the finished roast with the braising liquid and
vegetables or starch of your choice.
more devoted PrepSchoobeeDoBees among you may recall we
first broached the topic of braising about 10 years back.
Today, a little refresher. Heed its lessons, and practice
its tenets, and soon you’ll be thinking, "Well, who
knows what fresh hell the future may bring, but, sweet
mother of pearl, at least I can braise a piece of
YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS
braising method is designed to take tough (read
"cheap") cuts of meat and render them moist and
tender. Plus, the rich velvety sauce that is its natural
byproduct will make you glad our ancestors evolved tongues.
STEPS YOU TAKE
nutshell, braising combines a quick sear of a large hunk of
meat with a longer, slow simmering in a flavorful liquid.
cooking follows the laws of the universe, just like
everything else in the universe, no matter what the
science-averse like loudly and confoundingly to aver. This
means that everything that happens in the kitchen happens
because it has to happen, given what you’ve done to the
more you know about the composition of your food, and the
more you understand how the forces of nature (heat!) affect
that composition, the more likely your actual outcomes will
align with your desired outcomes.
comes from muscle, and the more exercise a muscle gets, the
tougher its meat will be. This has to do largely (though not
completely) with tough connective tissue. To wit:
you’re a dauntless international smuggler, outfoxing
corrupt local authorities while ferrying much-needed
antibiotics and bootleg copies of "Frampton Comes
Alive" across international boundaries. Imagine, too,
that your day off finds you on a Caribbean afternoon,
stretched on the sun-warmed wing of your vintage Cessna 172
Skyhawk. As the afternoon progresses, you roll from side to
side, your head nestled comfortably on the folded layers of
your white satin flight scarf. There’s no fear of tumbling
from the wing because the plane lies motionless on the
your archnemesis leaps into the cockpit, grabs the stick and
begins piloting your plane down the runway. You grab your
scarf and lash your wrist to a nearby wing strut. As the
plane noses into the air, you realize the old
"lash-the-wrist-to-the-strut" trick may not
prevent you from plummeting to a pancake-y end. You wrap the
scarf repeatedly around your arm, the strut, your legs and
your waist until you are fastened tightly to the plane. No
matter what death-defying feat of aero-acrobatics the
dastardly villain attempts, you are assured of survival, due
to the strength of those bonds.
how meat works. Muscles that get a lot of exercise must be
more securely tethered with a connective tissue called
kitchen, we love collagen. When heated slowly, it breaks
down into gelatin and water. In a braise, that gelatin gives
the braising liquid body and mouthfeel. The longer the
braise, the lovelier that mouthfeel and the more tender the
meat, since there’s less collagen holding it together. You
know the phrase, "falling-off-the-bone tender"?
This is where it comes from.
is not for every cut of meat. There’s no reason to braise
a chicken breast or a pork tenderloin because they’re
already tender. Tougher cuts, though, benefit greatly from a
the thing is, once you understand the method, you can braise
anything that needs it: a beef brisket, a veal shank,
a heavy bottomed stockpot over medium high heat. When the
pan is hot, add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Sear
your seasoned meat on all sides until brown, 1 to 2 minutes
per side. Remove and set aside.
aromatic vegetables, like mirepoix (a 2-to-1-to-1 mix of
onions, carrots and celery — it should be roughly 20
percent of the weight of your meat). Saute until lightly
browned, then deglaze.
Return the meat to the pot with enough liquid — beer,
wine, stock, water — to come halfway up the sides of the
meat. Add any other flavoring ingredients. Bring to a boil,
then cover and simmer over low heat on the stove-top or in a
325-degree oven until the meat is falling apart. This can be
anywhere from one to several hours, depending on the size
and cut of the meat.
Adjust the seasoning of the braising liquid, and serve
immediately with the meat.
Remove the meat. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan,
discarding the spent vegetable. Reduce the liquid until it
coats the back of a spoon, or thicken it with beurre manie
(equal parts butter and flour mashed into a paste) or a
slurry of cornstarch or flour dissolved in cold liquid.
Return the meat to the sauce along with any additional
vegetables and serve immediately.
some ideas for deliciously painless braises:
Think Italian, and braise pork shoulder in your favorite
simple tomato sauce. To serve, augment the sauce with
sauteed mushrooms, onions and peppers.
a variation of the Belgian stew called carbonnade, and
caramelize some julienned onions in your stockpot before
braising a beef chuck roast in a Belgian ale. Or turn it
Irish with some Guinness Extra Stout.
French with coq au vin: Braise an 8-cut chicken in red wine,
then augment the strained, thickened sauce with precooked
pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon.