We are going to transform a tougher, fattier and typically less appealing piece of protein into a tender and flavorful dish by braising it. Braising is a traditional technique combining boiling and roasting. This time of year, it is a favorite among families, since it typically requires very little preparation and is fairly easy to cleanup after. The most common version of this technique is the all American ‘pot roast’ that almost all of us can relate to and remember eating with our families.
If kept refrigerated, this recipe can be prepared up to two days before it needs to be served. Furthermore, it is a wholesome and healthy meal that can serve as a go-to idea for a busy family.
What you will need:
* A large stew pot or roasting pan (this technique works equally well in a crock pot or slow cooker)
* A frying pan or castiron skillet
* 2-3oz of oil
* Vegetables (celery, carrots, onions, and red potatoes)
* Braising liquid, see recipe.
* A fairly large piece of meat, typically a tougher and fattier cut like a roast or shoulder cut. These are typically labeled as such by the meat cutters at our grocers.
* Salt and pepper
How we braise:
1. Almost any cut of meat, if large enough can be braised, smaller pieces typically overcook too quickly and rarely ever reach the intended tenderness. I recommend 1lb of roast per two people to be fed; of course this can vary by appetite and taste. We start by heavily seasoning the meat with salt and pepper and then proceeding to sear the meat evenly on all sides to a deep and delicious brown color. You will need a medium hot pan and a small amount of oil. I usually use the roasting pan. Turn the meat every 60 seconds or so until most easily accessible edges are crispy and colored.
2. Next, we will need to make a simple braising liquid. This can be done when you transfer the roast to the roasting pan or slow cooker. Start with 1 quart of liquid, water is fine but stock is preferable, if you can find some in your grocer. Pour this liquid over the roast in the pot, and then add around one cup of an acid, typically vinegar or wine, for its flavor and its usefulness in breaking down the tougher parts of the proteins while balancing the fats typically found in most roasts. The total amount of liquid should only surround the roast and not cover it. We want to have some exposed to the air. Typically about 1/3 of the meat should be poking out of the liquid.
3. Lastly, adjust seasoning by adding salt, pepper and maybe a couple sprigs of fresh herbs, usually thyme or rosemary. This would also be the time in which you could incorporate vegetables or other root plants, like potatoes. This will add flavor and create a handy way to cook everything at once. Make sure that they are cut in large pieces and are all similar in size. This helps to cook them evenly with the roast and will help keep them from falling apart during cooking.
Cook the now completed meat at 240 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours until fork tender. The end result should be a piece of tender meat that easily breaks into portions.