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Braising Mad

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The Method to Melt-in-Your-Mouth Meat

To braise or not to braise? Unlike Hamlet’s dilemma, this one’s quite simple. The cut of meat determines whether or not braising is the way to go: if the cut has a lot of connective tissue then braising is the perfect method to render such tougher cuts into delectable melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Optimal braising meats include any cut around a joint, such as a shank, leg, or part of a bone—osso bucco, for example. Braising uses a dry and wet heat technique. The dry heat occurs when you sear the meat to lock in the flavor. The wet heat takes place when cooking the meat low and slow in liquid. This wet heat step allows the proteins to break down, taking a tough piece of meat and making it “plastic-fork tender” (the meat will fall off the bone with the touch of even a plastic fork). The benefits of braising are threefold. One, it can make an inexpensive cut of meat look elegant and taste delicious. Two, it is perfect for entertaining; since it cannot be overcooked, it’s ready whenever you are. And three, it comes with a finishing sauce included (the reduced braising liquid). If you find yourself kitchen-bound this winter and you are looking for a hearty dish to keep you warm, look no further than braised meat—your bones (and your taste buds) will thank you for it.

Photos by Jennifer Hitchcock.
Featured in Feb.Mar 2013