The seasons are changing and braising is on my mind. Braises require time and patience, once you understand the method you can adjust the seasonings and ingredients to match your tastes and what’s in your fridge or freezer.
When braising, make sure your meat is completely thawed. If you need to thaw your meat quickly, put it in a well sealed plastic bag, then in a container just big enough for it to rest in, and run a small amount of cold water over the plastic bag until it’s thawed. I don’t like to thaw meat in the microwave because it does it very unevenly, which can result in cooked spots while some remain frozen. For quicker thawing you can also cut the meat into smaller pieces.
Once your meat is thawed decide what you’re looking for in your dish. Do you want more of a pulled result, with long pieces of the muscle fiber still intact, like you’d use in pulled beef sandwiches, or are you looking for small bite size pieces, like a boeuf bourguignon? You can also go somewhere in between, it’s completely up to you. The larger the pieces the longer the braising process will take, but don’t be put off by longer time, prepare your meat based on the dish you are creating.
Once you’ve cut your meat, you want to get a good sear on each side. Heat an oven safe pot, with a lid, on high heat; add a little oil to the pot. Place enough meat in the pot so it’s in a single layer and there is some space between each piece. Allow each side to turn brown–don’t turn it too quickly. If you have gray meat, you either don’t have a hot enough pot or you have too much meat in there. Pull some out and be patient, this step makes all the difference to your dish. If you have to do this in stages, set the browned meat aside and continue to add the rest of the meat until it’s nice and caramelized. Once every piece is brown on all sides, set all of it aside for a few minutes until you complete the next step.
Next, deglaze the pan with some type of liquid. Deglazing means you are loosening all of the beautifully caramelized pieces of meat that are going to add more depth of flavor to your dish. Typically deglazing happens with wine, I run with the school of thought that about a tablespoon of water, added in three steps before adding the wine is the best way to do this; you can delgaze with vinegar, beer, stock, cider, any flavorful liquid. It allows everything to get loosened up so maximum flavor enhancement happens. I sometimes throw stock in as well (I recently had some stock I wanted to reduce for my recipe so I did it at this stage). You can quick caramelize some onions here too. From here it’s a matter of adding back the meat and whatever else you plan to use in your dish for the braise. Put it in a 300 degree fahrenheit oven until the meat is falling apart, 4-6 hours typically. The time varies depending on the quantity and how you cut your meat.
Here’s something you can scale to any size, freeze for later, or enjoy tomorrow (a good braise is really a two day project). Hunker down and get ready for winter with this dish.
Hearty Red Sauce with Spaghetti Squash
- 3# rib eye roast cut into 3-4 pieces (bone in is beautiful for this, the marrow from the bone will incorporate in the sauce giving it extra richness)
- 2tsp salt
- 1T oil (safflower or avocado are my go to’s at the moment)
- 2 julienned onions
- 3c beef stock
- 2 rough chopped cloves garlic
- 1/4c red wine vinegar
- 1tsp each coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds. toasted and ground
- 1qt red sauce (slow cooked canned tomatoes, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, then pureed until smooth)
- salt TT
- preheat oven to 300 degrees F
- rub meat with salt
- heat oil in pot, sear meat over high heat until brown on all sides, add a small amount of beef stock to the pot. cover and place in the oven (I’m not following all the of the braising “rules” for this recipe because the sauce is the focus more than the meat for this dish)
- after 1 hour in the oven do the following
- heat pan to medium, add onions, stir often. once they start to release their liquid, reduce heat to low, continuing to stir often
- while onions are cooking reduce the rest of the stock by half, adding garlic and spices during cooking. add vinegar, bring just to a boil then turn off heat
- when onions are starting to turn a light caramel color (this will take at least 30 minutes) start adding small amounts of stock, waiting until the liquid has dissipated before adding more. continue to do this until half the stock remains. add the rest of the stock and any liquid in the braising pot
- add tomato sauce to the braising meat, return to oven
- continue cooking the onion and stock mixture until the stock is just below the top of the onions
- add onions and stock mixture to the braising meat. cook for 3 hours, or until meat pulls apart easily
- cool meat, refrigerate overnight before eating
the next day
- preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- cut spaghetti squash in half, scoop out seeds. place cut side down in a roasting pan. add 2T water
- cook until tender, 30-45 minutes
- reheat yesterday’s braise
- scoop flesh from the squash, pour braise over the top and serve
- you can top it with, parmesan, feta, or fresh herbs. serve with salad, bread or by itself