Great Giveaway Alert: "Mastering the Art of French Eating"

Now in Paperback! And I'm giving a copy away.

Now in Paperback! And I’m giving a copy away.

Have you read Ann Mah’s “Mastering the Art of French Eating”? If not, then it’s high time!: The book is soon to be released in paperback. Better yet–you could win this book. I will be giving away a hot-off-the-press paperback copy of the book on Tuesday, October 28, which is the official release date of the paperback edition. 

To enter the giveaway, all you need do is “like” this post (see that little “like” button up there on the left? Just click on it!). Then, post a comment below, telling me:

1. That you’ve “liked” this post (otherwise, I won’t know!).
2. Which recipe you’d like to make from the book (see below).

On October 28, I will randomly choose a winner from among the comments.

In case you’re not familiar with this book, here are a few excerpts from my review that originally appeared on the BonjourParis.com website:

Author Ann Mah and her husband, Calvin, get oh-so close to living the dream: His career as a diplomat lands them a 3-year stint in Paris. Hardly have they unpacked, however, when the couple get the call: Calvin is assigned a one-year post in Iraq; spouses are not to follow. With few friends and not a whole lot to do, Mah, a novelist and food and travel writer, finds herself alone in the city she had dreamed of savoring à deux.

Soon, the weight of solitude bears down on Mah. To combat her sadness, Mah gives herself an assignment: She’ll crisscross France, seeking out the stories behind the country’s most famous regional dishes, from choucroute in the northeast to cassoulet in the Southwest; from crêpes in Brittany to soup au pistou in Provence.

Ann Mah, author of Mastering the Art of French Eating

Ann Mah, author of Mastering the Art of French Eating

We travel alongside Mah as she meets chefs, farmers, and restaurateurs, picking up history, insights, and cooking tips along the way. She uncovers nuggets that even veteran American Francophiles may not know (such as, for example, that the Aveyronnais are responsible for the proliferation of the Parisian cafés).  

You’ll love the fresh, vivid ways in which she describes touchstones of our Francophilia. When a waiter in Burgundy rattles off the region’s famed wines that are served by the glass, “It felt like a celebrity sighting.” Brittany’s cooks recite crêpe recipes from memory, “like a favorite poem or prayer,” while their buckwheat crêpes resemble “dark, shining lace…against clean white porcelain.” Again and again Mah reminds us why we love France, from “surprise glimpses of Notre Dame caught from the bus,” to “the small cups of coffee garnished with a paper-wrapped sugar cube” at the café.

Each chapter revolves around a signature dish from a specific region. Mah tells history and lore about the recipe, as well as her own story of how she cajoled the recipe from those who held its secrets. And of course, she gives the recipes themselves:

• Steak Frites from Paris
• Andouillette from Troyes
• Crêpes from Brittany
• Salade Lyonnaise from Lyon
• Soup au Pistou from Provence
• Cassoulet from Toulouse, Castelnaudary, Carcassonne
• Choucroute Garnie from Alsace
• Fondue from Savoie and the Haut-Savoie
• Boeuf Bourguignon from you-know-where
• Aligot from the Aveyron

Which recipe intrigues you most? Post below to enter in my drawing. And thanks!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher; however, I was not obligated to cover it in any way.

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Inaugural Recipe in My Staub Braiser: Spanish Chicken with Sherry, Oranges, and Castelvetrano Olives

To test out my new Staub braising pan, I went for an old favorite: a Bon Appétit recipe that I’ve been making for years; it combines chicken with sherry, oranges, and olives for a quick, simple-and-sublime Spanish chicken dish.

A great Spanish recipe for a great French pan.

A great Spanish recipe for a great French pan.

What?, you ask. Spanish cooking on a French-food blog? Hey! I spend a lot of time in Southern France, just a stone’s throw from Spain; I enjoy plenty of Spanish influences there. Any surprise they make their way into my cooking?

Me, in the Rousillon region of France, a stone's throw from Spain.

Me, in the Rousillon region of France, a stone’s throw from Spain.

The original recipe is here. Since the recipe was published about 10 years ago, Castelvetrano olives have become more widely available, and that’s what I suggest you use nowadays. To my palate, they have a fresher, fruitier taste that’s a better match for the sweet-tart spark you get with the oranges. I’ve also reworked the recipe just a bit to fit perfectly in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart braising pan.

BTW: So far, I’ve made three recipes in the Staub Braiser, and my enthusiasm for this pan continues to mount. I love the black interior (superior browning! no staining!). I love the pan’s beauty. See my full review of the Staub braising pan, if you’re interested.

Chicken with Sherry, Oranges, and Castelvetrano Olives 

Castelvetrano olives. They're easy to find. I promise.

Castelvetrano olives. They’re easy to find. I promise.

Adapted for the braising pan* from Bon Appétit magazine.

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced shallots (about 3 large)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 1 orange, halved lengthwise, each half cut into 5 wedges
  • 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 3 1/2 to 4-quart braiser* over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove chicken to a platter.

2. Leave the drippings in the skillet, but drain off all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots and cook until wilted and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sherry, chicken stock, and 1 tablespoon of the honey. Bring to a boil, stirring to loosen the browned bits clinging to the pan.

3. Return the chicken, skin side up, to the pan. Place the orange wedges and olives around the chicken pieces. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Bake until chicken is cooked through (180°F).

4. Transfer the chicken to a platter; cover to keep warm. Bring the sauce to boil over medium-high heat; stir in the remaining honey and boil briefly until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the sauce, oranges, and olives over the chicken. Makes 4 servings.

* If you don’t have a braising pan, see my post on How to Braise without a Braiser.

A few comments:

Love the browning abilities of the Staub braiser.

Love the browning abilities of the Staub braiser.

 

Shallots. Lots of them. Don't stint, as they become mellow and rich and wonderful as they cook.

Shallots.Don’t stint, as they become mellow and rich and wonderful as they cook. Leave those browned bits in the pan–you’ll need them to make the sauce extra rich.

Make It a Menu

I suggest serving this with my Any-Night Baked Rice. It’s also a good time to serve a cheese course after the meal, with a bright and perky vinaigrette-tossed salad. That way, you don’t have to come up with another vegetable to put on the main-dish plate with all these other terrific flavors. Tapping into the theme of this meal, Spanish cheeses would be lovely; I might suggest Manchego (sheep’s milk), Drunken Goat (goat’s milk), and Cabrales (cow’s milk, or sometimes a blend).

Start with the evening off with my Happy-Hour Crackers. For dessert, try my easy Crème Caramel (page 336 of the Bonne Femme Cookbook), which is essentially the same as a Spanish flan.

Other Recipes I’ve Recently Made in My Braiser

A French Recipe for Pork Shoulder (With Orange, Dried Cherries, and Herbes de Provence)
Smothered Flat-Iron Steaks (A fabulous recipe adapted from Molly Stevens’s book, “All About Braising.”
French Wine-Braised Short Ribs Classic!

Happy braising, friends!

 

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Review of the Staub Braiser: A Beautiful Pan from a Beautiful Place

The Staub Braiser (aka 4-quart Sauté pan...but believe me, iit's a braiser).

The Staub Braiser (aka 4-quart Sauté pan…but believe me, iit’s a braiser).

I’ve been reviewing all of the major braising pans on the market. Next up: The Staub Braiser. And the answer to the key question: How does the Staub Braiser compare to Le Creuset?   

French Pedigree

Staub cookware is made in northeastern France—Alsace, to be exact, a place famous for one-pot meals (Choucroute Garnie, anyone)? According to the company website, the founder—the grandson of a cookware merchant—manufactured his first pot in a former artillery factory in 1974. He wanted to perfect the pans that have been traditionally used for Alsatian cooking.

Like Le Creuset, the Staub company specializes in enamel cast-iron cookware; yet while Le Creuset has branched out and now manufactures all kinds of kitchenware, Staub remains sharply focused on its enamel cast-iron products.

image

Is it any surprise that such a beautiful pan comes from a beautiful place? The Staub Braiser hails from Alsace (this photo is of Strasbourg, the region’s capital). Photo by MorBCN.

Incidentally, Alsace is near and dear to my heart for many reasons, including the fact that my friend and one of Amerique profonde’s best chefs, David Baruthio, hails from there. (See his great recipe for Dijon-Style Meatballs).

The Staub Braiser Versus the Le Creuset Braiser

Similarities between Staub and Le Creuset:
• Both are made in France of enamel cast iron and offer tight-fitting lids—the key to a great braise. (For a discussion of enamel cast-iron versus stainless steel braisers, see this post.)
• Both hold nearly the same volume (3 1/2 quarts for Le Creuset; 4 quarts for Staub).
• Each weighs about 10 pounds, with the lid on.
• The diameter of the interior cooking surface of both pans is nearly the same (about 9 1/2 inches)
• At this moment, both are exactly the same price on Amazon ($249.99).

The Le Creuset Braiser (left) has shorter sides that are slightly more flared than the Staub braiser.

The Le Creuset Braiser (left) has shorter sides that are slightly more flared than the Staub braiser.

Minor Differences between Staub and Le Creuset: 
• The sides of the Staub braiser are 1/2 inch taller (2 1/2 inches, versus Le Creuset’s 2 inch sides).
• The Le Creuset Braiser is available in 9 colors; Staub comes in four colors (basil, graphite gray, dark blue, and grenadine).
• Le Creuset has a stay-cool top knob that withstands temperatures up to 500°F; Staub’s metal top knob will get hot.
• The sides of the Le Creuset braiser are slightly flared (helpful at the sauteing stage), while the Staub braiser is more straight-sided.

None of these differences is enough to sway me from one camp into the other. Which leads me to….

Ten years of great cooking has discolored the interior of my Le Creuset Braiser. That really doesn't bother me that much. Still, I can't imagine this happening with the Staub braiser.

Le Creuset is cream-colored. Staub is black matte. Ten years of great cooking has discolored the interior of my Le Creuset Braiser. While this doesn’t bother me that much,  I can’t imagine this happening with the Staub braiser.

The Major Difference Between the Staub and Le Creuset Braiser

It’s all about the interior. Both braisers are made of enamel cast-iron inside and out. Though not, strictly speaking, “nonstick,” these enamel interiors offer anti-sticking properties. Plus, enamel won’t react (cause an off flavor with) acidic foods.

However, Le Creuset’s interior is shiny and cream-colored, while Staub’s interior is black matte (not shiny).

Same material. Different colors.

What does this mean for the cook? Some cooks may prefer the lighter interior because it allows you to better see the food you’re cooking: In the Le Creuset baiser, you can tell exactly how brown those onions are getting at a glance, while with the the Staub braiser, you might have to look more closely.

But the black interior has two major benefits, which in my view, trump the cream-colored interior: Akin to your grandmother’s black cast-iron skillet, Staub’s black interior offers fabulous browning capabilities. While I’ve never had any trouble getting foods browned in the Le Creuset braiser, the Staub braiser has the edge.

And another thing: As much as I adore my Le Creuset Braiser, the interior has definitely discolored over the years. I can’t see how this will happen with the Staub braiser.

Who Wins The Beauty Contest?

What cook isn’t kind of nuts about the amazing colors of the Le Creuset Braiser? If you’re looking for colors like Soleil, Palm, and Cassis, you’ll want to go the Le Creuset route:

You know you love these colors. Who doesn't?

You know you love these colors. Who doesn’t?

But the lush glaze on the Staub braiser is striking–the color is so beautifully rich and deep. I must admit, I’m smitten.

I love the rich color and glossy shine of the Staub braiser (left), though I won't kick Le Creuset (right) out of my kitchen!

I love the rich color and glossy shine of the Staub braiser (left), though I won’t kick Le Creuset (right) out of my kitchen!

The Bottom Line

Both pans are equal in quality; both are lovely to look at. I’ve cooked many a fabulous meal with the Le Creuset Braiser for more than 10 years; it’s a beloved old friend. However, if I didn’t already own one, and I had to choose which of the two to buy today, I’d opt for the Staub Braiser. I prefer the black interior, and I’m utterly seduced by its overall beauty.

But frankly, it’s a very close race. If the Staub is a “10,” the Le Creuset is a “9.9.” You should feel good about purchasing either pan.

Other links you might enjoy:

What is a Braiser? What is a Dutch Oven? Should I invest?
Review of the All-Clad Braiser: A great choice if you want a quality braiser, but don’t want the heft (weight!) of cast iron.
Review of the Lodge Braiser: An economical choice.
A list of all recipes in my Braiser Cookbook
 How to Braise without a Braiser
 

Links to Amazon products and customer reviews:

Staub Saute Pan – Braiser – 4Qt – Basil (other colors are available)

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 3-1/2-Quart Round Braiser, Cherry (many other colors are available through this link)

All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Dishwasher Safe Braiser Pan

Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole (3-Quart)(i.e., a braiser)

Also note that the Lodge Caribbean Blue colored braiseris currently on sale for $61.83. A bargain, in my book.

 

 

Note: I requested and received the Staub Braiser, Lodge Braiser and a Le Creuset Braiser from their respective companies for reviewing and photography purposes. I have also received the All-Clad Braiser for review, with the understanding that I will return it after testing. My opinions are strictly my own, and I have not been compensated in any other way. Also, any purchases you make through the links provided will help support this site–without adding to your costs whatsoever. Thank you for your consideration. 

 

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