The Miracle of Braising, or How to Never Waste Wine Again
Braising is a cooking method that sounds difficult, but is actually easy as pie. Actually, as anyone who has ever made a pie from scratch, it is much easier. The basic technique is to sear a piece of meat and then finish the cooking in a liquid. As simple as that is, it produces some of the most savory, and wine friendly, dishes on earth. Even better, it typically requires the cheapest cut of an animal.
Tough old bird? Nonsense! That is Coq au Vin! Sounds better than eating an over the hill chicken, doesn’t it? Toss a piece of round steak on the grill and you may never eat that cut again. Braise it and you have a delicious swiss steak.
On top of using cheap, tough cuts of meat, leftover wine makes a fantastic braising liquid. Beer is also a very economical choice, but don’t go too economical, bad beer makes bad sauce.
Once you start to braise you will find that you can create all sorts of variations, but what follows is a basic guide. This long cooking process produces meat and sauce that goes great with red wine, even when another liquid is used. The cooking method melts fat and collagen which are natural matches with tannins.
I will not be giving amounts, decide that for yourself based on what meat you choose and how much you will be cooking. This is perfect with beef and lamb.
Generously season your meat with salt and pepper and then sear on all sides in a large pan. Remove and set meat aside. Add chopped onions, carrots, celery and a bay leaf or two. When the onions become translucent add sliced garlic followed immediately by some tomato paste. Stir for a minute or two and then add your braising liquid. I usually go for half wine (or beer) and half stock. Add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, season with salt and pepper and some complimentary herbs.
Cover and cook at 375 until meat is falling off of the bone. You can further reduce the sauce or thicken it if you choose.
I made beef short ribs this way tonight, with beer, that were amazing with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone. Anything from brisket to lamb shanks would be fantastic cooked with this method. Experiment and enjoy!