During the unexpected quality time I got to spend with my 19- and 22-year-old children in close pandemic quarters (six weeks and two-and -a-half months, respectively), I was reminded daily of how little I know despite my age and life experience.

“No cash, Mom! Just Venmo me.”

“You may have worn an outfit like this in the ’80s, but the aesthetic is also trending on Insta now.”

“Limiting my data is such a 2010 parenting thing to do!”

“Do you need me to clean up that copy before you file it with your editor?”

“You should have done a better job teaching me how to braise meat, Mom.”

Stop right there, mister. I’ll take the technology tips and taunts, suffer through the fashion critiques, and even let you check my stories for proper pronoun usage. But since I’ve been cooking twice as many years as you’ve been alive, I suggest you rethink your challenging my culinary pedagogy.

But I’m right, Mom, argued Owen, who graduated from college with a degree in philosophy in June. He came back to Maine when the July start date for his job in Los Angeles was postponed until late September due to COVID-19 conditions. Next to the whole chicken I did teach him to roast, he thinks a long, slow braise on a Sunday afternoon is the best way to take a single, often tough and sustainably sourced, cut of meat and make it last a whole week.

I stopped arguing. Not only because I know arguing with a philosopher is a bigger time suck than checking your Twitter feed, but because he was making a good point.

As school gets back into full swing this week – in whatever in-person, remote, or hybrid capacity that looks like for students and parents across Maine – I’d like to offer up that braising a piece of locally sourced beef, pork, chicken, duck or goat is a very sustainable proposition. You drive to the market to buy the meat and vegetables once. You prep it once. You cook it once over incredibly low heat in a flavorful liquid. And it sits there in the fridge (or freezer) until you need to zoom from your last meeting of the day into the kitchen and get dinner on the table in a matter of minutes. Any braise can be bulked up with steamed vegetables and potatoes to make a stew, thinned out with stock to become a hearty soup, slathered onto bread as an open-faced sandwich or stuffed into a bulky roll to make a Sloppy Joe derivative.

According to cookbook author Molly Stevens in “All About Braising,” there are several steps to the best braises. Firstly, you want to pick the right cut of meat. Get a tough one with a good amount of fat on it. When tougher cuts – shoulders, thighs, legs and necks – are braised, the collagen breaks down so you get that pull-apart texture, while the fat renders a lot of flavor and a silky mouth feel to the finished braise. Secondly, the pot should be heavy, have a cover, and be large enough to fit all of the meat snugly in a single layer. Thirdly, brown the meat on all sides in batches to add flavor and to give the meat an appetizing color.

Don’t skimp on the aromatics (carrots, celery, chilies, fennel, garlic, ginger and onions) you throw into the pot, Stevens writes. They add both flavor and bulk and never go to waste as they are eaten right along with the meat. Also, use a flavorful braising liquid. Water will work but adding stock will make everything better in the end. Finally, remember that any braise is better tomorrow than it was today because the individual ingredients had a little bit more time to get to know and complement each other.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Christine Burns Rudalevige’s son Owen sprinkles adobo seasoning on pork pieces before braising them low and slow with poblano and jalapeno peppers and pureed tomatillas. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Owen’s Chile Verde Braised Pork

My son Owen developed this recipe while in quarantine last spring. He’s modeled it after some of the great Mexican food he’s enjoyed in and around Chicago while in college there. He says the roasted tomatillos and green chilies, homemade adobo seasoning, and fatty pork lend depth to this low-and-slow braise, which tastes great in tacos, over rice, mixed with beans and chicken broth for soup, inside pulled pork sandwiches, or as a spicy condiment for scrambled eggs and hash browns. While you can find fresh tomatillos in Maine farmers markets in August and September, if you are making the braise some other time, you can substitute a 12-ounce jar of salsa verde in their stead with good results.
Makes 2 ½ quarts

FOR THE ADOBO SEASONING:

2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 pounds fatty pork, cut into 1-to-2 inch cubes

FOR THE BRAISE:

1 quart tomatillos
2 jalapeno peppers
2 poblano peppers
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil
3 cups chicken stock

To make the adobo, combine the seasoning ingredients in a large bowl. Add the pork, toss the mixture and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the broiler to high.

To make the braise, peel the tomatillos and thoroughly rinse in warm water until all sticky residue washes away. The sticky stuff has a horrible bitter taste and will ruin the dish. Broil the tomatillos until the skins are well browned, 6-10 minutes. Remove, cool slightly and puree in a food processor.

Heat a large Dutch oven on high, halve the jalapenos and poblanos, remove the seeds, and flatten the halves into the hot pot until they smoke lightly, 3-7 seconds per side. Chop the seared chilies and combine them with the onion, garlic and salt to make a sofrito mixture.

Return the Dutch oven to medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Working in 3 batches, brown the pieces of seasoned meat on all sides. Remove and set the browned pieces of pork aside. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the sofrito mixture, and cook, stirring regularly, until well combined with the rendered pork fat and the mixture starts releasing its liquids, about 5 minutes.

Return the browned pork to the pot and stir to combine it well with the sofrito. Add the pureed tomatillos. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the pork. The braise should look like a soup of medium thickness at this point and will thicken as it continues to cook. Raise the heat to bring the braise boil, and then reduce to a low simmer.

Cook, partially covered, for 3 hours until the pork can be pulled apart with a fork. Stir every 20 minutes to disperse heat evenly throughout the braise. If the mixture ever looks dry, add chicken stock as needed. The braise is ready to eat when the meat is tender. But it will be even better if you cool it completely, refrigerate it overnight, and slowly reheat it the next day.


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