add, it turns out so yummy! It takes only 15 minutes to prepare and then just cook all day. My boyfriend loves it and that's saying a lot because he is one picky eater!

  17. Too many to choose just one, but here goes:

    (I like this one cause I never remember to take the meat out to thaw)

    frozen chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
    jar of salsa - whatever flavor level you like
    can of corn, drained
    can of black beans, drained and rinsed

    throw into slow cooker and cook on low all day, then serve over rice or noodles
    or.....shred chicken and put in fajita wraps with shredded cheese

    either way - yummy!!!

  18. Question...I really don't like dark meat it ok to substitute chicken breasts for recipes (such as this)? I just can't stand the thought of eating the thighs. I'm weird! :)

    Also, my favorite slow-cooker recipe is breakfast casserole b/c I get a nice warm meal when I wake up. I can't take credit for the recipe, so link attached:

    1. Yes you can substituted breasts, but be sure they are bone-in and skin-on, boneless skinless breasts will just dry out and get stringy.

  19. White Chicken Chili! Serve with Fritos and shredded cheese. Crazy good.

  20. This sounds aahhhhhhmaaaaaaazing! I can't wait to try it. My favorite slow-cooked recipe is a pork roast braised in apple cider with onions and thyme.