Taste Test Series: A Look Back at Braising 101


Our Taste Test Series of classes are a fun way to get experience with new flavors and techniques. Last Tuesday we were treated to a Braising 101 class with Paul Popp, pictured above with Peterson Garden Project founder LaManda Joy. If you missed Paul’s class, here’s a little recap. And if you were there, let us know how it went in the comments below.

Paul Popp is one of Peterson Garden Project’s super volunteers. He joined us at the Vedgewater garden for the first time last season and in short order became an important part of PGP. This year, he’s back at Vedgewater as a block captain. As Paul says, “I was so happy with my experiences the first year, and really enjoyed the company of the people who were working with the organization, that I decided I would go to an information meeting on being a block captain. So this year I will be doing more in the garden to help support all of the volunteers who make that location run so well.”


In addition to being a super volunteer, Paul is also a talented cook who has a knack for breaking down recipes as easy-to-understand steps. So we were thrilled that Paul taught the Braising 101 class as part of our Taste Test Series.

Paul chose braising as his topic because it’s a technique he’s been using since he was a little helper. “I learned about braising long before I knew it was actually a method of cooking,” Paul says about helping out in the kitchen as a child. “When you are involved, even in the smallest way, with preparing meals you just learn how things are done. Steaks and chops were fried in a pan. Roast beef, stuffed turkey and pork roast were cooked in a pan in the stove. Other dishes cooked all day in a covered pot. Those were some tasty dishes, the ones in the pot. There was one dish, that if you asked my family, they would tell you it was one of their favorites. Chicken Cacciatore” And that’s one of the dishes that Paul’s class prepared last Tuesday.


For Paul, teaching the class was an extension of his appreciation for what PGP’s Community Cooking School offers. “I have taken and volunteered for a bunch of classes at the Community Cooking School,” he says. “I have learned how to make my own butter, how to temper chocolate, make empanadas, and got a ton of hands on experience rolling out pie crusts. The Community Cooking School is such an awesome space, and the work there is life changing.” He reports that he was excited to turn the tables and lead a class from behind the stove. “I get a huge kick out of teaching. I love when something clicks, when that light bulb goes on in my mind, and in the mind of others. That’s a super cool experience, it’s almost like you can see growth.”


The students in Paul’s Braising 101 class were shown the techniques in the same way that Paul picked them up when he was learning. By being hands-on. “Everyone participated” in the class, Paul says. “Groups of 4-5 people worked together to make Chicken Cacciatore, and that cooked while I did a demonstration of a second dish, Ribs and Sauerkraut. Because it braises for 3 hours, I made a big batch the night before so everyone could try it. And they ate that while we did the demo too. In the hands-on section of the class, one person from each team broke down the chicken, and I think a couple of teams traded off halfway through. We also prepared the other vegetables for the dish, slicing onions and mincing garlic, while others on the team browned the chicken. At the end each team had a pot of food to eat, and a bunch of people took leftovers home. I made a point to try to ask everyone if they would make the dish again. And those that I talked to said yes! And they had things that they would like to add to make it more of their own. How awesome is that? That’s kind of the whole point. Synapses are connecting. People are engaging.”


A big thanks to Paul for teaching us the basics of braising!

Next up in our Taste Test Series is Demystifying Indian Cooking on March 22, 2016. Instructors Uma and Vineeta will take some of the intimidation out of Indiana cooking by using some simple ingredients and spices that are easily accessible. Learn to make Dosas, a rice and lentil crepe, and a Potato and Cauliflower Masala filling. RSVP TODAY!