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January 20, 2015
The cast-iron Staub braiser is made in France.

Let's Braise! 

By Wini Moranville

No cooking vessel gets used in my kitchen this time of year more than my braiser. In fact, I love this pan so much that I wrote  an e-cookbook about it.

 

What's a braiser, you ask? These pans have shallower sides and wider bases than a Dutch oven. The lower height lets the steam remain in close contact with the meat, and therein lies the brilliance: It's that steamy, moist heat that makes meats get so tender, rich and bold.

The All-Clad braiser is made of stainless steel.. 

 

Last fall, I spent the better part of my kitchen hours testing all of the major braisers on the market. The winner? It depends on whether you prefer cast iron or stainless steel.

 

In the cast iron camp, you can't go wrong with either Le Creuset or Staub. Both are French-made beauties in rich, dynamic colors. The only drawback is that these guys are heavy; the Le Creuset weighs in at 11 pounds, empty.

 

If you prefer to save your heavy lifting for the gym, consider the All-Clad braiser. While it tips the scales just shy of 5 pounds, it still has an authoritative weightiness to it. Made of an aluminum core sandwiched between stainless steel, it browns meat beautifully and conducts heat well. In fact, it does everything that the French braisers do, except add color to your kitchen: Le Creuset and Staub win the beauty contest, although All-Clad's polished metal is easy on the eyes, too.

 

Le Creuset and Staub braising pans range in price from $220 to $295 at Williams-Sonoma at Jordan Creek Town Center (101 Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines). Find the All-Clad Braiser ($196) online at amazon.com.

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Modern Furniture As Art    

By Belle Du Chene

Kent Welsh designed and built furniture for a local company for 28 years before deciding to go out on his own. In late August, he started Griffin Modern, an industrial and modern furniture company. His interesting designs caught our eye, so we sat down with him for a little Q&A about his passion for creating furniture that doubles as art.

 

How did you get your start?

I've built things with wood pretty much my entire working life. I worked my way through college during the summers and (school) breaks as a framing and finish carpenter. I think I made $2.75 an hour. I remember my first raise was to $2.85 an hour. No joke. You don't choose this vocation for the money.

 

How do you choose your materials?

Most pieces get painted, so I just want it to be strong, stable and able to take a smooth-finish surface. I like using materials in ways that they weren't necessarily intended to be used. In the end, it looks pretty cool, and I think that kind of stuff is fun.

 

You have curious names for your designs. Where do these names come from?

The company gets its name from the mythical griffin, the ancient creature with the body of a lion and head and wings of an eagle. I wanted to name my son Griffin, but my wife wasn't feeling it. The others come from various places in my life. "McFly" is for a friend of mine who always fancied himself as cool as the Michael J. Fox character from "Back to the Future." "Cassius" is for Cassius Clay because I've always loved Muhammad Ali and "Fletcher" is named after Irwin Maurice Fletcher, my favorite Chevy Chase character.

 

Learn more about Griffin Modern here. The site includes a gallery of designs, product descriptions and a blog.


fyi: Mark Your Calendar   

  • "The Miracle Worker" continues at Des Moines Community Playhouse (831 42nd St.) through Feb. 1. The show tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. Annie helps rescue the young girl from her tortured silence and finds success the day Helen utters the word "water." Showtimes are Fridays at 7 p.m.; Saturdays at 1 p.m.; and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets start at $13 and can be purchased here.

     
  • Beaverdale Books (2629 Beaver Ave., Suite 1) is hosting "Season of Story,"  a series of four themed storytelling events. The first one is Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.; 
    guests are invited to tell a five-minute story on the topic of sledding. The first- place storyteller will receive $75, second place $50 and third place $25. The series will continue Feb. 26 with the topic of a love story; March 26, spring break and April 23, babies. Tickets cost $5 for each event and $18 for the season and can be purchased at the store. For more details, email info@beaverdalebooks.com
  • Des Moines Performing Arts will present dance company Diavolo Jan. 24
    at 7:30 p.m. at the Des Moines Civic Center (221 Walnut St.). The company will perform the world premiere of "Cubicle," a dance piece that interprets the challenges people who work in a cubicle face, and themes that emerge from that environment. Tickets cost $15 to $55 and can be bought here.
Belle Du Chene is senior editor of dsm magazine.

Wini Moranville, author of "The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day," is a food, wine and travel writer who covers the dining scene for dsm magazine. Follow her at All Things Food DSM - Wini Moranville and catch her food segment on Fridays at 6:40 a.m. on KCWI-23's "Great Day" morning show.
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