Cooking Technique - Braising

Sept. 18, 2018, noon

This lesson meets several of the criteria you mentioned on Facebook that you would like to learn about – budget-friendly, easy, tried-and-true, clean-eating, and kids can help prep for these meals. Kids can learn about vegetables, knife skills, how to brown things on the stove (all skills you can teach them depending on their age). These recipes use cheaper cuts of meat. They are recipes that have only real food ingredients in them. All of these recipes are beloved by my family. There you go!

Meat that is so tender it falls apart and then melts in your mouth – that's what a cooking method called braising produces. Braising is perfect for big tough cuts of beef, lamb, and pork, but fish, chicken and even vegetables can be braised.
Braising is a moist-heat cooking method in which food is partially submerged in liquid and then cooked in a covered dish at very low heat for a long time. As the meat cooks, the collagen in these tough cuts of meat dissolves into gelatin and they become completely tender and all the flavors of the ingredients mingle into one completely delicious, absolutely unctuous dish. Can you tell this is my favorite way to cook meat? The cheaper cuts of meat can be totally transformed into a great meal.
What's the difference between a braise and a stew? If the food is totally submerged, the dish is considered a stew, while the liquid in a braise only comes about halfway up the meat.
Vegetables can be braised along with a cut of meat, giving the whole dish more flavor, or they can be braised all on their own. Vegetables don't have any collagen, but slow cooking will help tough plant fibers soften. Pay close attention when braising vegetables because they become mushy if over-cooked. Hard root vegetables, winter squashes, and hardy greens like kale and chard are particularly well-suited to braising.
Braising is all about building flavors and that starts by sautéing the vegetables and searing the meat before adding the liquid to the pot. Both of these steps add rich, caramelized flavors to the dish, which can only be developed at high heat — not the low heat of a braise. Many braises are also generously seasoned with herbs and spices. For yet another layer of flavor, wine, beer, cider, or alcohol can be added along with the braising liquid. While you can braise with just water, the dish is much better if you use stock.
Braising requires a heavy pot with a lid — this kind of pot helps maintain an even cooking temperature and prevents moisture from escaping. A Dutch oven is expressly designed for braising.  You can braise in an oven between 250°F and 325°F, or you can braise on a burner over the lowest heat. Either way, you want to see just the barest simmer in the liquid — a few bubbles and lots of steam means you're doing it right. A slow cooker is also a perfect way to braise, but takes longer than an oven.
How long does a braise need to cook? A braise is done when it's done. It can't be rushed and there are no short-cuts. You're also not cooking the meat to a specific temperature like when you're cooking steaks. You need to cook the meat until it falls off the bone and is easily pulled apart with a fork. If you stop cooking as soon as the meat reaches the correct cooking temperature, it will still be chewy and hard to eat; it takes longer for that collagen to break down. This process can take several hours for large cuts of meat; smaller cuts or meat that has been cut into smaller pieces will take a bit less time. Vegetable braises are done as soon as the vegetables are as tender as you like them.
Braises are perfect make-ahead dishes since they actually taste better the next day. And since everything's usually well-cooked, the food's texture doesn't change much as it sits. Letting braises sit overnight gives them even more time for the flavors to mingle, mellow out, and absorb evenly into every bite of the dish.
Yes, it takes a while to cook a recipe like this, but it is mostly passive time – you don't have to do anything while it's cooking. Put it together and then take a nap while it cooks in the oven!
Thanks to for all this information.
The following recipes are family favorites! I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine does.
Serves 4

8 bone-in beef short ribs
6 pieces of bacon or pancetta, diced
sea salt and pepper
olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups red wine (if you don't want to use wine, just use more broth)
2 cups beef or chicken broth (enough to almost cover ribs)
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season ribs with sea salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon (or pancetta) over medium heat until completely crispy and the fat is rendered. Remove and set aside. Do not discard grease.

Add olive oil to pan with the bacon grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, getting them really brown. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.

Add onions and carrots to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook slightly. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful bits of glory. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. 

Add broth and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs (whole) to the liquid. 

Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid. (Can also refrigerate mixture, then remove solid fat from the top.)

Serve 2 ribs on bed of creamy polenta or rice, spooning a little juice over the top.

ONCE YOU KNOW THIS TECHNIQUE, you can make all kids of braised recipes.....pork shanks, beef shanks, veal shanks (Osso Bucco), etc.

If you search the internet for All-Time Best Chicken Recipe, this is the recipe you will find. It is easy and fabulous.

1 whole chicken (about 3.5 pounds)
butter and extra virgin olive oil
½ stick of cinnamon
handful of sage
2 lemons, zested
10 cloves of garlic
20 ounces of milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. Fry the chicken in a snug pot on all sides in butter and olive oil.
Remove the chicken from the pot and empty out the oil leaving the brown bits in the pot.
Put the chicken back in the pot with the cinnamon, sage, lemon zest, unpeeled garlic cloves, and milk.
Cook in the oven for 1 hour COVERED, then uncover and cook for 30 more minutes. If you think about it, baste it with the liquid. The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce which is absolutely fantastic.
Pull the meat off the bones and divide it onto your plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds. Serve with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato, if you like.


Serves 8
1 (3-4 pound) beef chuck roast
sea salt and pepper
olive oil
2 onions, quartered
2 celery stalks, cut into thick pieces
2 -3 carrots, peeled and cut into thick pieces
6 – 8 red potatoes, whole or halved depending on size
1 lb. mushrooms, whole or halved depending on size
2 bay leaves
2 – 3 cups of liquid, could be a dark beer or wine plus beef broth, chicken broth or water (don't use beer alone – it is too bitter)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season all sides of the beef with a fair amount of sea salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot that has a tight cover, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan over moderately high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, taking the time to get a nice crust on the outside.

Add the onions and bay leaves to the pot. If using beer or wine, pour in now. Then add enough beef or chicken broth to almost cover the beef.

Cover the pot and put in the oven. Cook for about 1 hour and then add the vegetables (season them with a little salt and pepper) and return to the oven. Cook until the beef is fork tender and the vegetables are done, about another hour, but this will depend. Cook it until the beef falls apart and the vegetables are fork-tender.

If you want a thicker gravy, take the roast and vegetables out onto a platter. Put about 2 tablespoons of flour or cornstarch into a jar and add water until it is a pourable paste. Bring the liquid in the Dutch oven to a boil and stir in the flour paste (which is called a slurry). Cook for at least a minute until the gravy thickens.

Cut up the pot roast and arrange on platter surrounded by the vegetables. Serve with the gravy.


Serves 4

2 ½ – 3 pounds of bone-in chicken legs or thighs (use can use a whole chicken but keep in mind that breast cooks much faster than dark meat and will not be as tender)
olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1 pound of small red potatoes, halved
2 medium onions, quartered
2 pieces of rosemary
sliced pepperoncini (the amount is up to you, I use quite a bit)
chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven until hot. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken in oil until really brown on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
While the chicken is cooking, toss the potatoes in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
When the chicken is browned and removed from the pan, add the potatoes to the pan and brown on both sides.
Add the chicken back to the pan nesting it among and around the potatoes. Add the quartered onions all around and then top with the pepperoncini and the rosemary sprigs. Pour in the slightest bit of chicken broth – just enough to cover the bottom of the pot.
Cover and put in the oven and cook for about an hour, checking after about 45 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 15 minutes. When it is browned and the onions are caramelized it is ready.
This recipe was originally from Lidia Bastianich, but I have changed it a little. It is a family favorite and often requested for birthday dinners. Enjoy!

AGAIN, ONCE YOU KNOW THIS TECHNIQUE, there are a lot of variations of this recipe and I'm sure they are all fabulous! I have seen chicken and artichoke hearts with sun-dried tomatoes, chicken with lemon and olives, etc.

Many different vegetables can be braised to make them more tender.....beans, kale, collard greens, etc. Personally, I don't like squeaky green beans. My momma cooked them until they were done! That's the way I like them.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lb. medium brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon minced garlic
sea salt
black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted chicken stock

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts to pan, cut side down. Cook 3 minutes, without stirring. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and 1/4 cup chicken stock and cover partially. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon chicken stock and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat, serve and enjoy!

Serves 10-12

6 slices bacon, sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches turnip, mustard, or collard greens, thick stems discarded and leaves chopped
8 cups chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes; transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add onion, garlic, and red pepper to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add greens, a handful at a time, stirring each addition just until wilted.
Add stock and cooked bacon; bring to a simmer.
Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 6 – 8

6 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Heat bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until fat has rendered and bacon is beginning to crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onions and cook, stirring, until onions are softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add green beans and broth and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender but retain only the slightest crunch to them, about an hour.