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Braising...a Wonderful and Generous Cooking Technique

Posted 2/20/2013 2:22pm by Janeen Covlin.
 
A few months ago, we discovered a magical piece of meat on a cow, that I'm ashamed to say we had WASTED previously...the Beef Cheeks... yes  quite literally, the side of the cow's face!  If you ever seen one, you would wonder how it's possible to take such a tough awful-looking chunk of meat and make it edible!   After a little research, and, incredibly, my very first stab at it, I found out you can turn it into some of the most amazing meat you'll ever eat!!   (Sorry ...the novelty has not wore off so they are not for sale yet! :)  )
 
But I want to talk a little about the technique that makes them so delicious... the Braise!  This may not be new to you, but to really understand this indispensable kitchen skill, is to LOVE eating ALL parts of grass-fed animals , not just the steaks and prime rib!  
 
Why do we love Braising?
 
SIMPLY, it turns raw, tough, inexpensive cuts into hot, tender delectable dishes!  On any 4-legged animal (cow, pig, lamb, goat, bison), the shoulder, hips,and legs are the tougher muscles since they do most of the work.  And the truth is that all the "worked" muscles have much more flavour than the middle or "loin" section where the steaks are cut from. This is particularly the case with free-ranged animals since they have 'natural muscle tone', unlike confinement-raised meats which can have soft flabby meat and fat. The collegen that divides these muscles is by nature chewy and tough, but when we braise... TIME, MOISTURE and HEAT melt the collagen into gelatin and softens the meat protiens.  These melted juices/gelatin give rich flavour and body to every dish. On cold winter days, nothing is quite as simple and comforting  as the melted juiciness of a Braised Blade Roast or Beef Short Ribs!  Besides their inexpensive deliciousness, they can be made a day or 2 or 3 ahead and the flavour only gets better!
 
 
What exactly is a Braising? 
 
 There seams to be slight differences of opinion on this, even by chefs, but by broad defininition it means "cooking large pieces in a liquid, covered with a lid until tender".  You can use stock, water, orange juice, milk, wine, beer...the recipes are endless! The amount of liquid can vary from hardly any, to totally covering the food. But moisture is KEY.  Seasoning and searing 2-3 minutes a side in a bit of hot natural fat or oil is highly recommended for great color and 'carmelized' flavour in the final dish! (processes vegetable oils are not natural fats!).  Stews, Pot Roasts are classic examples of braising.
 
Times and Temperatures?
 
While there's are no absolutes, I'm going to speak on behalf of grass-fed meats (specifically slicing roasts/braises)...They are best cooked at 225F or LOWER!  Please forget about your timer, at least for awhile...you need a thermometer, one that sits on the counter with a cord and a probe into the middle of the meat (not bone).  Set if for 10 degrees less than you are aiming for because the meat will always rise in temperature 10F after you take it out. For Medium-Rare, which is best for grass-fed meats, set it for 125 - 130F and it will rise to 135 - 140F  
In the case of stews and ribs, the meat will be 'well done' and fork tender but it still is important to get there low and SLOW!
 
What Cuts do you Braise?   (from beef and pork)
 
 
 
Old Fashioned Beef Stew,  Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, and Moroccan Style Braised Beef are  a few of our favourite recipes on our website, but the internet is full of creative recipes and inspiration for braising...just remember to adapt the principles for Grass-fed/Free-range meats and you will be more than happy!
 

 

 
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