3-Hour Braised Vegetables
So… it rained again today here in L.A. More like: it drizzled for 15 minutes. People started driving 5 MPH and hitting their brakes for no reason. People run from the rain here like it’s going to burn through their skin. A friend of mine said that on the news tonight, a reporter signed off with “And tomorrow will be another bad hair day for us all.”
That’s so awesome.
I decided to get all up in the spirit of autumn and do a braise this afternoon. I was on the phone with one of my girl friends and she asked what I was doing.
“Chopping veggies for a braise.”
She said “Ooh, what are you putting in with them?”
I said “Broth, olive oil, herbs…”
“But I mean, what kind of meat?”
“…….So basically you’re just cooking some vegetables on the stove?”
“Yeah, but for like 3 hours.”
“But… won’t they get… but… really? For 3 hours?”
We are taught to just cook veggies until crisp-tender, if we cook them at all. Gone are the days of cooking until they fall apart, of water-logged cauliflower and mushy peas.
I remember when I was a kid, there was this sudden change in my mother’s treatment of broccoli. It was one of her go-to vegetables for weeknight cooking, and I despised it mostly because I thought I was supposed to. But Dad would make me stay at the table until I’d eaten x number of bites of each item on the plate. I secretly kind of liked being forced to eat it, even though it was mushy enough to dissolve in my mouth.
At some point my mom stopped cooking broccoli to death. I don’t know why. After years of being served soft and still-wet florets (stems were all thrown out) that had been boiled for 10-15 minutes, we were suddenly being served long stalks of crisp-tender broccoli with nothing more to adorn them than maybe a pinch of salt or an occasional dot of margarine. Yes, I am from a margarine household.
It was then that my love affair with broccoli really took off and I stopped pretending I hated it. I would eat the stems and florets with my fingers. I’d take seconds and thirds. I’d sneak them out of the pot before dinner was ready. And well into my 20s, I ate an entire head of broccoli every night with dinner, much to the confusion of boyfriends and friends.
So, why would I revert back to mushy vegetables? Because Hazan’s Braised Celery intrigued me and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I mean, what the hell do you do with celery aside from serve it as crudité or stick it in a mirepoix? So I picked up a bunch at the grocery store, fully intent on making that recipe as written.
And then I got curious, and googled “braised celery” and saw Lidia Bastianich’s recipe. Ooh, interesting.
Then I got even more curious and googled “braised vegetables.” And I stumbled on this guy over at Saveur.
NOW IT WAS ON, BITCHES.
I hacked together about 5 different braised vegetable recipes in the end. And I cooked them all in a Dutch oven for damn near 3.5 hours. And it was marvelous. And the house smelled delicious. And the veggies were so reminiscent of eating a slow-braised beef stew. There was this strange depth of flavor you rarely get from vegetable dishes. It was hearty, and savory, and filling. Much praise to slow-braised veg. A perfect dish for a rainy(ish) day.
3-Hour Braised Vegetables
Based on a mish-mash of recipes, I used the veggies I had on hand, and you could easily swap in others according to what you prefer. Hazan’s recipe includes salty pork, and if you are so inclined, add some bacon or pancetta at the beginning of cooking (with the onions). I used chicken stock for the braising liquid, but you could replace with vegetable stock or even water to make this dish vegan. Serve with some fresh crusty bread to sop up the juices.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 small onion, sliced into rings
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 lb. small Yukon Gold or red potatoes
- 3-4 stalks celery, cut into 4″ lengths
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 4″ lengths
- a large handful of trimmed green beans
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- pinch of dried marjoram
- 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
- salt and pepper
- water as needed during cooking
1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and let cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until beginning to turn translucent and fragrant. Add red pepper flakes, potatoes, celery, carrots, and green beans and let cook 5-10 minutes, stirring to coat vegetables in oil.
2. Add herbs, then mix tomato paste with broth and add to the pot. Give everything a good stir to distribute the liquid evenly and season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and keep at a slow simmer.
3. Cover the pot and let cook for 2 to 3.5 hours. Check on the liquid level every hour or so, and top off with a bit of water as needed. Mine didn’t really need any.
4. Serve warm with crusty bread and butter.
Makes 4 servings.