Despite the glorious golden Indian Summer we’ve had the good fortune to enjoy in this difficult year, Mother Nature has indicated her intentions with a frost or two and erratic thermometer readings. Snuggling in and down is the order of the season. Wood fires, long twilight walks and cozy comforting dinners are in significant demand accompanied by early, if spectacular sunsets.
Braising, like stews and soups, is perfect for this time of year, even when the year isn’t 2020. Given that the year is 2020, we certainly deserve to indulge ourselves in those type of rich deep flavors. The kind of flavors that fill the house and tickle your appetite long before they arrive on the table. The process of braising is believed to have originated when some clever cook molded clay around the food and then buried it in hot coals for long slow cooking in its own juices. That basic process has since acquired an endless list of variations. There maybe a culture that didn’t refine this process to its own tastes, but if so, it has gone undocumented.
There seems to be confusion or contention in the terminology from one expert to the next (how novel) but it appears that in its essence, braising entails the quick searing of the outermost layer of the primary ingredient to seal in its flavors and then the slow cooking with other foods and flavorings in varying quantities and types of liquids. It’s an expansive technique that employs the stove top, the oven or both and is applied to meats, poultry, seafood and vegetables. Because of the slow application of heat, time and moisture, braising is a perfect way to tenderize even tough cuts of meat. It is also a great way of steeping vegetables, especially root vegetables, in long melding flavors.
You will find some of our favorite braising recipes on our website such as: Lamb Shanks Braised with Anise, Blood Oranges and Coconut Milk, Stinco di Maiale, made with unsmoked pork hocks, and Spiced Braised Lamb Shanks. Today’s addition to the repertoire is a Belgian dish called Beef Carbonnade which is actually quite an easy meal to prepare though you will not know that from the experience.