Food — You say potato, she’ll say potato, too
You say potato, she’ll say potato, too

By Amy Diaz

Super-chef Molly Stevens to be guest cook for charity March 9

Author and chef Molly Stevens will lend her techniques for braising and cooking potatoes to a special menu at Cotton in Manchester on Wednesday, March 9.

The special menu, which will be featured from 5 to 9 p.m., will feature dishes from Stevens’ books One Potato, Two Potato and All About Braising (W.W. Norton & Company, 2004), her latest cookbook. The books will also be available for purchase. All of the proceeds from the book sales and a portion of the evening’s food proceeds will go to Kids Café, an organization run by the Salvation Army.

“I like the book,” said Jeffrey Paige, co-owner and chef at Cotton.  In addition to standard braising recipes, such as Osso Bucco and lamb shanks, the book includes a variety of recipes for braised vegetables and seafood as well as all types of meats and poultry. The book also includes an explanation of braising technique and tools as well as wine pairing suggestions. 

Paige has been using many of the recipes from both One Potato, Two Potato and All About Braising for specials at the restaurant. Paige said he’s particularly fond of Stevens’ braising recipes because of the challenge and the minimal effort that goes into braising.

Braising takes a tough piece of meat — like a pot roast or lamb shank — and cooks it slow over a relatively low heat, using a small amount of liquid along with the meat’s own moisture, fats and collagen. The result is a tender, juicy, flavorful cut of meat with a rich sauce.

In fact, Stevens says the cheaper cuts of meat, when braised, can come out more flavorful than their tender, high-priced alternatives.

Stevens, who was trained as a chef in France, said she really enjoys cooking and, while years ago she cooked in restaurants, she enjoys the art of cooking at home. Braising is relatively easy to do — after some initial preparation, the oven or stove top does most of the work. It also doesn’t require a lot of equipment. To braise you need a heavy, oven-safe pot with a lid (or, lacking a lid, some foil). Depending on the dish and the meats, seafood or vegetables used, braising can take from 12 to 45 minutes on the stove top to several hours in the oven, Stevens said.

Stevens said she’s done more than half a dozen such events for her book so far and she enjoys seeing what each chef does with the recipes and how they pair the dishes. The menu for Wednesday night will include: Potato, Parsnip and Cheddar Soup; Braised Duck Leg in Port and Dried Cherries with Puree of Sweet Butternut Squash; Braised Leek and Smokey Bacon Tart with Simple Mixed Greens, Aged Red Wine Vinaigrette Red Wine Braised Short Ribs of Beef with Rosemary and Porcini, Tangy Mashed Potatoes; Vietnamese Braised Scallops with Steamed Jasmine Rice and Asian Pickled Vegetables; Grilled Delmonico of Beef with Braised Shallot Confit; Cabernet Demi-Glace, Herb Roasted Potatoes; and Farmhouse Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

One item not on the menu for Wednesday is braised cauliflower, a couple of recipes for which appear in All About Braising. Stevens said its possibly the best way to cook the vegetable and one of the great discoveries of the braising process.

This recipe for Braised Cauliflower with Capers & Toasted Bread Crumbs appears on page 84 of All About Braising.

1/2  cup fresh bread crumbs made from day-old rustic white bread

1 head cauliflower (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup chicken stock

coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lemon

 

1. Toasting the bread crumbs: Heat the oven 325 degrees. Spread the bread crumbs in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice with a pancake turner, until the crumbs are the color of pale toast and lightly crunchy, about 15 minutes. Set aside and cool.

2. Trimming the cauliflower: Cut the cauliflower into florets, discarding the thick core. Cut into individual florets that are about 1 1/2 inches long and just about as wide. You want them small, but not trimmed so much that they are falling apart.

3. Browning the cauliflower: Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet (12-inch) over medium high heat. When hot, add the florets and sauté, turning frequently, until they are speckled all over with nice bits of brown, about 8 minutes total. Add the capers, stir to distribute and cook for another minute.

4. The braise: Pour in the stock or water, season with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt because of the capers) cover tightly, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently until the cauliflower is tender enough to be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. If the liquid threatens to dry up at any point, add a splash of water.

5. The finish: When the cauliflower is tender, remove the lid and boil away any remaining liquid, shaking the pan so the cauliflower doesn’t stick. Add a squeeze of lemon and taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the bread crumbs and serve immediately.

 

Meet Molly Stevens

Cotton, at 75 Arms Park Drive, Manchester will feature a menu of dishes from Stevens’ books on Wednesday, March 9 from 5 to 9 p.m.

Reservations are available but walk-ins are also welcome.

Customers can pick items from the Stevens’ menu and the restaurant’s regular menu.

Stevens is the author of One Potato, Two Potato and All About Braising (W.W. Norton & Company, 2004).


—Amy Diaz

 
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