A couple of nights ago, I made my eldest daughter cry. But not because of a pending time-out, a too-harsh rebuke, homework overload, or an imminent grounding. No, I made my daughter cry by feeding her dinner because, you see, I'm a passable home cook, but a very bad person, and the animal I cooked used to be Cute.
I confess, I'm a total sauce slut: My wife could legitimately accuse me of infidelity, if only she had thought to proscribe lustfully leering at the 5 mother sauces in our vows, and I might happily eat a shoe, if only it were first slathered with a demi glace of sufficiently high quality.
I think this is a killer one-pot dish for a dank, inclement night although, in point of fact, I'm cheating, because neither beets, nor my protein of choice - young goat shanks, from the Owen Family Farm up in Hopland - are technically in season right now. But the mild heat and smoky undertone from the chilies, together with the spicy-sweet peppery jam of the wine, seemed a natural bedfellow for dense, rich, and slightly gamy flavors...
Sometimes, despite all the planning, the wearing-thin of cookbook pages, the carpal-tunnel-clicking through epicurious, I'll find out the hard way that it's what I didn't plan for that determines whether my food ultimately succeeds, or merely sucks. Typically, I'm undone by good, old fashioned pilot error; typically, but not always, because sometimes it's the black swan crapping on my mise, and it's just such an exception to the rule that inspired this edition of Meat, Braise, Love: A slow braise of shoulder of local lamb with bitter chocolate, rosemary, and bad-ass Syrah.
A conundrum endemic to parenting and modern life in general, the home kitchen provides an object lesson: When preparing a recipe for the first time, particularly one from a celebrity chef like Tyler Florence, do I trust my instincts and override the recipe whenever something seems amiss? Or, do I remain humble, follow it to the letter, and hope for the best?
Producing a braise in your own kitchen is a bit like making porn in your own bed: It rewards practice, because when you get it just right, it's the best you'll ever see, and all the times you don't, it's still a very long way from sucking. Similarly, there is just so much to love about the braise: Purely from a gastronomic perspective, no other cooking technique so easily employed by the home cook comes close to creating the depth and concentration of flavor than does the properly executed braise.