Braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques. This cooking method combines dry and moist heat. First the food is seared at high heat to achieve browning and deep caramelization and then the food is cooked, covered in a flavorful liquid until tender and cooked through.
This cooking method is perfect for economy cuts of meat, thick and fibrous vegetables and anytime you want a flavorful “stew” type of dish. Pressure cooking and slow cookers both are forms of braising.
Most braises follow the same steps.
First an item is browned over high heat, to enhance color and flavor, through the Maillard Reaction, and then the food is cooked in a flavorful liquid, usually with some sort of acidic element (wine, beer, or vinegar) and a good stock, until the food is tender. The food is removed and the braising liquid is reduced to a glaze to be served as a sauce.
Try out my technique on vegetables by making my Vegetable Barigoule.
Most of the time braising is used to refer to meat and even chicken.
Braising has an added make-it-ahead virtue. On Sunday you can cook up a storm, make lots of food and pack it into containers that you can freeze and then take out as needed. During the week when you don’t get home until dinnertime, and the thought of preparing an entire meal is beyond you, just pull dinner out of the freezer. As an accompaniment to something braised fix a quick veggie like sautéed spinach or kale and maybe a side order of rice or noodles.
The most Jewish meat that is braised is brisket. Browse our Brisket Recipes here.
Braising is one of the easiest techniques and the recipes are wonderfully forgiving. It’s basically this: brown meat in a pan, add some liquid and seasonings, put a cover on top and slow-cook the dish on the cook top or in the oven until it’s tender.
Really, that’s all there is to it. It’s the same whatever cut you choose. Use a heavy pan, add some vegetable oil and brown the meat. You can flour it first if you like a darker look (flour also thickens the sauce a bit). The only caution is to not crowd the pan. Brown the pieces a few at a time.
The liquids? That depends on what you like and what you have. Wine, stock, juice, cider, even water will do. You can add a bit of brandy if you like.
Seasonings also depend on your personal tastes. Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, savory, etc.) or dried. Try dried fruit, then add so-called “baking” spices: cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and so on.
Include vegetables. Not only do they give the dish more flavor, they add color too, and some, like tomatoes, onions, celery and mushrooms, add moisture.
Kosher meat cuts are ideal for braising. Shank, short rib, chuck, lamb breast, veal breast all cook to tenderness and taste perfection when you cook them slowly, VERY slowly. Chicken is also great for braising, check out 12 Braised Chicken recipes and find your answer to all your make aheads.