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Nov 9, 201711:19 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Cool Weather Cooking

We don’t get a lot of cool weather in New Orleans, let alone truly cold temperatures, so when the nights start to fall into the 50s, I begin to think about hearty stews, soups and the sort of food that seems out of place here most of the year.

Some techniques seem to lend themselves to heartier fare; that’s not to say you can’t make a light, delicate braised dish; it’s just that when I think about braising, I tend to think about rich, slow-cooked stews of beef, lamb or pork and chicken smothered in onions, peppers and garlic.

One advantage to braising meat and poultry is that frequently by the time your target protein has cooked, you’ve also got at least the beginning of a sauce. Often I’ll start a dish by browning meat in my dutch oven, then remove it and add rough-cut vegetables and seasonings to cook in the leftover fat. Once they’ve softened a bit, I deglaze with a flavorful liquid like wine, port, sherry or beer before adding broth or stock and returning the meat to the pot to cook for an hour or three. After that length of time, the vegetables have pretty well disintegrated, so if you have a food mill or a stick blender you can simply puree them in the liquid remaining in the pot for a quick sauce.

It’s even easier to make a full meal this way if you add tomatoes after deglazing in place of some of the stock or broth. When I do that, I cut down a bit on the vegetables, but otherwise follow the same method, including a pass through the food mill or a minute or three with the stick blender. The result is a full-bodied tomato sauce that has the flavors of the meat. You can cook some pasta and simply transfer it to the sauce, then serve the meat on the side. A green vegetable or a quick salad is all you need for a satisfying meal.

Less often, I’ll go a bit more adventurous, such as a dinner I cooked not long ago where I braised roulades of thinly sliced beef stuffed with herbs, goat cheese and bread crumbs in a tomato sauce I made separately.

I used beef because I saw some “minute steaks” on sale, and figured that if I overlapped two of them and perhaps pounded them out a bit, I could fit a good three to four tablespoons of stuffing in the middle. The trick is keeping them sealed; you can do that by securing them with toothpicks, trussing them with butcher’s twine or by leaving enough room at the long ends of the meat to fold them over and let the meat adhere to itself.

To do that, place two thinly-sliced cuts of meat onto a large piece of plastic wrap, overlapping in the middle by at least a half-inch. Pound them a bit (I just use my hand most of the time) where they overlap, then put a few tablespoons of stuffing about an inch from one of the long sides, stopping about a half-inch from each end. Start rolling at the end closest to the stuffing, and tuck the meat in about 2/3 of the way through. Then tuck the short ends into the roll before finishing.

It’s a good idea to then roll the whole thing up in plastic wrap and let it chill for a half hour or so, but regardless, you can then either simply place them seam-side down in a baking dish or very carefully brown them in a heavy pot. You finish the dish by adding the braising liquid – in my case some tomato sauce – and either cooking it on the stovetop or in a low oven (325 degrees) for an hour or so. The sauce should come almost to the top of the meat; some liquid will be released during cooking. It is not the most tender meat you’ll ever taste, but the sauce and the stuffing keep each bite pretty juicy. You do need a very sharp knife to slice the rolls into little medallions, but if you don’t have a sharp knife I’m not sure what I can do for you.

I’ve done this dish with a pork tenderloin that I butterflied and pounded thin, with chicken breasts and a de-boned lamb breast that, unfortunately, I cooked into near inedibility. That particular attempt wasn’t my best work, but for the most part it’s an easy way to put something tasty and attractive on the plate, and generally a hit at dinner parties or potlucks.

 

What do you cook during the small window of cool weather we have here?

 

 

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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