The holidays are over, the New Year is here and now it’s time to hunker down and hibernate.
Low and slow, braising is the ultimate technique for making those rich dishes that fuel us through the cold months. Yielding large portions perfect for freezing and reheating, a braised dish means you won’t have to leave your den for weeks!
Chef Mathieu Paré
Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence
Chef Mathieu Paré, Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence executive director, says braising is a great method for the at-home chef because it requires minimal supervision. Brown your meat, add your mirepoix (a medley of celery, carrots and onions) and let low and slow cooking do the rest?
“It’s a simple process that gives you the ability to achieve an intense depth of flavour,” Paré says. “There’s an opportunity to be adventurous and explore the different qualities of beef outside of your typical steak.”
Paré says the trick to braising lies in the prep work. To achieve crisp, even browning, Paré recommends coating your meat with a light sheen of canola or grapeseed oil, and then roasting on high heat.
“A really good technique is browning a bit of tomato paste with your vegetables,” he explains. “It helps build body and gives you that beautiful caramelized colour.”
For beef braises, garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf are ideal aromatics to add, but Paré says beef also works well with other more exotic flavours like orange zest, star anise, cumin and coriander.
Chef Brad O’Leary
Escoba Bistro & Wine Bar, Calgary
Known for his hearty and flavourful meat dishes, Escoba Bistro & Wine Bar chef Brad O’Leary, says braising is best for cooking large, tough cuts of meat.
Proteins like brisket, short rib, lamb shanks, and even chicken thighs, all bene t from a wet cooking process, which helps break down and tenderize the meat.
“You can take inexpensive cuts of meat and impart huge amounts of flavour by marinating before you sear off and braise the protein,” O’Leary says.
He says his final dishes are most flavourful when the meat is left to marinate for a day before going in the oven.
Less dense proteins, such as chicken, pair well with Asian flavours like hoisin, ginger and sambal, while cuts with lots of connective tissue — like lamb shanks — are complemented by Moroccan spices: cardamom, smoked paprika and cinnamon.
“Once the aromatics open up, add a stock base that suits the cut of meat and let simmer,” he adds. “All you need is your crockpot, and just let the flavours come together.”