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Cooking for a Holiday Crowd

Just in time for the holidays, "The Early Show" began a two-day series on how to cook great braised food for a crowd.

On Wednesday, Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon, the owner of Cleveland's Lola and Lolita restaurants and the author of "Live to Cook" whipped a fabulous meal on "The Early Show." Then, on Thursday, he'll recreate those leftovers into another amazing dish on the broadcast. You'll get two great meals for the price of one!

Recipes Galore

But what is braising?

Braising is a cooking technique, whereby the main ingredient is first browned and seared, then transferred to a pot of liquid for low and slow cooking, often in a Dutch oven or crock pot. Braising is often used as a way to cook less expensive, tough cuts of meat. The end result is tender and flavorful, and once the meat is in the liquid, it's a very low maintenance process. Also, since braising is a low and slow liquid cooking method, often braising will give you a fantastic gravy or sauce with your entrée or side dish.

Braised Veal Shanks with Gremolata

Like the pot roast, this is another of those fundamental braised dishes, but here it's jazzed up with some gremolata. Many people serve this kind of dish with something rich, such as mashed potatoes; traditionally in Italy this would be served with a saffron risotto. But Symon thinks it's a mistake to pair rich with rich in most cases.

Veal Shanks

3/4 cup brine-cured green olives
6 2-inch-thick veal shank pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium-large onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 salt-packed anchovy fillet, rinsed and chopped
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
11/2 cups Chicken Stock

Gremolata
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
11/2 teaspoons minced garlic, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 275°F.

To make the veal, lightly crush the olives with the side of a large knife and discard the pits. Finely chop a third of them and set aside.

Pat the veal shanks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Dredge each shank in flour and shake off the excess. In a 12-inch heavy sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and the butter over medium-high heat until the foam subsides. Brown both sides of the shanks in batches, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the shanks to a roasting pan.

Wipe out the sauté pan and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and anchovy and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the olives, lemon zest, capers, rosemary, and wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the stock and return the liquid to a simmer. Pour over the shanks and cover the roasting pan tightly with foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 225°F and braise the shanks in the oven for 4 to 6 hours, or until the meat is very tender. If desired, let the shanks cool before covering and refrigerating for up to 2 days. Discard the fat from the top before reheating.

To make the gremolata, combine the parsley, zest, and garlic in a small bowl.

Transfer the shanks with a slotted spoon to another roasting pan or deep oven- proof platter and keep warm, covered, in the oven. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into a 1-quart (4-cup) glass measuring cup and reserve the solids, discarding the rosemary. Let the liquid stand until the fat rises to the top; skim and discard the fat. (There should be about 1 1/2 cups liquid. If necessary, in a saucepan simmer the liquid until it is reduced to 1 1/2 cups.) Add the reserved solids to the liquid, heat through, stir in the reserved olives, and pour over the shanks.

Serve the shanks on top of the braised endive, sprinkled with the gremolata.

Braised Endive with Citrus

Endive is a perfect side for this winter dish: It's available in cold months and adds a bitter edge to the rich veal and sauce as well as some sweetness developed in the braising process.

Symon loves the natural bitterness of endive. Here it is browned it first so it develops some sweetness and then braise it in orange juice and stock, which adds to the sweetness. The endive should be cooked all the way through, but it should still have some bite to it; it should not be mushy. This is a great side for rich or fatty foods, such as duck, a rib-eye steak, or even braised dishes like veal shank or short ribs.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 Belgian endives, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Heat a large oven proof sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Place the endive in the pan, cut side down, season with salt and cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat it for 1 minute. Add the thyme, orange zest and juice, stock, and honey. Bring to a simmer and then place the pan in the oven until the endive is cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the endive from the pan to a platter. Reduce the pan liquid over high heat to about 1/3 cup, swirl in the butter, and spoon the liquid over the endive.

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