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.