Winter is the Season for Braising
Our secret to getting through the winter cold with a smile is braising. Braising requires minimal prep time and is a great way to prepare healthy lunches for several days at once. The basic technique is the same, whether you are preparing beef, chicken, pork, lamb, etc.
This technique has been prevalent in many cultures for millennia. It’s the simple technique of searing a protein, then cooking gently in liquid in a covered pot. It’s a delicious way to prepare tougher (and less expensive) cuts of meat and a great way to feed a crowd. The veggies and protein will contribute to the flavor of the braising liquid and once the meat is cooked, you can strain this liquid off and reduce by half to create a sauce for the meat.
This is best prepared one day before it is served.
- 2 Yellow Onions, Chopped into chunks
- 4 Large Carrots, Chopped into chunks
- ½ Bunch Celery, Chopped into chunks
- 3 Leeks, Chopped into chunks
- Water or stock to cover
1 Large Pot with lid, the thicker the better.
- Allow the protein to come to room temperature, at least an hour. At the same time prepare the mirepoux, a trio of flavor enhancing aromatics that add depth to the braising liquid. As a rule of thumb we suggest roughly equal parts yellow onion, celery and carrot for the mirepoux. We also like to add an equal part of leaks, but this is optional.
- Pat the meat dry and brown in a hot pan, searing each side. Do not overcrowd. Doing so will drop the temperature of the pan, which will cause the protein to steam and prevent it from developing a proper sear.
- Remove the protein and add your mirepoux with a minimal amount of oil. This will help marry the raw flavors of the vegetables.
- Once the onion and leek become translucent add enough of the braising liquid to deglaze the pan. Use a flat-edged wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits “sucs” from the bottom of the pan so they begin to dissolve in the liquid.
- Add the protein back into the pot and cover. Reduce heat to a light simmer. For more constant heat, you can leave the braising pot in a 225° F oven with the lid slightly offset to allow some steam to escape, until the meat is tender.
Pro tip: Use a piece of parchment paper with a quarter-sized whole cut in the center to rest atop of the braising liquid. This allows some evaporation and concentration of flavors, but protects the protein from the air. (French Laundry Cookbook)
- Once the protein has reached desired tenderness remove from the heat. Set the protein aside and strain the vegetables from the liquid. It’s best to prepare this dish at least a day before you plan to serve it. This allows you to store the protein in the liquid overnight. The next day the fat will have separated and solidified on top of the liquid making it much easier to remove.
Skim off the fat, remove the protein, and reduce the liquid by half on the stovetop. Warm the protein in the oven. Allow it to rest, then slice and sauce.