Braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques. It allows you to take a tougher less expensive cuts of meat and create some of the tastiest dishes you'll eat. Braising often takes a few hours to break down the connective tissues (collagen) from the muscle fibers via dry and moist heat cooking methods. All braises follow this typical order.
- Sear the meat and vegetables over high heat.
- Add liquid and often an acid to further tenderize the meat.
- Turn heat down to low and cook until meat is fork tender.
- Reduce liquid into sauce or gravy.
Here's one of my all time favorite dishes Beef Bourguignon. This recipe is a quick version adapted from Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook.
1/2 bottle red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon
1 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp flour
1/2c chicken or beef stock
3 thyme sprigs
6 Italian parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs or chuck (about 1 inch thick)
2 carrots, obliquely cut 1/2 inch cooked*
1 box button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, cooked*
10-14 white pearl onions, cooked*
- For the beef: Trim excess fat and any silver skin from the short ribs. Cut the meat into pieces approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches by 1 inch thick.
- Heat a heavy bottomed pot, when the oil is hot, add only as many pieces of meat as will fit comfortably in a single layer; do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam rather than brown. Once the meat has browned on the first side, turn it and continue to brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the meat to the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Brown the remaining meat in batches, adding more oil to the pan as necessary.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot, stirring and cooking until the vegetables are translucent.
- Sprinkle 2 tbsp of flour over the vegetables and mix together.
- Add back in the beef, and both the stock and wine. Pour enough wine to barely cover all the meat.
- Bring the pot up to a simmer and turn the heat down. Braise the beef for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Periodically skimming off any scum that rises to the top.
- Transfer the meat to an ovenproof pot or container.
- Strain the braising liquid twice through a fine strainer or a medium strainer lined with a clean and dampened tea towel or cheesecloth, straining it the second time into a saucepan. Discard the vegetables.
While the Beef cooks...
- Peel and cut the carrots into about 1/2 inch pieces. Add a pad a butter of butter to a pan and sauce until nicely cartelized.
- Trim the mushroom stems flush with the caps. Heat the butter in a large skillet over high heat until it has melted and the foam has subsided. Add the mushrooms, reduce the heat to medium-low, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook gently, tossing often, until the mushrooms are lightly browned and tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
- Final garnish is to add another pad of butter to a pan, and cook the pearl onions. This I would leave alone for a few minutes before shaking the pan so that the onions can get some nice color to them.
Finally add the carrots, onions, mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.