Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Secrets to Successful Braising

Always delicious, often impressive and once you know the secrets – easy to prepare!

Braising transforms an inexpensive tough cut into a tender juicy dish with a rich flavorful sauce. All in one pot! Here’s what you do: After seasoning the meat with salt and pepper, brown it on  all four sides in a few tablespoons of butter mixed with oil on a  medium high flame. (Use a flameproof casserole with a tight fitting lid).  Remove meat to deglaze the pot by pouring in a glass of wine and scraping any pieces that are stuck to the bottom. This is what will give your sauce body. Replace the meat, add vegetables and stock until the liquid reaches half-way up the meat. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer until tender. Most recipes end there. However, I have learned from LouLou (my French mother-in-law) and a number of friends who happen to be French Chefs – that the following secrets will ensure great success! Be sure to make extra - people tend to take seconds of braised dishes, so be prepared. Also, leftovers warm up nicely and freeze well for a second feast!

Secret # 1 – Cook the day before to remove the fat.  Refrigerating overnight will cause the fat to rise to the surface. Once you have removed this top yellow layer, your dish will taste better, be easier to digest and above all – be much less fattening! 

Secret # 2 – Cook new vegetables. Good restaurants do not serve overcooked tired looking vegetables that were braised for hours with meat. Instead, they discard them and cook fresh ones in the braising liquid before adding them to the pot or to the platter prior to serving. Because braised poultry and Osso Bucco only require about an hour of braising, those vegetables will still be good and should be served!

Secret # 3 – Reduce the liquid to a beautiful sauce. Before serving, remove the meat and keep warm. Take out and reserve most of the liquid, leaving about one cup in the pot. Turn up the heat until it boils. Thicken by whisking a teaspoon of cornstarch* into the liquid until it thickens. Add remaining liquid a 1/2 cup at a time - continuously whisking until it is reduced to a nice thick sauce.
Return the meat and vegetables to the pot. Warm and serve directly from the casserole at the table or place the meat on serving dish surrounded by cooked vegetables. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve with additional sauce in a gravy boat on the side.
*Instead of the cornstarch you can make own roux. Mix a tablespoon of melted butter and another of flour, whisk the mixture into 1 cup of braising liquid until it thickens. Add remaining liquid as above.

Osso Bucco Recipe
4 Veal Shanks cut for Osso Bucco
( I bought at Marona’s- they were delicious!)
¼ cup of butter
1 onion sliced
1 carrot sliced
2 cups white wine
1 can of stewed tomatoes  (Del Monte’s Italian Style)
1 ½ cups of stock  (Kitchen Basic’s Veal Stock)
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
For Optional Garnish:
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
¼ cup of chopped parsley
grated rind of 1 lemon
Brown seasoned veal shanks on both sides in foaming butter in the flameproof casserole. Remove meat. Add carrots and onions. Brown for 2-3 minutes and remove.  Deglaze with one cup of wine. Return veggies and then place the meat on top of the vegetables. Add the rest of the wine and simmer for about 10 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Add 1 cup of stock and garlic. Add tomatoes. Bay leaf and seasoning. Cover and simmer or bake in the oven at 350 F for about one hour and 15 minutes. (Every 20 minutes, ensure there is enough liquid so it never sticks to the bottom of the pot).  Remove meat. Reduce sauce. Combine garlic, parsley and lemon rind and sprinkle on top. Be sure to eat the bone marrow- it is heavenly!

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions:
We need a red wine that will not overpower the tender veal, but that can stand up to the tomato based sauce. Any of the following will work well :
- Cabernet Franc 2008 de Millbrook Winery, showing a pure fruit, earthiness, spice and soft structure - $16/bt
- Bordeaux rive droite, Château Coustaut La Grangeotte 2009, medium bodied, with a silky texture and clean acidity - $12/btl. 
- Barbera 2009 Colli Tortonesi from Piedmont, Italy. Round but not heavy, showing the fresh expression of young Barbera that sees no oak. Dark fruit up front, good depth with a fresh acidity. $15/btl.  Gerard’s favorite. Cheers!
These wines are available at Village Wine in Millbrook

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