Turn to any food magazine these days or even open a professional cookware catalog, and you’ll find that braising is a hot form of cooking right now.  If it’s new to you, braising involves sautéing food (meat, fish or vegetables) lightly in a bit of oil or butter and then simmering it slowly in a little bit of liquid in a closed container.  The idea is to first sear in the flavor of the food at high heat and then use a lower temperature and longer cooking times to make meats tender and create flavorful gravies.  The method is also ideal for root vegetables, which take longer to cook.
Braising is similar to using your crockpot, but doesn’t require the same length of cooking time (your crockpot typically requires 6-8 hours depending on the recipe).  Meat recipes will require longer cooking times (in your oven) than chicken, fish or vegetable recipes.  For example, if you’re cooking a braised short-rib dish, plan on a cooking time of roughly 2-3 hours.  This will allow for the ribs to become tender.  Chicken, fish and vegetable dishes don’t require such long cooking times–in fact, you would find both chicken and fish would dry out and your veggies would end up mushy.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you have a heavy pot with a lid for braising.  A dutch oven works really well, as seen below.  Basically something you can use to sear your food on the stove and then transfer to the oven.  I’ve pulled a few recipes that will get you started on braising foods.

dutch oven

Photo courtesy of Crock-Pot
Braised Chicken with Olives and Capers is a basic braising entrée.  This recipe uses white wine for its braising liquid, which results in a rich flavor.  Kalamata olives, fennel seeds, capers, garlic and lemon zest further enhance it.  You’ll leave the chicken pieces in the oven about 90 minutes to finish cooking.  Serve with a veggie side and maybe some crusty bread for soaking up the braising liquid.

braised chicken with olives and capers
Photo courtesy of Williams Sonoma
As I mentioned, vegetables are also good candidates for braising, in particular root veggies.  Braised Root Vegetables with Fall Fruit is a terrific recipe as it’s simple and you can individualize it depending upon your own taste by adding which root veggies you prefer.  The “fruit” reference are apples and pears.  Again, add both, one or the other, depending upon personal preference.

braised root vegetables
Photo courtesy of Food & Wine
You might not think about braising greens, but World’s Best Braised Cabbage is not a recipe that should be overlooked.  In addition to the cabbage, you’ll use carrots and onion in this dish.  As a side note, I would omit the bacon grease and simply use butter as the required fat.  The balsamic vinegar adds a great flavor.

braised cabbage
Photo courtesy of Nom Nom Paleo
Enjoy these braising recipes and I’ll return next week with a great recipe for National Split Pea Soup Week!
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