A recent issue of Bon Appetit had the headline on the cover “The Cooking School Issue.” I was excited. Maybe there was something fun in there I could share with all of you. Out of 5 techniques they demonstrated, this is by far the most practical.
Braising is a simple 4 step technique that will render perfectly cooked and tender meat every time. Braising relies on heat, time and moisture to break down tough connective tissue in meat, which makes it ideal for tougher cuts of meat. This means you can use cuts of meat that would otherwise be tough or lacking in flavor and turn them into an elegant meal, suitable for the grandest of guests. The best part is, this 4 step technique takes relatively little time for the quality of flavor you get in return. And even if you are a beginner cook, you can still turn out a restaurant quality meal. That’s the part I love the most.
Once you have the 4 steps down, you can take it from there. There are 2 more steps you can add to the equations but are not necessary by any means, they just make things even more flavorful. I’ll share the 4 steps in the video, but I’ve added the 2 others at the bottom of this post for those over achievers in the group.
Add Vegetables: I love this step, because why not make all the mess in one pot? Who needs more dishes? Not only does it aid in the simplicity of a deliciously cooked meal but it also adds more flavor. Throw in potatoes (or other root vegetables), more carrots, fennel, cabbage, even apples or apricots (depending on the recipe) 45 minutes to an hour before the meat is done. If there is less than an inch of liquid at the bottom of the pan, add a little more before returning it to the oven. Most red meat braising recipes take 2 1/2 to 3 hours (chicken takes much less time, throw veggies in at the beginning).
Step 6 (as mentioned in video)
Reduce the sauce: Remove the meat and veggies. Skim off any layer of fat. Simmer sauce until thick and rich. It should coat the back of a spoon. Return meat and vegetables to the pot and heat through.
I’ve even included a Vegetarian “braised” dish in the links at the very bottom of this post. Essentially you’ll be skipping step one.
About the recipe featured in the video:
I chose a fun braised Indian Spiced Chicken dish, just because that’s what I felt like eating. This post is less about the recipe (even though it was delicious) and more about the technique. I’ve added some links to other braised dishes at the bottom of this post, so you have a few to choose from. The mirepoix (step 2) has been reduced to just onions and carrots in the following recipe.
Indian Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas and Spinach
Inspired from the Bon Appetit Jan 2013 addition
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 bone in chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
- 1 Tbsp butter (use oil for DF)
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
- 2 tsp each cumin and turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1/2 cup raw, cooked according to package directions or 1 can)
- 2 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 8 cups spinach
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt (optional)
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, to garnish
Instructions: Here’s the short version since I demonstrate what you need to know in the video. But this will serve as a helpful reference if you decide to make this recipe. The steps highlighted in the video are in bold. Links are included for terms you may not be familiar with.
Heat over to 325 F. Season the chicken with salt. In a large heavy bottom pot (that has a tight fitting lid) over medium high, brown the meat on all sides. Adjust heat as needed to not burn the chicken. Remove chicken legs and set aside. Add butter, onions and carrots. Cook until the vegetables are golden brown, about 7-10 min (sauteing the “mirepoix“). Add the spices and cook until fragrant (1 min). Add the chickpeas and stock or broth and deglaze the pot. Add the chicken pieces. Add more stock, broth or water as needed to cover the chicken 3/4 of the way (not all the way, we’re not boiling the chicken). Cover and place in the oven and braise for 45-55 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot, add the spinach. Cover and let stand until spinach has wilted. Add the yogurt, stir until combined, add chicken and heat through on low heat. Do not boil the sauce or yogurt will curdle.
Other braising recipes: