May We Recommend: Braising
Jewish home cooks are experts at braising. We make good brisket, right? Plus, so many other tough, kosher cuts that benefit from the long, slow cooking that makes them so luxuriously succulent.
We know you can’t hurry short ribs. Or lamb shanks.
There’s so much to recommend about braising. In addition to the bountiful flavor and tender texture, braised food gives you gravy that’s rich with gelatin from the melted gristle. It’s also better a day or so later, so you can prepare it in advance. And, if you need any more convincing, you use cuts of meat that are often less expensive: think breast of veal (or lamb) or a chuck roast, chicken legs, turkey thighs.
Braising meat is a simple and straightforward technique. Here’s all there is to it:
- Season the meat and coat it lightly with flour if you prefer a browner crust and thicker sauce.
- Brown the meat in a large, heavy pan: enameled cast iron is ideal. Use vegetable oil to prevent sticking and cook the food in batches for proper browning: do not crowd the pan.
- Return all the pieces to the pan and add liquid (stock, wine, juice, beer, ale, water).
- For a very simple dish, turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for several hours until the meat is tender. Alternatively, you can use the oven set at 250 degrees. I know people swear by one way or the other, but honestly, there’s no difference.
- For extra flavor before the slow cooking, add a sprig or two of a fresh herb. If you want to include vegetables (onion, leeks, carrots, potatoes are common add-ins), cut them and add them to the pan. For extra browning, saute them first for 2-3 minutes after you’ve browned the meat (add more vegetable oil to the pan if needed). Return the meat to the pan, scatter the vegetables around, cover and continue. For especially tough cuts that might take longer (brisket, chuck, short ribs), add the vegetables after an hour or so.
There’s another bonus to braising: while the dish is slowly cooking, you have time to read, play cards with your kids, or catch up on email. All the while taking in aromas of homey, heartwarming food. Enjoy the Beer Braised Beef, which you can make substituting short ribs.
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com, friend on Facebook at RonnieVailFein, Twitter at @RonnieVFein, Instagram at RonnieVFein.