How can something so simple elicit so many “ooh”s, “aah”s, “yum”s and “is it done yet?” from everyone within smelling distance? Try braising something this weekend and find out. Whatever you make is going to be seared on the outside and beautifully fork tender—meat will slide right off the bone and veggies will melt in your mouth like the essence of comfort itself. You’re going raise your dinner game to restaurant levels. And you get to make it look easy (because it is.)
Wait. What’s braising, exactly?
Braising is the most common combined cooking method. First you sear your ingredients—poultry, fish, vegetables, meat, or what have you—in a little hot oil, in a Dutch oven.
You add a little liquid to deglaze the bottom, but not enough to submerge what you’re cooking. You take the meat out. You add flavorful chopped veggies in.
You scrape up the yummy little browned bits (they’re called “fonds” and a flat-sided wooden turner is ideal for this), you return the meat to its former position, cover it, pop it into the oven at 325° and cook it sloooowly. So sloooowly that you can go off and curl up with a good book while your braise develops a deep, rich flavor and a lush, luxurious texture. Some people call a braise a stew, but let’s not, because you actually don’t need to sear first if you’re stewing. (Sorry--we nerd out on food things.)
Want even more praise for your braise? Try some additions, like:
ZEST: Strips of orange, lemon, or lime zest add a subtle citrus something to set your dish apart.
MUSHROOMS: Fresh or dried, shrooms add deep, woodsy flavor to your braise.
SPLASH OUT: Most people braise with stock and/or wine. But who says you can’t braise with beer, for a touch of sourness, or cider to take things to the sweeter side? Water works too, if you want to keep things light, or make space for other flavors.
BIG FINISH: Your braise will be beautiful when it’s done. But adding some freshly chopped herbs is a fun way to give it some color. A pinch of good salt will add depth and crackly crunch. A bit if crème fraiche will mellow out strong flavors. Got any spice blends in the cabinet waiting for their big moment? This just may be it.