My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes 1

Posted on October 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

I was late, late, late to go to our neighbors’ house to watch their kids the other night, but I had a chicken all defrosted and a crisper full of vegetables that needed to be eaten before our next CSA pick-up.

Thank goodness, Molly Stevens’s The Art of Braising has become part of my cooking lexicon, and I knew what I had to do to make a successful braise come together.

So with very little thought, and a great deal of luck that I didn’t lose a fingertip in the chopping, this came together and got into the oven in a little less than half an hour.

Lazy Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 325.

1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot that can go both on the range and into the oven, melt together until nicely bubbling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil (not extra virgin, which isn’t for cooking)

2.  Generously sprinkle:

  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper – all over
  • 1 5 – 6 lb. chicken

Add to pan, and brown on all sides by leaving the chicken in place for about 5 minutes per side on medium heat.  Don’t wiggle it around too much or you’ll tear the skin and also not get the bronzing that you want.

3.  While the chicken is cooking, prep your vegetables.

Coarsely chop:

  • 1 head fennel  (I use what I call “the cleaver test” to see what’s tender enough to eat.  If my cleaver slices easily through the stalks, I’ll cook with them.  Otherwise save them for stock or compost them.)
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 4 potatoes (I had a mix of white and purple)
  • 1 medium eggplant (I happened to have some around – the dish will be fine without it)

4.  Here’s one of my new favorite time savers for a braise.  Take:

  • 3 cloves of garlic

and leave their skins on and don’t chop.   Put them aside.  You’ll see why in a minute.

5.  When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove to a plate.  Add a little oil if necessary to get a good covering for the bottom of the pan.  Add the vegetables, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.   Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are getting nice and fragrant and starting to wilt.  Add the garlic cloves whole, just tucking them into the vegetables.  The peels have lots of flavor, which they’ll transfer to your braise.  And when you uncover the cloves when you eat, you can just squeeze out the garlic itself, which will have been mellowed by cooking and absorbed all those great flavors.

6.  Add:

  • 1/2 c. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce

Then bring to a boil and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Place the chicken on top, cover with a lid, and place in the middle of the oven.

7.  Cook for about 2 hours, until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the thigh when pierced.   Let the chicken sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then carve and serve with scoops of vegetables.

Feeding the World, French Fries, Strange Bouquets & Penguin Hats 0

Posted on February 16, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’ve run into a few things in the food world that made me happy this week, and I want to share.

  • Check out One World Everybody Eats in Salt Lake City.  No menu.  Buffet style.  People pay what they want (and most people do in fact pay).  Near zero waste.  Look at this mission:

* We are dedicated to eliminating world hunger.

* We are dedicated to serving organic unprocessed food.

* We are dedicated to feeding and including all members of our community.

* We are dedicated to eliminating waste in the food industry.

* We believe that we can trust our customers to be inspired, honest and fair in their exchange of money and/or work for the fresh, gourmet, organic food we prepare both mindfully and in a heartfelt way each day.

Burlington friends, wouldn’t this be amazing here?   I picture a hybrid of the Food Shelf, Sugarsnap, and Montreal’s Commensal.  Amazing.  Anyone?  Anyone?

  • I just spotted a new blog post from the amazing and inspiring Molly Stevens.  She has a blog, though she doesn’t post too often what’s there is wonderful.  You too can follow it and wish someone would get you an endive bouquet for Valentine’s Day.
  • Al’s French Frys was honored by the James Beard Foundation as an American Classic.  And if you’ve ever been there, you thoroughly know why – from the fryolator grease in the air, the excellent fries, the presence of young families and little leaguers and grandparents, and those red Coke cups.
  • Last,  thank you again to the good folks at Special Olympics Vermont, who sent me this hat in thanks for the penguin cupcakes.  They were so much fun to make.  And the hat has a pompom.  I’m happy, or will be once I steal it back from E.

Braised Chicken with Olivia’s Stuffing 2

Posted on November 25, 2009 by crankycheryl

I’ve missed you, CrankyReader.  I was out of it there with all the working I was doing, and then last week crankyGreg said something to the effect of:

There’s something glorbity smorking about the mammary cache of the Tostito smookity-do, so we’ll have to transmogrify existing posts over to Bluehost, where we’ve already registered the dominoes and have 72 hours.

I nodded, sliding across the kitchen to reach Z., who was trying to duck as his brother was evoking piercing whines by shooting imaginary lightning bolts.  I tried to ignore, but quickly found myself shrieking, “You – the lightning bolts aren’t real!! You’re okay!  And you – your brother was not put on Planet Earth for you to whomp every time you feel bored!  And stop taking my kitchen tools!  And where the heck are your socks?”


Yep.  And then everything broke and I whined about it a lot.  And as a bonus I have tremendous blogger guilt, since it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I haven’t been able to post about the first product I’ve been sent for review in time for it to mean something.


I will admit that I have a big soft spot for Olivia’s Croutons.   They’re from adorable Charlotte, Vermont, and are a darned good product.  Once I spotted them in a Wild Oats in south Florida and squealed so loudly the woman next to me dropped her seitan.  (Ok.  I’m making up that last bit.  But I did get kind of excited to see them there in the tropical heat.)  When I got an email from someone at the p.r. firm who’s now handling their marketing, it was easy to accept some of their stuffing to review.


(Total disclosure: I’ve had coffee and baked goods and sometimes network with Nicole from pmg.)


If you’ve been reading along with me, you know that I believe that the job of cooking is primarily to use what you’ve got.  In this spirit, it’s hard to imagine ever buying croutons or stuffing, since there’s always leftover bread needing to become something or other.


But if I were to turn into someone who bought such things, Olivia’s would get my business.   And for testing purposes, I was delighted to have an excuse to make something from Molly Stevens‘s excellent “All About Braising.” And what a delight to find that I somehow managed to have nearly all the ingredients around for:

Braised Whole Chicken with Bread Stuffing and Bacon
Adapted from Molly Stevens’s All About Braising, a cookbook you should own if you don’t already
Serves 6

The Stuffing:

In a large dutch oven, heat over medium heat:

  • 4 T. unsalted butter, or mild-flavored vegetable oil

When rippling or foaming, add:

  • 1 1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2/3 c. finely chopped inner celery stalk, including leaves

Cook for a few minutes, or until nearly translucent, then place in a large bowl and mix in with your hands:

  • 2/3 c. finely chopped good ham (didn’t have it: used turkey bacon)
  • 1/3 c. pine nuts
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 bag Olivia’s Stuffing, or 5 cups stale mild white bread with crusts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Set bowl aside.
The Chicken:

Preheat oven to 325.

Rinse and pat dry:

  • 1 6 – 7 lb. roasting chicken, trussed

Then sprinkle generously with:

  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

In the bottom of a large flame-proof dutch oven or large pot, heat:

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. olive oil

Add and cook until the onion is lightly translucent and golden spots appear on all vegetables:

  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

With heat on medium-low, add and bring to a gentle boil:

  • 2 t. mixed fresh herbs – I used sage and thyme
  • 3 strips of lemon zest, removed from fresh lemon with peeler or zester
  • 1/2 c. dry wine (Stevens calls for white but the only thing I had in the fridge was an off-dry riesling so I went with a red)
  • 1 c. chicken stock

Place a couple of cups of the reserved stuffing inside the chicken, being sure to leave plenty of room for it to expand.  Place the chicken in the pot, and cover, including the legs, with:


  • 5 strips lean bacon (wished I still had some VT Smoke & Cure around, but was forced to use more turkey bacon since that’s what I had)

Bring back to a gentle boil, cover, and then place in the oven.

In the meantime, take the remaining stuffing and place it in a casserole dish for which you have a cover, pour:

  • 1 1/2 c. chicken stock over the top, and place it in the oven.

Cook chicken for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reaches 170 when it pierces the thigh.  Remove chicken and stuffing from oven.  Using a carving fork and knife, or two wooden spoons, or your giant waterproof oven mitts, remove chicken from the pot and place on a rimmed cookie or half sheet pan.  Raise the oven temperature to 425.  Place the chicken back in the oven for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned.  (If you like crusty stuffing, you can scoop that onto the cooking sheet too, but cover it with foil or parchment after 10 minutes so you don’t burn it.)

In the meantime, remove any herb stalks and then puree the cooking liquid with your blender, immersion blender, or food processor, being careful of steam and splatters.  (I left in the lemon peel, Stevens removes it.  You decide whether you want it in or out.)  Pour the resulting liquid back into the pot and place over a low heat until barely boiling.  Stir in:

  • 1/4 c. heavy cream, light cream, or half-&-half

and turn down heat.  Stir until thickened.  Keep warm.

Remove chicken (and stuffing) from oven and let sit for 15 or 20 minutes so the juices settle to make for better and more beautiful carving.  To serve, I placed right on top of baby spinach leaves, which got all nicely wilted and kind of pleasantly oily and were otherwise delightful.


Braised Short Ribs with Bright Vegetables and Dark Beer 2

Posted on October 25, 2009 by crankycheryl

apple butter short ribs 009In the cool weather I rely on two basic cooking techniques: roasting and braising.  These are essentially opposite processes.  The former relies on high-temperature dry heat, creating caramelization and intensifying individual flavors of ingredients.  Braising is slow and moist, all about the slow exchange of flavors as liquid is drawn out of and then returns to the food being cooked, creating more complex flavors that keep recombining and enriching throughout the cooking time.

Molly Stevens points out in her excellent “All About Braising” that home cooks tend to think of braising as complicated and unfamiliar.  But many classic dishes are created this way (think coq au vin, osso buco) that it’s really not that far afield.

For vegetarian readers tempted to toss the idea aside because it seems so meat-focused, I’d point to the excellent braised root and winter vegetables and the transformation they undergo when treated to this slow and gentle process, like this cabbage.

But it’s true that braises transform the humblest cuts of meat into something delectable.  These too-often wasted “budget cuts” become simply wonderful.  And perhaps the very best thing about braising is that each dish’s leftovers are invariably better than the original.  Go ahead and double the amount you want to eat the first time around so you can take advantage.

All this is why my ears pricked up when I heard Erik from Wells Family Farm talking about how he had something that was “only” $4 a pound at our CSA pick-up a couple of weeks ago.  (The link to their Vermont farm is here, but the site is under construction).  Words like “only” and “economy” often mean “perfect for braising” when it comes to meat prices, as I was delighted to have confirmed.  So I picked up four pounds of short ribs, thinking of Stevens’s book and knowing I’d find something great to make.

When I got home with that week’s vegetables (the last of the mild and hot peppers, tomatoes, some potatoes, along with the rest), and the ribs, I put together this braise, using the cookbook’s clear steps.  It’s a warm and deeply flavored fall dish that’s perfect for cool evenings.

Short Ribs with Bright Vegetables and Dark Beer
Technique adapted from Molly Stevens
6 servings, depending on the ribs

  • 4 lbs. (more or less) beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 3 cloves (or more) garlic
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 2 green tomatoes (or substitute tomatillos or just more red ones), cored and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 4 medium waxy potatoes, peels left on, chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled and cooled, cut into 1″ squares (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 c. dark beer (I used Magic Hat’s Fall 2009 Odd Notion, a chocolate stout, which was delightful.  You can put the whole beer in if you like, or you can sip a little as you drink, like I did.)
  • 1 c. strong stock or water
  • 6 c. lacinato kale or Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 300.
  2. Trim any excess fat from the ribs.  The ones I bought were already trimmed, so I skipped this.  Be careful to leave the “silverskin” or connective tissue between the ribs.
  3. apple butter short ribs 002Salt the ribs and place on a plate.  Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot (it must have a tight-fitting lid and be completely ovenproof) until rippling.    Place one rack of ribs in pot and cook over medium heat until browned on the side that’s down, letting the meat stay still for 3 or 4 minutes, and then turning.  Repeat and then remove to plate, repeating for all the ribs.
  4. If there is more than enough fat in the pot than is needed to coat the bottom, drain the fat from the bottom of the fat and then add just enough back to provide that coating.
  5. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, then the chopped garlic.  Cook until lightly translucent.  Add the peppers, tomatoes/tomatillos, potatoes.  Saute until lightly browned.  Add salt and pepper, about 1/2 t. of each to start.  Add bay leaves.
  6. Place ribs on top, then pour beer and broth over.  Bring to a boil, then place the lid on top and put the pot in the oven.

Here’s a fascinating video of boiling vegetables, in which you’ll see that I brought said vegetables to a boil before returning the meat to the pot.

Vegetables for Braise, Boiling from crankycakes on Vimeo.

7.  Set a timer for two hours.  Cook for about 2 1/2 hours in total, gently turning the meat every 45 minutes or so.  If the liquid is boiling vigorously, turn down the heat 10 or 15 degrees.   When the timer goes off, add the kale or chard and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Replace the lid and place back in the oven to finish cooking.

8.  The last steps are up to you.  Molly Stevens might recommend that you remove the meat and vegetables to a plate while reducing the liquid and removing excess fat.  We didn’t end up with lots of fat on top and just wanted to eat, so I plated it up after just letting it sit for 10 or 15 minutes.  We opened up a bottle of East Shore Vineyard’s Cabernet Franc (since the last beer was in the food), which was a great fit.

The leftovers, predictably, were just wonderful a couple of nights later.  I cut the meat off the bones and cubed it before reheating, then wrapped the meat and vegetables in crepes with a little chevre.  Awfully good.  Z. ate two and didn’t seem to even notice how many vegetables he was eating.  His brother, after rejecting the cheese and apple butter crepe I had made for him, ended up with a smoothie.  Everyone was happy.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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