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Braising

Braise

verb , braised, braising.

to cook (meat, fish, or vegetables) by sautéeing in fat and then simmering slowly in very little liquid. A great winter way to cook. Simmering meat and/or vegetables fill the house with warmth and an aroma of good things to come. Braising meat has long been practiced in dishes such as pot roast or lamb stew. But most any meat or vegetable can be braised. Four basic steps to follow: Step

1: SEAR.

Season the meat on all sides. Heat oil in a heavy pot with a lid such as a dutch oven on medium-high heat, then add the meat. Don’t crowd the pot and take time to get good color on all sides. Remove meat; set aside.

STEP 2:  ADD THE MIREPOIX*

Cook chopped onions, celery, carrots, etc., in the drippings left behind from searing, stirring frequently. Like the sear, use medium-high heat, until a nice brown color, but not scorched.

STEP 3: DEGLAZE THE POT**

Add the liquid of your choice, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. These bits are flavor bombs. When they’re dissolved in the cooking liquid they enrich the entire dish.

STEP 4:  BRAISE.

Return the meat to the pot, with any accumulated juices and the broth. The meat should not be submerged–you’re braising, not boiling, Adding too much broth will ultimately dilute the sauce. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover and slide into a 325-degree oven.

STEP IT UP:

ADD MORE VEGETABLES: If your recipe includes added vegetables (such as fennel, potatoes, or greens), add them to the pot 45 minutes before the meat is done. Check the liquid. If it’s low (say, less than an inch), add a splash more. Return pot to the oven. Carrots, small onions, green cabbage and rutabaga all braise well, and add loads of flavor.

MORE FLAVOR?

The braising liquid adds a great deal of flavor and defines the final outcome of your dish. Water, of course, but broth is better, maybe a combination of the two. Wine, yes, red or white depends on what you are cooking. Cider, fruit juices, soy sauce, fish sauce. Here again, depends what you are cooking. My secret, whatever is in the pot–a splash of balsamic vinegar as the last ingredient will bring all those flavors together. Which, by the way, is always better the next day.

Find some time on a cold day. Try braising, it will warm your heart.

*Mirepoix: A french cooking basic, vegetables such as celery, onion, carrot, maybe cabbage, celeriac, fennel, depends on the finish you want, small-chopped and added to liquid in a pot to enhance the flavor.

**Deglaze the pan: We all do it, but maybe don’t know the french cooking name for it. After the meat/veggies have been removed in the sear process and the mirepoix has carmelized, add some liquid to the pan. Magically, all those bits and pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan are coming loose and joining in the flavors of the dish. (Also makes cleanup a lot easier.)

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