Braising is the name of a cooking technique that refers to cooking protein submerged in liquid for a long period of time. It’s very close to stewing, and the two words often refer to the same technique. Although in cooking school, the term braising is more used to cooking protein halfway through in liquid, while “to stew” refers to a bigger amount of liquid, where the protein is completely submerged. Well, does it matter that much? Truth is, the two techniques are really similar and produce incredible mouthwatering results typical of winter stews and comfort foods.
Most braised recipes are cooked in the oven, although you can also braise for a long time on top of the stove. In most cases, I prefer to use the oven as it provides a more stable cooking environment for the dish.
The beauty about braised meats is that it allows you to turn inexpensive cuts of meat into melting delicious dishes as the meat shreds and slides off the bone after a few hours cooking in liquid in low temperatures. This low and slow process breaks down the connective tissue in meat and the tough fiber in vegetables, resulting in a tender mouthwatering dishes that yields lots of yummy gravy.
This technique is pretty popular around the world. Classics like Pot Roast, Coq Au Vin, Osso Bucco and Brisket are just a few to begin to populate a long list of braised dishes.
The word “braise” comes from the French term “braisier” and has been adopted into many different languages in its original form. In English it’s a verb: “to braise”. In Portuguese, the word does not exist at all, cooks adapted the word into “brasear”. In Spanish we use “estofar”.
What cut of meat?
For best results, it’s important to choose the right cut of meat to braise. Chuck, rump, blade and bottom round beef are good options. Pork shoulder, pork cubes, and pork ribs also braise beautifully. Beef ribs? Amazing! Beef cubes from one of the cuts above? One of my favorites.
Chicken legs and thighs also produce fantastic recipes. In my cookbook Latin Superfoods, I included a dish called Chicken with Peas and Potatoes that is to die for! Braise away baby!
There is a Lid for Every pot!
Successful braising calls for a good pan. It should be oven friendly and sturdy enough to withstand high heat. I like a large Dutch-Oven, but any good quality stainless steel soup pot with a secure lid works well here. In fact, securing the lid, is one of the most important things.
I always like to emphasize the importance of broth. If you would like me to write more about making broth at home (it’s so easy!), please do leave comments and suggestions on this post, as this is one of my passions (to make broth at home). But if you don’t have the patience to make broth at home, you can find frozen BRODO nowadays in supermarkets. You can also use a store-bought version— my least favorite way. Just look for the low-sodium ones and you’ll be fine. I could write a whole book about braising! But for the moment, let’s get cooking!
So, without any further ado, here is a winner recipe that I make often in my home for the family. It’s called Simple Beed Stew. I like to serve with a side of brown rice, but feel free to serve with a side of your preference.
Simple Beef Stew
1¼ lbs beef stew
Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon (16g) flour
¼ cup white wine
1¾ cup chicken or beef stock
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
Brown Rice to serve on the side
- Place the meat in a bowl, season with salt, pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour (or refrigerate overnight; bring to room temperature before cooking).
- Center a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat it to 325˚F.
- In a medium Dutch oven pan, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sear the meat until it’s browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Do it in batches if necessary. Transfer the meat to a bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic to the pan and cook on low heat scraping any brown bits left in the pan, until the garlic just starts to turn golden.
- Add the onions, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon. Season lightly with salt, pepper, oregano, paprika and nutmeg and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and mix with the vegetables.
- Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the white wine and reduce until it’s almost dry. Return the meat to the pan and cook with the vegetables for 5 minutes before adding the liquid.
- Add the stock and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning at this point, before braising the meat for 2 hours. Cover the pan with the lid and place the pot in the oven. Cook for 2 to 2 ½ hours, checking the liquid level every half an hour, making sure there is plenty of liquid, about halfway through the meat should be fine. If need be, add a little. If the meat is falling off the bone—it’s done. If it’s not, return to the oven for another 30 minutes or so.
- Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with brown rice.