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Culinary definition of braise To brown protein to caramelize - most often meat, but sometimes seafood and vegetables - and then finish covered, on the stovetop or oven, with some measure of liquid, and over relatively low heat. Braising is similar to stewing, only the amount of liquid used to braise is less, browning isn't a prerequisite to stewing, and braising

coq au vin 325x225Sound familiar - the process, not the term? Our grandmothers were pretty clever, using just one cast iron dutch oven to brown the S&P-seasoned, Saturday night pot roast, braising it in a bit of plain hot water or water and cubed bouillon - adding some potatoes and carrots part way through the cooking time, then making dreamy gravy from the pan juices and bits of lusciousness stuck to the bottom of the pan after browning. 

Braising meat is a fantastic way to save time and money, and to practice a time-honoured pro-kitchen method of cooking. Less glamorous, less expensive cuts of meat take on a whole new beauty when braised and cooked in a flavourful sauna. Braise food at comparatively low temperatures ranging from 275-325F, so that the collagens soften and break down, but the muscle doesn't seize up and become tough.  Slow, low cooking is perfect for crowds and company, as it affords plenty of time for socializing in an aroma-filled kitchen.

Coq au Vin (pictured above) is a classic example of making a gorgeous dish (rooster with wine) from a tough old bird.   Served family style or individually plated for dining room guests, the finished dish most-often looks beautiful. For individual service, mound rice, potato or root vegetable mash, ring or nest vegetables alongside (cooked with or separately from the braised protein), top with a single serving of the protein, and finish with a spoonful or two of the braising liquid "sauce".

Depending on what the braising liquid is, and how much of it remains after cooking will determine whether or not you want to use it as-is, or make a reduction sauce. To make a simple reduction sauce, remove the protein and veg from the braising pot and tent to keep warm. Put the braising pot on the stovetop on high heat and evaporate out the water until as thick as you like it, or the liquid coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  The resulting reduction sauce has beautiful concentrated flavours and looks gorgeous on the plate. Yet another shortcut is to remove most of the braising liquid from the braising pot before cooking time has expired, then reduce/concentrate the liquid in a saucepan on the stovetop before re-introducing it to the braising pot.   Choosing a shallow, wide saucepan will increase evaporation and reduce the reduction time, but any saucepan will do.  See our 'Innovation of the Day' post for braising, for even more information and photos.

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