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Simple braising techniques and recipes

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Tips for braising meats

Braising is a very simple cooking technique that results in succulent, tender, juicy meat. Braising typically requires a quick sear on the stovetop and then a long finish in a covered pot with liquid. Braising works very well with tougher and less expensive cuts of meat and tougher vegetables because the long, slow cook time breaks them down into mouthwatering morsels that not only become a tasty dish, but also a meal that is quite cheap. Here are some tips and recipes for braised meats, fish and vegetables.

Braised Short Ribs

Best Meats for Braising

With braising, you can get away with using the tougher cuts of meat. The ribs, brisket, shanks, short ribs, shoulder, pot roast, and chuck roast are great options because they will get very tender, while holding up to the long, slow cooktime of braising. The best meats are those that have more fat and muscle, though almost any cut of meat can be used for braising. You can braise all types of meat: beef, lamb, veal, venison, or even chicken.

Braising Fish

Though much more delicate than tough cuts of meat, fish can also be braised, but larger and firmer-flesh fish are the best options. Shark and swordfish are your best options because they are heartier in taste and texture than lighter fish.

Braising Vegetables

Vegetables can be braised and will take much less time than meat. Most vegetables will cook in only 30 to 45 minutes versus the two to five hours it can take for some cuts of meats. The best vegetables for braising are heartier, firmer veggies like potatoes, winter squash, carrots, fresh beets and other root vegetables. Try braising a nice cut of meat and an array of vegetables for a delicious and hearty stew.

Braising Technique

Most braising can be done in a large pot with a lid, but a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or Dutch oven can also be used, and are excellent conductors of heat. To get the best flavor, quickly brown meat and veggies in butter or oil on the stovetop and then simmer them in a braising liquid such as wine, beer or stock. The sauce will become more flavorful as the braising goes on.

Braising versus stewing

The difference between stewing and braising is the amount of liquid you add to the pan. Braising requires less liquid than stewing. Only about one cup of liquid should be used, and the amount of liquid should never cover the meat all the way.

Braising is low and slow

The typical cooking time for most meats will be at least 90 minutes all the way up to five hours depending on the cut and how much meat you have in the pot. It's important to not overcrowd the pot to ensure everything cooks evenly. Some meats, like chicken and fish may only take 45 to 60 minutes, and vegetables will probably only take about 30 minutes. Regardless of your ingredients, they will be braised on a low heat setting. You need a long slow cooking time to create that desired tenderness.

Braised meat, fish and vegetables Recipes

Braised Short Ribs

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
2 cups chopped white onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 garlic clove, minced
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 cup dry red wine
8 cups low-sodium beef stock

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper on both sides then sauté the ribs in the oil until just browned. Remove ribs from pot an reserve.

2. Saute the onions in the same pot until golden then add celery and carrots. Season to taste with salt and pepper then add the garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary, cooking for 1 to 2 more minutes.

3. Pour the wine into the pan and then the stock. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to low. Place the ribs back into the pan and cover pan with a lid. Cook ribs about 2 hours or until they are tender and falling off the bone.

Braised Swordfish

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
4 (5-ounce) swordfish steaks
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 grapefruit, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

Directions:
1. Season swordfish with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium heat and place fish in pan browning on both sides. Remove fish and reserve.

2. Saute the onion and garlic in the remaining oil until just golden. Add the stock, raisins, vinegar and fish. Cover pan with lid, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Remove fish from pan and reserve.

3. Add the grapefruit, feta, oregano and capers to the same pan and cook for just a few seconds to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture over top of fish and serve.

Braised Vegetables

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 cups crimini mushrooms
8 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 (9-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a skillet until hot. Saute potatoes, mushrooms and carrots until golden brown.

2. Stir in the artichokes and garlic and cover with broth. Place lid on pan and reduce heat to low. Cook vegetables 35 to 40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Season vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the thyme. Serve hot.

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