Braising is a cooking method I’ve been wanting to try ever since I treated myself to a Le Creuset dutch oven last year. What is braising, you ask? Allow me to provide a quick tutorial:
Braising is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with some liquid. Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to successfully break down tough connective tissue and collagens in meat. A classic braised dish is Coq au Vin (which, incidentally, is on my big list of things to make). The basic steps to braising include: searing the meat at a high temperature, deglazing the pan with an acidic liquid such as wine and often combining it with stock, additional vegetables and/or seasonings are added to the pot and it is covered and left to a slow simmer or put in an oven at a low temperature to finish cooking.
The result? Fork-tender meat that melts in your mouth.
This definitely is the not the quickest meal you’ll ever make, but the time spent doing some prep work and letting the meat slow cook in the oven pays handsomely when it is time to eat. The flavor of the meat and mushrooms is rich and complex thanks to the vegetables, herbs, and seasonings that help to flavor the sauce of wine and stock. Once the sauce is returned to the stove to thicken the flavors are even more intense, serving as a perfect accent to the now-tender meat. Although the recipe doesn’t mention removing the carrots from the strained stock, I chose to serve them as a side to the beef and mushrooms, and they were fabulous. Tender but not mushy, and perfectly seasoned. You could serve this dish over a variety of accompaniaments – mashed potatoes (which is what I did), pasta, rice, or eat it on its own with a large tossed salad. Any way you serve it, you won’t be disappointed.
Now that I’m warmed up, Coq au Vin will be next!
Vegetables and herbs
Searing beef + red wine
Everything in the pot, ready to go in the oven
3 lbs. beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
3 large carrots, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, trimmed and halved
6 garlic cloves
8 oz. white mushrooms, quartered
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 fresh thyme sprigs
3 fresh parsley sprigs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 cup Cabernet savignon
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 275°.
2. Dry beef thoroughly and season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of the meat so that the pieces are not touching and cook without moving them until browned, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Use tongs and rotate pieces until all sides are browned (about another 2 minutes).
5. Transfer the beef to a medium bowl, add another 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and repeat the previous steps with the other half of meat.
6. Add the wine and de-glaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom.
7. Add all of the beef back to the pot and stir in the chicken stock, filling only until meat is just covered by liquid.
8. Stir in flour, dissolving completely.
9. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
10. Pile on mushrooms, add herb sprigs, and return to a boil.
11. Cover and place in preheated oven and cook for 2 hours.
12. Remove from oven and drain all contents, reserving the liquid.
13. Return the liquid to the pot and boil on medium high heat until thickened, about 12 minutes.
14. Meanwhile, remove beef and mushrooms from drained contents and place on serving platter.
15. Once mixture has thickened, spoon about 1/3 cup of sauce over meat and serve remaining in a gravy dish on the side.