As a cooking method Braising allows to give the best results and the most flavours to cheaper cuts of Meat, Fish or Vegetables. It simply consists of browning the ingredients all around to impart them with flavour and release their juices. The next step is to add a liquid element usually acidic to break down the food to an appetizing tenderness.
Think of Oxtails, Pork Ribs, Chicken Drumsticks or Chicken Wings, almost any Vegetables, entire Fish or just the Fish heads, Braising gives a little 'Je Ne Sais Quoi' to something you will not automatically go for in the first place. It is as if you have a Plan B in place for those cuts which sound less appealing.
Rack of Pork Ribs.
For example Plan A says I want a Beef Rump Steak, and instead my purse tells me you can only afford the Oxtails. Or Plan A says wouldn't it be nice to have some Pork Chops tonight but by the time you are at the butcher only Pork ribs are left. As for Veg, Plan A was nice King Edward Potatoes, but at the Green Grocer you find only a couple of red Potatoes, some Carrots and lots of Brussels Sprouts... Then Plan A is vanishing in the Air.
Long Spear Carrots
But then Plan B is Prayin' to the Lord above what he is going to do... with what he's got. The simple answer for it is Braisin' with what you've got. The Plan B is in place. It may be chaotic at first but it may be surprisingly good. It is just like a think fast on your feet there is a change of plan but we need to deliver something at the end of the day on the plate. It may be a challenge but you have the ball in your hands to play with.
So you haven't got a Rump Steak, You have Oxtails instead. Plan B/ Braising comes into place. Check your pantry, cupboards and fridges for ingredients. Dust the Oxtails with seasoned plain flour. A bit of Butter, a dash of Rapeseed Oil and you are on your way to build something up within that pan which will be worth the pain. While you are browning the Oxtails, chop some Shallots or Onions, mince a clove or two of Garlic, slice the couple of Carrots you did get from the Green Grocer. Add to the pan and stir still building up your plan B.
Put the kettle on to do a quick stock with a Beef stock cube. 250 ml will do fine especially if you add 250 ml of Red Wine with it. A tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar or of Red Wine Vinegar should add a little flavour kick. This liquid done in a dash will make your dish sing to the sound of music... It will tenderise the meat while absorbing the flavour of its juices.
Building up the Oxtails Braising dish.
Dice the red potatoes as soon as possible, skin on, but washed thoroughly. Put in the pot pan. There was one Celery stick left to use in the fridge: this will do. Chopped and added. Then you feel like singing Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do of the Sound of Music at the sound of the simmering in the pan. Because your plan B is Braising nicely and you will have something to serve at the end of the day.
Half some of the Brussel Sprouts and get some parsley from your window sill and 'TaTa', you have a braising dish cooking gently leaving you time to lay the table and just in time it is ready when your friend comes around. Plan Braising saved the day.
Curly Parsley from the Garden, handy to grow.
And you hear praises that someone never tasted Oxtail before and that it was abolutely beautiful. Brush your shoulders as the guest leaves. Braising works a treat.
Braised Oxtail dish served with mash Potatoes With reduced Braising Juice Stock.
Now Braising doesn't apply for cheap cuts of meat only, yes, it can most certainly enhance them greatly, yes, but other meat can do with a little braising and become a most enjoyable dish. When we say 'Le Coq au Vin' in France it has the power to make someone in the hexagone salivate already.
Browning the meat and I will put my fingers in the burning fire does give flavours which you can enjoy. Let us take just white meat, like Pork or Chicken. It makes them sing upon a plate. It doesn't take long to brown, or braise the Meat but the results are felt in the result when you eat.
So you have nice piece of Loin Pork to deal with which can go dry very fast but if you braised it can render its best to you. First you have to do the Browning and then the full on Braising. It is all about Baby, you will give me some flavours tonight.
Nice Loin of Pork.
As I said the problem with white Meat and how you deal with it can render it blend or too moist or too dry. So it needs the TLC: The Tender Love and Care all the way. Braising is one of the many ways to do so.
Cutting the Pork Loin in Large enough Chunks prevents the Meat to Dry out inside. Tender.
A loin of Pork, sliced or cut into cubes can be transformed into a Spanish Tango for your tongues by braising it slowly but surely. It is a dance of many elements which involves Chemistry.
The Ingredients of the Spanish Tango to give the Pork Loin a good twirl around.
Let's call it the 'Maillard Reaction'. Just Wiki it to know what it is all about.
Browning the Meat. Give it a Nice Flavoursome Flush. Don't cook it throughout.
Browning is the first step. It doesn't have to be fierce, think of giving a blush to someone while dancing with them. You are just being tender while building up the sentiments, the flavours: which come with the ingredients.
Render your chopped White Spanish Onions nice and glossy with some chopped or minced Garlic, and a splash of Madeira down to create a nice base for your Dish.
Then you add a bit of this and a bit of that, you make your Meat dance slowly but surely in the pan. A step after another you do get the flavours you really want: You are ready to do the Tango, a Loving one.
Building up the Flavours together, Braising and Reducing alternatively. Sweet Bell Peppers and Tomato paste this time around with a little Ham or Chicken stock. It is a reduce to seduce with a sauce to tenderise your Meat.
Afterwards comes the simmering Care when everything is joining together in a passionate embrace. This becomes the kiss of Grace for your palate to enjoy.
On a plate Braised Loin of Pork , tenderly coated by a blanket of sauce and sided by sautéed Potatoes.
The Meat, Fish or Veg treated to the Braising treatment are of course crucial but the all surrounding is Special and should be considered that way. It is a Love Story of Ingredients. It is just TLC on a plate.
Dare I say that one of the first things I did learn to cook was a Fried Egg. My ones are always sunny side up. I also like them a little crispy around the edges to know that the white has been rendered properly. But the Eggs still need to have that exquisite runny yellow yolk at the centre to run free upon the plate. It is a little magical moment of bliss: A little like singing along to the song "My favourite things" from the Sound of Music Film with Julie Andrews.
The Breakfast Fry Up with fried Bread, Bacon and Eggs. It is simple yet fulfilling. It is the fuel to start the day or at least one's day. An Egg takes roughly four to five minutes to fry depending on its size, sometimes more, sometimes less.
There is one thing I will confess, which is, to like a Fried Egg with rough edges. When they are done within a ring or device so they do look neat, I think it kills the charm of the good old Egg coming from a proper Farm, from a Farm where the Chicken are roaming outdoors. My Grand Parents (RIP) lived most of their lives in Bourg en Bresse and there in the Bresse area of France the Chicken graze the grass, the green green grass, and you can taste the difference with the Chicken from a battery Chicken and from a Farm Egg from a battery Egg.
A Poulet de Bresse, de Bourg en Bresse, happy roaming in a field of clovers.
There are a variety of Eggs to be pan fried but being rather conventional I tend to stay in the realm of Chicken Eggs. However I venture very often in the kingdom of the rich Duck Egg with that bountiful dark yellow Yolk. If I do poach a Duck Egg more than I do fry it, I am still doing it often for the ratio between the white and the yolk. There is less white in a Duck Egg. The star there is truly and simply the luscious Yolk. A Duck Egg is full of proteins and different vitamins which is a plus.
Duck Eggs are of course larger than Hen's Eggs.
If Duck Eggs may be harder to get because they are not the normal standard Egg, they are still worth the while to have and eat. The Fried Duck Egg add a touch of luxury upon an Easter Breakfast of Grilled Asparagus, and Shaved Truffles. Garnish with a little Chives, Black Pepper and Sea Salt as a finish then now we are talking simply of very simple lush Brunch.
Pan Fried Duck Egg upon Chips served with a good dollop of Lemon Mayonnaise, seasonned and garnished with chopped Parsley. This is a satisfying simple Lunch.
However I tried my hand to cook Quail Eggs as well. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes it was not. Is it that they are too small for my clumsy fingers...? Or is it that the matter of time is seriously reduced when cooking them? Hence you do need to keep an eye upon the clock and upon the Egg. This is a balancing act which one might crack: May it be the Quail Egg or you with a smile upon your face? But Fried Quail Eggs are quaint and definitely suitable to create Canapés and Appetizers.
Home Made Crostinis with Fried Quail Eggs topped with red Herrring Roe. It is simple and a rustic Canapé to be enjoyed.
They are plenty of ways to taste Fried Quail Eggs. I would say they are dainty but nice; that it is a taste the difference matter. Fried Quail Eggs can make a Bruschetta sing a little bit more for a nice Brunch or even Starter for Dinner time. With very little imagination, you can cover your Olive Oil oven toasted slice of Bread (Sourdough, Ciabatta or Baguette), with a Cream Cheese which is seasoned with added Ingredients of your choice (Chilli Flakes or a little pinch of Cayenne Pepper or a little Chive, or a little Dill, or a little shredded Basil, or a little chopped and roasted Garlic). On top of the whisked Cream Cheese, you can build a layer with a cured or smoked Ham (Prosciutto, Serrano, Parma Ham...even Bacon rashers). But you can also use Fish freshly cooked, smoked or cured. Then add your fried Quail Egg on top. This is an all so simple treat.
Mini Pesto Pizza with mini Mozzarella Balls, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Fried Quail Eggs. It can make a nice Starter to an Italian theme Dinner.
Now there is something with most of Eggs you can do to fry them: It is the Scotch Egg. The recipe dates from a long time ago the 1800 plus so has evolved to be ever so different. The principle of it reside, in covering an Egg with Minced Meat then to bread the result in order to Fry it. Initially it was called the scortch Egg because it was fried but enclosed. However it became the Scotch Egg in the end. The history says that it was because Scotland was a big producer of Eggs.
Scotch Eggs can be very dry but to have a runny yolk centre is part of the pleasure with them.
They can make a good Brunch or Lunch. Scotch Eggs are not as per say fanciful however you have a room to play there in term of cookery. Which Egg you are going to use? A Hen Egg, a large Duck Egg or a small Quail Egg...?
Quail Scotch Eggs Salad. You can do it with Lambs Lettuce or Pea Shoots. Serve it with or without Pancetta or Lardons. Decorate the plate with edible Flowers like Viola. A simple French dressing can accompany everything even some chopped woodland Mushrooms to give the feel of Autumn to the plate.
Then with which minced Meat you are going to wrap your Egg? A spiced Mince most certainly, it could be Sausage Meat, Lamb Mince, Beef Mince, Turkey Mince but it can also be from a Fish as well like a Smoked Salmon or Trout.
Salmon Mousse Scotch Quail Eggs served with pickled Radishes, Lamb Lettuce and Tartare Sauce.
It can be with Black Pudding, or the stuffing for Haggis... There you have the tools to make your Scotch Egg special. Seasoning the Breadcrumbs also does play a part in the entire making of a Scotch Egg. The result of your combinations usually makes a satisfying Lunch or Starter.
Black Pudding Scotch Eggs on a bed of peppery Rocket Salad dressed with a grain Mustard Vinaigrette: A Lunch that is packing a punch on a plate.
Speaking of Eggs there is of course the Eggy Bread. It is also called French Toast, French Fried Bread, Pain Perdu, Gypsy Bread. The concept comes from an old tradition to not loose Bread at any cost. Even if the Bread becomes old and stale, you can revive it with a source of life which is the Egg and another Ingredient which nurtures life which is Milk. Hence the Eggy Bread was born. Then it can become a Dish in itself or a base for either Savoury Dishes or Sweet Ones.
Eggy Bread Toasts. The principle relies on mixing Eggs and Milk together in order to revive the Bread. Soaking the Bread, usually overnight (in the old days) then Frying it made it all better.
You can turn the Eggy Bread savoury for a full Brunch experience, like with a Croque Monsieur with Ham and Cheese or a Croque Madame with the addition of the Fried Egg. The Croque Monsieur is in effect a Sandwich but a Fried one. It is a bang bang two slices of fried Bread, enclosing a decent slice of Ham and a Cheese with quality of the like of Gruyére or Emmental or Comté Cheese. A Mustard Sauce is usually applied to perk up everything. It could be Dijon Mustard whisked up with a little Mayo. But the result is licking fingers delish... The history of the Croque Monsieur dates from the 1800's.
The Croque Monsieur in all its glorious lushness. Before becoming a Bistro or Gastro Pub Treat, it was seen, regarded as a Gentleman's Club Treat.
From the Croque Monsieur to the Croque Madame there are only a few differences. The main one is the addition of the fried Egg on the Croque Madame. The Egg is meant to represent a Lady's wide brimmed hat. Another difference is that the Sauce Béchamel which can be used for the Croque Monsieur can be élévated to the Sauce Mornay for the Croque Madame. The little stamp is the inclusion of Cheese within the Sauce. The Sauce was créated by Philippe de Mornay who also créated the Sauce Béchamel back in the 1500's.
Croque Madame. Croque in French means to actually bite into something that has a crunch: Hence Fried Eggy Bread with a difference.
Then you do have the Croque Mademoiselle: it is an evolution or a variation as per say of the original Croque Monsieur juste like the Croque Madame is a variation as well. This time the main difference is the inclusion of Vegetables within the 'Croque'. It can be totally vegetarian or a bit of a mix. It could be made with the essential Eggy Bread slices but also with sandwiched in between Asparagus, Parma Ham and Parmesan. It could be made with fried Courgettes, melted Mozzarella, Oregano and Espelette Chilli. It is up to the inspiration of the moment. The Croque Mademoiselle is a volatile fried Sandwich. To be blunt it is up to anyone's interpretation apart that it does need to contain a green Veg: Cucumber, Zucchini, Asparagus... For it is the Veg option out of all the Croques.
Croque Mademoiselle with layers of fried Aubergines, Courgettes, roasted Red Sweet Bell Pepped, Cottage Cheese served with a fried Egg on top just like a Croque Madame. It had a Med Feel to it.
French Toast are not all savoury for some are sweet as well. Different combinations are there to be appreciated. A favourite one is served with fresh Berries: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries... but also with a Jam or Preserve or Compote which could be made with Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries and the Eggy Bread will be accompanied with Custard. It is a yummy number.
Eggy Bread with Berries. It can be a small tea time treat but it is still special. Another version is made with dried Apricot and fresh ones, (It could be done with Nectarines and Peaches too). The addition of Apricot Jam traditionally done with Almond kernels renders everything lush. Toasted Almonds can add to the decoration in that case.
Similarly Bruschetta is a toasted slice of Bread usually it will be made with Pain de Campagne, Sourdough Bread, Ciabatta or Baguette as a base. The slice will be rubed with Garlic but also dipped in Olive Oil. Then it can be fried within a frying Pan or grilled. The toppings of the Bruschetta are up to you. The traditional ones are with chopped Tomatoes. But additional Ingredients can be added like Basil and, or Organo for Herbs, Capers and, or Olives for a little saltiness, even Anchovies could be considered. Chopped Preseved Lemon could be considered as well. Another combination is the chopped Tomatoes, chopped roasted Sweet Bell Peppers, crispy Shallots with the addition of Mozzarella Pearls or even a little slice or cubed Goat Cheese.
Tomato and Sweet Red Bell Pepper Bruschetta with Basil and a little grated Parmesan. It can be a simple Brunch, an Appetizer or a Starter/Entrée. The addition of Kalamata Olives, or Olives stuffed with Anchovies can bring this Bruschetta to another level.
Concerning Dough you do have plenty which we do Fry which are sweet. During my childhood one of my favourites treats were the Croustillons. They came by 6, the dozen or 24. It was just little balls of Dough fried then sugared. They were ever so nice. We could have them and share between us three kids only on the Thursday and Saturday at the Market in Cherbourg. I can tell you that we were looking out for that Van and the Croustillons. They are from Northern Europe especially the coastal areas, from Holland, Belgium and France.
Croustillons are like mini Donuts.
Then there is of course the Doughnut also spelled Donut. It feels like Homer Simpson dreaming of Donuts. I must confess to be partial to Sugared Ring Doughnuts. Although I am not a sweet tooth Fried Dough does it for me. For Tyn he loves his Jam Doughnuts. The matter of fact is that Doughnuts are versatile as per say as you can top them up the way you want to but also fill them up the way you like.
Sugared Ring Doughnuts. One Treat I can't escape from.
In France, a similar Fried Dough is called Beignet. They come in different shapes filled up or not. A Popular one is the Apple Beignet: Le Beignet aux Pommes. My Mum used to do them usually on the Saturday afternoon. It was a treat especially since Oil was expensive, it was important to do the most of it. Hence Fritters (Beignets) were the way to go. Beignets (Fritters) are dipped in French culture and the Italian one but also in the USA, from Louisiana (which was colonised by the French back in the days). It goes with the flow.
The fillings for Beignets or Fritters are rather varied. Apple is a very popular one coming from areas in France who produces a lot of Apples like Normandy. Pineapple Fritters have their origins from Asian countries like Indonesia (Indochina). French colonists can be blamed for it as well. Then in the Créole Cuisine there are the Banana or, and Plantain Beignets/Fritters.