New Year’s resolution: learn to cook! This is the year to leave your kitchen fears behind and create fabulous food with ease. To get started, look to our new cookbook Cook Good Food, full of simple techniques and foolproof recipes for everyday eating. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing key technique primers from the book, along with great recipes to go with them. Start reading — and make good food tonight!
Braising breaks down touch cuts of meat and dense vegetables into soft, tender morsels by cooking them slowly in a moderate amount of liquid. Often the ingredients are first browned to create deep flavor, then the braising liquid — stock, wine, beer or tomato sauce — is added, and everything cooks together, low and slow. While the process can take hours, it requires very little hands-on time or attention once the ingredients are in the pot. As a result, these dishes are great for entertaining — their deep flavors will impress guests, and you can prep them ahead of time.
You can use almost any pot with a tight-fitting lid: a deep, wide pot, saucepan or straight0-sided saute pan. If you plan to finish braising in the oven, be sure your pot has an ovenproof handle.
Pat foods dry. Soak up the moisture on foods’ surface with paper towels before browning. A dry surface will encourage browning.
Don’t crowd the food. During the browning step, make sure the food sits in the pan in a single layer. Crowded food will steam, rather than brown. Brown in batches, if necessary.
Deglaze the pan. After browning, add the liquid to the pan and scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. These bits are like flavor bombs, adding depth and richness to the finished dish.
Do not boil. Adjust the heat periodically to be sure the braising liquid is simmering (small bubbles), not boiling (large bubbles). Boiling could cause the food to toughen up.
Skim the sauce. For the best flavor and texture, take the time to skim the fat off the braising liquid before using it as a sauce.
|Sear the protein
Get the pan and oil really hot. Add the protein, such as brisket or chicken pieces, and sear well on all sides. (Many recipes call for first coating foods with flour.)
|Brown sturdy vegetables
Transfer the protein to a plate, then rewarm the pan for a few seconds. Add any sturdy vegetables, such as carrots, onion and celery, to the pan.
|Develop the flavor
Saute the sturdy vegetables until they are lightly browned and slightly softened to help coax out their flavor.
|Add the aromatics
Add any herbs, spices and garlic and saute them briefly to bring out their aromas.
Add broth, wine or other flavorful liquid called for in the recipe and scrape up the delicious browned bits stuck to the pan bottom. Return the browned ingredients back to the pan and proceed with the recipe.
|Skim the sauce
Remove the braised ingredients from the pan and keep warm. Pour the sauce into a bowl and let stand for a few minutes. Using a large spoon, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce before serving.
|Braised Chickpeas and Carrots with Yogurt Topping
Here, beans and carrots are braised in a flavorful liquid until tender and sweet; then, they get a dollop of an Indian-inspired yogurt topping. Served on a bed of protein-rich quinoa, the vegetables make a satisfying meatless—and gluten-free—meal.
|Halibut with Braised Escarole and White Beans
The classic combination of escarole and white beans forms a delicious base for seared halibut fillets. In this recipe, the beans and greens are simmered together for even more flavor and texture.
|Braised Chicken with Onions, Rosemary and Sage
Chicken, onions and herbs braised with wine make a warming meal for a cold evening. Serve the chicken over polenta or rice, or set out some crusty bread, to absorb the flavorful juices.
|Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Tomatoes and Rosemary
Lamb shoulder chops develop an irresistible richness after simmering in a red-wine broth. Briny olives and fresh herbs lend bright flavors to the dish.
|Mom’s Home-Style Pot Roast
Slow braising transforms a modest chuck roast into a delicious pot roast supper. In this recipe, thickly sliced onions and paprika boost the flavor. You’ll have lots of sauce, so make mashed potatoes for soaking it up
|Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta
These flavorful short ribs perfectly illustrate how braised meat cooked on the bone can turn out succulent and tender enough to cut with a fork. The bones also enrich the braising liquid, which pairs well with the cheese-laced creamy polenta.
|Braised Black Kale with White Beans and Smoked Ham
High-quality ham contributes a smoky, meaty flavor that mimics long cooking in this quick braise of peppery black kale. Creamy, earthy beans and fresh rosemary combine to create a satisfying dish that can even be served as a main course.