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The basics of braising

Jan 5th, 2014 | Category: Cooking

by Mary Ellen Carter

There is something comforting about the gently captivating aromas that promise something rich and satisfying at the end of an afternoon. Cooking low and slow heightens the anticipation of gathering around the table especially this time of year.

Braising is a cooking method where the meat or vegetables are browned over a high heat, then a liquid is added and slowly cooked in a pot with a tight fitted lid until tender.

The holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery. PHOTO BY MARY ELLEN CARTER

The holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery. PHOTO BY MARY ELLEN CARTER

The following are steps to a perfect braise.

Choose a cut of meat of beef, lamb or pork – chuck, shoulder, cross rib, blade, shank, brisket, or short ribs. Choose the legs or thighs of chicken, turkey or duck. These cuts of meat are the most humble – tough pieces needing the long slow cooking that delivers the deepest richest flavors.

Use a large covered pot, ideally cast iron or enamel. A large pot blends all the individual ingredients together forging them into a single complex and memorable flavor.

Salt the meat liberally, then sear or brown the meat or chicken on a high heat using oil. This carmelization of the surface of the ingredient adds another dimension to the final dish.

Remove the meat and set aside. Lower the heat and add the aromatics and gently cook (this is a building block to add to the flavor base).

Return the meat to the pot and add a liquid (water, broth, wine, juice or any combination thereof), and finally, simmer for a long time

Using the classic dice of aromatics of onion, carrot and celery is called a “Soffritto” in Italy, in France it is a” Mirepoix.”

The ratio of onion, carrot and celery is 2:1:1.

Every regional cuisine has a flavor base. Picture adding ginger and soy sauce and you think Asian.

Tip: A little shortcut is to chop the vegetables and freeze for future use.


Braised Beef Short Ribs



6 pounds short ribs

1 teaspoon crushed rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoon canola oil

2 medium onions, chopped

4 carrots chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup beef broth

1 cup red wine



Sprinkle ribs with rosemary and salt and pepper. Arrange the ribs on a broiler rack and broil 6 inches from the heat until browned and crisp. Turn and brown on the other side.

Meanwhile heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven or heavy skillet with a lid and sauté onion, carrots and celery until softened; add garlic at the last minute.

Place the browned short ribs in the pan, add broth and wine. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for  1 ½ – 2 hours until tender.

Serves 6


Braised Vegetables in Olive Oil


1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons anchovy paste

½ teaspoon chili flakes

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 lemon, seeds removed, thinly sliced

3 leeks, sliced lengthwise

4 carrots, sliced lengthwise

3 celery stalks sliced length wise

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes

4 zucchinis sliced lengthwise

Chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste



Put olive oil, anchovy paste, garlic, and lemon slices in a Dutch oven. Place over medium heat and cook until fragrant and the garlic and lemon slices are golden, about 5 minutes. Add leeks in a single layer and brown on both sides. Add carrots, celery, potatoes and zucchini. Stir to coat the vegetables, cover and cook for 45 minutes until the vegetables are soft and tender.

Serves 6


Chicken Cacciatore


4 – 5 pounds chicken legs

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup diced onion,

½ cup diced carrots

½ cup diced celery


1 bay leaf

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 cup wine

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands

¾ cup chicken broth



Browning the chicken. PHOTO BY MARY ELLEN CARTER

Browning the chicken. PHOTO BY MARY ELLEN CARTER

Rinse chicken pieces, pat dry and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven, brown chicken in small batches. Set aside.

Reduce heat and add the onion, carrot and celery and good measure of oregano and the bay leaf.

Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes, add garlic.

Return chicken to the pan and pour in wine, cook over medium high heat scraping browned bits.

Add tomatoes and broth. Reduce heat and gently simmer for 45 minutes.


Published in the January 2014 issue of Grow Northwest

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