November: Intro to Braising

Braising is wonderful. November is not long enough.

In All About Braising, Molly Stevens defines it as “tucking a few ingredients into a heavy pot with a bit of liquid, covering the pot tightly, and letting everything simmer peacefully until tender and intensely flavored.

To kick off the month, Jill and I made Red Wine Braised Short Ribs. What happened in the oven under the lid of the Le Cruset after browning the ribs, sauteeing some vegetables, and reducing a bottle of wine in half was nothing short of magic. Technically I think Jill had a recipe, but I did not notice her referring to it, and I don’t remember seeing it.

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A week later, I made The Homesick Texan’s Chilorio, a mexican pulled pork. As written, according to my limited understanding, this dish is not braised. The recipe instructed simmering the meat with the lid off. After a few hours, we covered our pot, and magic happened again. The meat went from technically done to meltingly tender.

And on Sunday, chunks of beef went into the slow cooker with enchilada sauce. Hours and hours later, this falling apart mix went into some burritoey enchiladas. That’s braising, right?

We don’t eat meat all that often, so three major braising meals this month so far are quite an accomplishment. Two areas that have led to past lackluster braises both involve time: developing flavors early on by browing meat/sauteeing aromatics/reducing liquid and allowing the covered dish ample time to become tender. Rather than focusing on fading recipes completely, my goals for continued success with braising are to utilize recipes as a guide, while learning to allow the needed time for the magic to happen under the lid.

Many families went in with ours on a 4H meat buying co-op this fall. We have a lot of cuts of pork and beef in our collective freezers right now with different names from those frequently called for in recipes. I would like to continue to increase my confidence in swapping out what I have. There is a milk braised pork I’ve been hearing about (in Michael Pollan’s Cooked and with the passing of Marcella Hazan) that I can’t wait to try. And I have yet to make it past the intro of Molly Stevens’ 480 page book.

We are in our 11th month, and therefore, our 11th topic. I love braising. It’s my favorite.

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