Braising

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Purpose[edit]

To quickly brown, then slowly cook foods allowing their structures to break down and become soft.

Equipment[edit]

Dutch oven or other heavy pan, optional parchment paper and tin foil, oven or stovetop.

Technique[edit]

Base Technique[edit]

  • Add fat to dutch oven or pan and put over high heat
  • Add food to be cooked into the pan and saute (see sauteing) briefly until browned
  • Deglaze pan by adding about a cup of liquid to the hot pan, and scraping the brown bits off of the bottom
  • Cover and a) keep at a very very low simmer (see simmering) until done or b) put in a 325 degree oven until done

Classical Technique[edit]

  • Cut mirepoix
  • Make Bouquet Garni
  • Add fat to dutch oven or pan and put over high heat
  • Sear the piece of meat to be cooked on all sides. Remove from pan.
  • Sear your mirepoix in the pan, leave in pan.
  • Deglaze pan by adding about 1/2 cup of wine to the hot pan, and scraping the brown bits off of the bottom
  • Lay meat on top of mirepoix in pan.
  • Add enough stock to come 1/2 way up the side of the meat.
  • If you've got it, cut a piece of parchment paper and lay it over the ingredients, then take a piece (or two if needed) of tin foil and fit it down to the surface of the liquid and meat, trying to keep at least 1/2" of extra foil above the rim of the pan. Put the lid on the pan, keeping the excess foil outside of the pan.
  • Cover and a) keep at a very very low simmer (see simmering), or in a 325 degree oven until done... usually a couple hours.
  • Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Cover it with tin foil so it stays hot.
  • Strain the sauce in the pan, and discard the solids.
  • Put into a container that is taller than it is wide (1 cup pyrex measuring cup for ex) and wait for the fat to separate. Take a turkey baster, dip it to the bottom of the container, and withdraw as much of the fatless liquid as you can, and set it aside. Continue this until there's almost nothign but fat left in the container. Discard the fat.
  • Reduce the sauce until it's thick and rich. Enrichen the sauce with cream if needed.
  • Slice and serve with the sauce.

Considerations[edit]

Although lots of things can be braised, when you're talking about doing 'a braise' in the context of classical french cuisine you're talking about searing and cooking a meat, with aromatic vegetables with wine and stock, in low heat for at least a couple of hours. The first big mistake people make when braising foods is buying expensive meat. Generally, the cheaper the meat, the better the braise. This is primarily due to the collagen content of the meat. Collagen is one of the connective tissues in beef. The more collagen, the tougher the meat is when cooked for a short amount of time over high heat. The tougher it is when quickly cooked, the cheaper it is usually. However, when meat is cooked slowly in an environment that's buffered against high temperatures by a high water content, that tough collagen melts into rich smooth gelatin which is what gives braises their characteristic 'falling apart' tenderness. As a rule, meat that is closer to the hoofs is going to have more collagen. As the already flavorful liquid absorbs the runoff gelatin and meat juices, and the flavor of the aromatic vegetables, it becomes the base for the ideal sauce accompanyment to the dish. Although you could just puree the vegetables to thicken the sauce, that's a bit on the unrefined side for classical french cuisine. They generally prefer to strain, defatten, reduce and enrich for a clean rich sauce.

Since you're trying to cook down the collagen and not the internal temperature, this is a "the longer you cook, the better it will be" type of situation. If your meat seems tough, keep it on for another half an hour to an hour. If the meat seems dry, you should have used cheaper meat.