November 16, 2013 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food (& maybe win a cookbook) Meat-cooking tips and family dinner cookbooks

So I have three more cookbooks to give away today, but first, let me tell you about a surprise foodie encounter I had in the newsroom kitchen this week.

It turns out business columnist Daniel Howes is a foodie — and not a riff-raff-y one like me, either. He and I got talking about cooking meat, and he had some great, specific tips for a meat butcherer like me, such as:

■Go low-heat for a longer time. This can apply to a roast, he explained to me, but he was discussing it “in the context of a braise…which essentially is roasting at a low heat with a partial amount of liquid.” I knew a braise was liquid, but didn’t know braises are typically covered and roasts are not, as he further explained. (You think I’m kidding about being lost around cooking meat?)

■Dry-brine chicken with salt (and some other goodies) in the fridge. (When I ran this tip by him to make sure I got it right, Daniel added: “Pork is wonderful brined, but I typically do it in a brine of kosher salt and brown sugar dissolved in water, with a pinch of red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, a sprig of rosemary and a splash of bourbon, if you have it.”)

■Let meat come to room temperature before cooking (30 to 45 minutes or so), and let it rest at least 5 minutes after cooking before slicing to allow juices to redistribute. (Good reminders, these — I forget the chill should be taken off most meats before cooking, and after cooking, I’m so fast to poke or slice meat too early and let the juices run out...or leave it out so long it seems to dry from all the escaped steam).

■Finally, he recommended gauging cooking fish by 10 minutes per inch of thickness, at its thickest part. (I have to grin when I think of his horror — OK, a slight exaggeration, but he definitely reacted — when I said I always cook my salmon at least 15 minutes.)

Sometimes I think my special ability to destroy meat is because I have too little time to focus on learning better; let me tell you, Daniel inspired me to try to look for that extra time. It was a whirlwind of an education in 10 minutes, but the conversation — well, and my husband talking longingly about his grandmother’s fall-apart tender pot roast this past week — renewed my resolve to not give up hope I can make at least make progress in this area.

Maybe someday, my husband won’t be cutting up the meat I’ve cooked into tiny pieces and looking for things to moisten — or worse, disguise — it.

Anyway, Daniel recommended a couple of books. Unfortunately I don’t have those to give away, but I thought I’d mention them in case there are any other terrible meat cooks in need of a good tome or too (or, in case you need ideas for a holiday gift/hint for the bad-meat-cooker in your life):

■“All About Braising”

■“All About Roasting”

Daniel pointed out the author of both, Molly Stevens, really cooks herself and it shows. Until I get my hands on ’em (I sent the titles to my husband for birthday/Christmas wishlists about two seconds after hearing about them), you’ll have to take Daniel’s word for it.

But believe me, talk to Daniel Howes about cooking for a few minutes — in which words like “spatchcocking” and “mirepoix” come up quickly and easily — and you’d be sure there’s no need to wait for my input.

Meanwhile, today’s cookbook giveaways are far more in my comfort zone: “Come Home to Supper” by Christy Jordan, “The Casserole Queens Make-A-Meal Cookbook” by Crystal Cook & Sandy Pollack and “Woman’s Day Easy Everyday Dinners.” I figure there have to be busy moms out there — or perhaps more likely, friends or family members of moms too busy to read a food column — for whom these would be perfect gifts headed into or for the holidays. I’m even going to give it a couple of weeks for contenders to enter, since I’ll be out of town next Monday anyway.

If you’re interested in one of the books, send an email to Eats&Drinks@detroitnews.com with one of the three titles — depending on which book you’re interested in winning — in the subject line: “Cookbook/Supper” or “Cookbook/Casserole” or “Cookbook/Woman’s Day.” Include your name and mailing address in the body. Enter only once by midnight Dec. 1. A winner will be chosen from among entries, with preference given to those who comment below. (If it’s Dec. 2, 2013, or later when you read this, the cookbooks will have been given away — but thanks for stopping by.)

Good luck!

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