Friday, February 17, 2006

Braise me up Before you Go-go

Braising is a method of cooking that I've recently developed quite a penchant for. It is basically just slow-cooking meat in a liquid sometimes for 1 and a half to 3, or even, 4 hours. This makes the meat incredibly tender and since it is cooked in a liquid, incredibly moist as well. Therefore, braising is best suited for tough cuts of meat: chuck roasts, short ribs, lamb shanks, etc. This also makes braising relatively inexpensive since those really tough meats are the really cheap meats at the markets. Unfortunately, the amount of time required deters many from doing it, especially those with busy schedules -- which is a shame. An alternative is crock pots which are great for this purpose if you can afford them. However, if you've got some spare time during the weekend, I highly recommend this cooking method because it produces amazingly tender, juicy, and flavorful meat. I just made some braised lamb the other night and it far exceeded my expectations.

While recipes differ, the braising method is pretty much the same. In a nutshell: brown the meat, deglaze the pot, add the meat, and simmer until done.

1. Add some oil into your braising vessel, crank up the heat.
2. Season your meat with salt and pepper. Some recipes will call for flour as well.
3. Brown the meat on all sides, in batches, if necessary. Be careful not to burn them! This step is optional but it adds more flavor in the end.
4. Reserve all but a few tablespoons of the rendered fat in the vessel.
5. Deglaze: pour the braising liquid into the vessel and take your time to scrape the brown bits off the bottom. Do not omit this step! This results in a more flavorful stock.
6. Put the meat pieces back in, bring to a boil, and then let simmer for however long the recipe calls for.

Two of my favorite recipes are:
- Dave Lieberman's braised Hoisin beer short ribs
- Epicurious's braised lamb shanks with caramelized onions and shallots


Blogger Christine said...

Also, don't be discouraged if you happpen to check the meat half-way through cooking and discover that it is as tough as rubber. Relax, it's natural -- give it more time. Cooking it for over two hours will break down the meat and dissolve the fat. In no time (well, several hours), you will have the tenderest meat ever. Good post, Alex!

9:34 PM  

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