Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Thats a bunch of crock!
A lot of you have been inquiring about cooking methods and it made me think that sharing some simple food preparation skills might help with making it easier to cook for your families at home. One of the ways of cooking at the heart of the slow food movement is slow and low cooking, and mainly braising.
Braising is the process of browning or searing meat or vegetables and letting them simmer at low temperature for a long period of time. This cooking method makes cheaper cuts of meat that would normally be a little tougher, melt in your mouth tender. It also tends to meld and mellow flavors into a richness that cannot be achieved without the slow simmering of this method. Most or many of Americans family memories of comfort food use this method of cooking. Think pot roast, soups of all kinds, stews, chowders, and short ribs, Also many world cultural dishes we are familiar with like osso buco, Lamb shanks, Tagine dishes, and chochinita pibil.
Here are some easy steps to braising meat and veggies;
(1) Season your meat and/or veggies with salt and pepper.
(2) Heat a splash of oil in a heavy bottomed pan or Dutch oven.
(3) Saute meat or vegetables in the pan on medium-high heat until the meat browns. Stir minimally to maximize browning
(4) Deglaze the pan by pouring broth, beef stock, wine or juice and scrape any pieces of meat that are stuck to the pan and stir. All those little burnt bits stuck to the bottom of the pan are the yummies that will give your broth color and flavor.
(5) Add cooking liquid (water, stock, wine, juice or some combination) to the half-way point of the main ingredient. If using wine the bitterness of the tannins with be cooked out making for a mellow and rich sauce.
(6) Cover and place the pot on the middle of a rack in an oven that has been pre-heated to 350F.
(7) Cook until completely tender. This can range from 1 hour to 6 hours, depending on what you are cooking.
(8) Remove the pan from the oven and strain the meat and vegetables out of the liquid.
(9) Remove the excess fat floating in the liquid using a paper towel placed on top and repeated or with a baster, and then reduce the sauce to desired thickness by cooking it down over low heat until it thickens. Or, make gravy by adding a mix of equal parts fat and flour (a roux).
Some wonderful, less expensive cuts of meat, that can turn into the best thing you have ever tasted are beef ribs, short ribs, brisket, chuck, blade or seven bone roasts, shanks, or any part that has a lot of connective tissue and fat. Bones are also a wonderful flavoring. Pork also has its favorites in the braising world from Boston but, to picnic or shoulder roast, hams (non-cured), ribs, and cheeks. Some other ideas are chicken, turkey, wild game, octopus, meatier fish like shark, swordfish or sea bass, just make sure the come from reputable and sustainable sources.
All these ideas can be made even more simple by prepping your ingredients the night before and placing them in your crock pot or slow cooker, and flip it on right before you leave for work, just make sure you have a crock pot that has a hold setting after the cooking cycle or an auto off as to not over cook, which is really hard to do. Nothing better than to come home to the smell of a slow cooked meal.
Now get cookin'! And remember to KEEP IT REAL, KEEP IT FRESH, AND KEEP IT SUSTAINABLE.