Amazing Braising!

Recipes | | March 12, 2010 at 8:00 am
Photo by wordridden.

Photo by wordridden.

Even though I’m not a “set it and forget it” kind of cook, (I like to meddle!) braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques. The slow and low cooking method involves quickly searing meats at a high temperature, followed by slow roasting them in liquid. The results are fork tender, succulent meats that melt in your mouth, infused with flavors of the cooking liquid and spices. The only drawback is that proper braising can take up to 10 hours, a true test of your willpower as you sit by the stove staring at the pot, taking in the intoxicating aromas (or maybe that’s just me?).

You may have heard of braising referred to as pot roasting, or crock pot cooking. Lately, braised dishes have been appearing on upscale restaurant menus too, as part of the resurgence of comfort foods with a gourmet twist.

Basic Steps of Braising:

  • Cut meats or vegetables into uniform pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Heat a heavy frying pan with oil on high heat.
  • Pat meats or vegetables dry and season on all sides with salt and pepper
  • Sear ingredients on all sides to add a caramelized flavor to the dish
  • Add your liquid of choice (water, stock enriched with wine, tomatoes or vinegar) to halfway cover meats and vegetables.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover. Simmer very slowly on the stove top or in the oven
  • Check for doneness anywhere from 45 minutes (for smaller cuts of meat and poultry) to 10 hours (for tough shanks and ribs, or pork butt/shoulder).
  • The remaining cooking liquids can used as a sauce or gravy.

Attention cooks on a budget: Braising works best with tougher, and often less expensive, cuts of meat. Collagen, a key connective tissue, prevalent in cheaper, muscle-y meats, converts goes soft and gelatinous when slow cooked in a liquid, leaving you with tender, tasty meat. Beef shoulder, pork butt, ribs and shanks, poultry legs and thighs etc. work great. Pricey cuts like filet mignon are not suited for braising and the long cooking time will turn them into a hard hockey pucks!

Don’t stop, keep on braising! While the meats braise and cook, they will become tough. However, as they continue to cook, they will begin to soften. Even though it is counter-intuitive, don’t be afraid that you have overcooked the meat, just keep on braising and you’ll get it tender.

Add some veggies too! Root vegetables like onions, fennel, carrots and beets are particularly great for braising. Try artichokes and even fruit like pineapples or apples.

Two braising classics to try: Coq au vin (French for “chicken in wine”) and Osso bucco (Italian for “bone with a hole,” a bone-in veal shank with marrow in the center).

BONELESS SHORT RIB RECIPE

Boneless beef short ribs are available from your local butcher, and should be pre-cut into the perfect size for braising.

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy pan, and quickly brown ribs on all sizes.
  • Add quartered tomatoes and onions, baby carrots, diced shallots and garlic, along with oregano and rosemary (no exact measurements, go heavier or lighter on each ingredient according to your liking).
  • Add enough red wine to halfway cover meat and vegetables, and bring to boil.
  • Adjust heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for at least 3 hours.
  • Check for doneness, and when tender, remove meat and vegetables.
  • If cooking liquid need thickening, continue to simmer with the lid off or whisk in a few tablespoons of flour blended with water.
  • Spoon sauce over meat and veggies and serve with a slice of crusty artisan bread, garnished with a sprig of rosemary!
pork scaredy kat

Courtesy of Scaredy Kat.

CARNITAS RECIPE

This flavorful, traditional Mexican Pork dish is one of my favorite indulgences. Braising is one method of creating the rich and delicious meat.
Purchase heavily marbled ‘Boston pork butt’ from your local butcher (ironically NOT actually the rump area, but sections of the front shoulder—nor from Boston I would imagine!). These sections are large (6+ lbs) so let your butcher know how many you are going to feed and they will cut it down for you.

  • Preheat oven to 180°.
  • Unlike the short ribs, braise the pork meat whole rather than cubing beforehand.
  • Heavily season with a combination of the following spices: Salt and pepper, oregano, cloves, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and crushed garlic cloves.
  • Add Braising liquids to cover meat halfway (combine your favorites from the following: Beef Broth, Tomato Salsa, Beer, Orange Juice and Coca-cola).
  • Cover with foil or lid, and slowly braise in the oven, in the range of 160 to 180°F for 6 to 8 hours.
  • When the pork becomes tender (can be easily pulled apart using 2 forks), shred into bite sized pieces.
  • Before serving, spread a layer of shredded carnitas on a cookies sheet and drizzle with the remaining cooking liquids.  Quickly brown in the broiler until the tips are crispy.

Serve with homemade guacamole, tomatillo sauce, chopped cilantro and onion, on mini corn or flour tortillas, with a squeeze of lime for the authentic “street taco” experience!

LauraLaura Seery creates memorable events for San Diego's most discerning eaters at Culinary Concepts Catering. A graduate of University of California, San Diego and a self-taught chef, Laura enjoys writing for her blog about all things delicious, nutritious and green.

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