Monday, June 7, 2010

Praise the Braise!!!

Everyday, millions of Americans wander up and down the aisles of their local supermarkets in search of the perfect meal. What should we have?, Will Tommy eat it?, Is it healthy?, and more importantly will they like what I fix? I remember growing up not having much of a choice in the dinner process and frankly it freed my day up for other things like building forts, riding bikes and playing in the sprinkler on a hot day. But now, I find myself in my mother's shoes wondering if Boiled Pigs feet and beet slaw will cut the mustard with my family's discernible palate?
We have all been there staring at the meat counter wishing that the answer would jump out at us, but sadly it is up to us to make that tough decision, "What's for Dinner?"
My blog is to not be afraid of food but embrace meals with confidence and determination.

During my career as a chef, customers always mention their fear of cooking the lesser known cuts of meat. How do I cook it?, How do I know that it is done? Why is it so tough?

Well here's how. First, be confident and show that bottom round who's boss. Second, patience is a virtue, and Third, it's not rocket science.
In this edition, I will show you the reader, how to braise tough cuts of meat with flair.

Hurdle no. 1: Braising

Cut of meat used: Pot roasts,chuck roasts,ribs and shanks, and poultry legs and thighs are best for braising.

Cooking method: Moist heat. Wait what is moist heat? This is a process of adding liquid to your roast to tenderize the meat fibers, because these cuts of meat generally lack fat therefore a long, slow cooking process results in a tender rich flavor. When an animal walks and stands it develops its connective tissue or muscle resulting in a tough cut of meat,when cooked in liquid this connective tissue or muscle turns to collagen. Through time, the moisture and the heat turn the collagen into gelatin. Result: a buttery rich piece of meat fit for a king, that did not break the bank.

So your saying "OK, that's great, but how?"

Step 1: Flour and season your meat. Flouring helps to seal in the yum and prevent sticking.

Step 2: Heat a heavy frying pan with oil and sear the meat. Searing adds color and flavor.

Step 3: When nicely browned add enough liquid to cover the meat about halfway. This liquid could be your preference, stock, wine and stock, water or all three.

Step 4: Place in a 300F to 350F oven and bake. To cover or not cover? Uncovering your braise can concentrate the flavors due largely to evaporation. Just be sure that the liquid level does not get to low otherwise you will begin to bake it. I recommend uncovering only for smaller cuts of meat like chicken thighs or legs or that take 90 minutes or less to cook.

Step 5: How do I know it is done? Here is my tried and true method of checking doneness. Insert a knife into the thickest part of the roast, if it slips effortlessly from the knife it is done.

Tips to remember

1. Not enough liquid bakes the meat.

2. Too much liquid stews the meat.

3. Make sure the liquid does not boil. Boil=tough, Simmer=tender.

4. Make sure when adding vegetables they are equal size, to prevent

pieces that are undercooked or others that are mushy and overcooked.

Next time join me for Toasting the Roast.
I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately,instead of at three o'clock in the morning.~John Barrymore.


chefktakei said...

ACTUALLY, braising is a combination cooking method: 1) dry heat when the item to be braised is seared/browned in a pan and 2)moist heat when the item is cooked in liquid (generally to melt the collagen) to make it tender.

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