Braise the Roof on Dinner May 19, 2018 – Posted in: How to, Recipes
You know the scene: You’re on the second course at your favorite neighborhood bistro, hunched over a steaming plate of braised beef ragu, and you exclaim to your dinner partner, “How do they do it!?” The flavors are so warming and full, the textures soft and molten.
Amongst many great mysteries, most culinary questions have answers. Braising has been used by home cooks and professionals for centuries, and whether a novice or experienced cook, we’re confident you’re ready to dive in. Thus, we give you some not-so-secret tips on braising—what it’s about, how to do it well, and the best equipment for the job.
Braising is the process of using dry and liquid forms of heat. First, sear your meat (or sometimes a veggie) at a high temperature in a heavy pot—creating a crust that locks in juices and adds a distinct caramelized flavor. Then cook the meat in some form of liquid (generally a stock, wine or even water) either on the stove or in the oven at a low temperature for a long period of time. This process creates that fall-off-the-bone bite that melts in your mouth.
Searing is the best kept secret to cooking most cuts of meat, regardless if you are slow cooking them afterwards or simply serving a rare steak. First, season all sides of the meat with salt (we recommend a coarse kosher salt). Pour a high-smoke point oil into your pot and set it over medium-high heat. Don’t overcrowd the pot! You may have to sear in batches. Be patient! You really want that meat to brown. Flip the meat to sear on both sides. You’re looking for a crispy, amber coating. Remove all the meat from the pan and set it aside.
Veggies do more for your dinner than make you feel better about health. They add sweetness, starch, and tons of flavor to the braise. The most traditional form is a mire poix (diced onion, celery, and carrots) but you can use combinations of tomatoes, garlic, and peppers depending on the dish. Cook the veggies in the fatty drippings from the seared meat on the same heat. The goal is to caramelize the veggies, not burn, so watch them carefully and turn down the heat if they seem too eager.
Deglaze the pot with a braising liquid. In other words, pour the liquid into the pot to release and incorporate the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pot. Scrape off the bits with a wooden spoon if they’re being stubborn. Note that a homemade stock or good wine will make a huge difference in the final product. You’ve been working really hard to perfect each ingredient—don’t leave this one out in the cold! (We recommend making a big pot of stock ahead of time, freezing it and using it as needed.)
Simmering your dish is the final step. Add the meat back into the pot of liquid with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. You don’t want to fully submerge the meat! Bring it to a simmer and then cover. At this point the dish can either simmer on the stovetop or go in the oven at 325°F.
Having the right cookware for a one-pot dish can’t be overlooked. You need a cooking surface that allows your meat to release in the initial high-heat searing process, but also one that retains and locks in heat during a slow simmer. The heavy enameled cast iron braiser was made for these dual cooking processes. The heavy cast iron maintains temperature, the well-fitting lid locks in the heat and nutrients, and the enameled surface makes for an easy clean-up. It also looks great on your table and is oven safe!
Incorporate these tips and suggestions into this recipe for Spiced Citrus Glazed Short Ribs and braise the roof on dinner.