Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Braive the Braise

This month DK challenge was all about braising technique. First I didn't realize that this technique is the main one my mom used to use. Usually that was the way meat was cooked in my childhood household. I do not use it often as it does not comply with some of my requirements for cooking process (less steps, simpler, faster, healthier). Alhtough I have to admit that results produced using braising technique are marvelous - tenderness and flavors are unparalleled.
Braising is universal technique that can be applied practically to anything. I have made braised fennel, chicken, tofu, fish and lamb. Braised squid is in my plans.
Braising is the best for inexpensive meat cuts with a lot of connective tissues. After being braised for a long time, it produces dish with very soft buttery texture and great fusion of flavors from ingredients that were put together. 

This Challenge Discoveries
Hands down - braised fennel was my "bestest" discovery this time. Who knew that bulb that I was always passing by in a vegetable row could be so great just simply braised in chicken or vegetable stock?! Anise (or some call it licorice (?!) is very subtle and very "backgrounded" here. Steak-like texture of braised fennel along with soft flavor makes it really enjoyable for me. Should I mention that I can't stand anything with licorice (candy and such)?


From now on this dish is permanently entered in 'my staple food' catalog. It's fast, does not require many ingredients and simply delicious.

2 fennel bulbs, quartered or thickly sliced
all-purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil (or any mild to non-flavored oil)
4 or 5 sprigs thyme (2 tsp dry)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) butter OR 1.5 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
Kosher salt

- In a shallow dish or plate, add enough flour to dredge the cut sides of the fennel quarters. This step can be omitted.
- In a sauté pan with a cover, heat the oil over medium heat. Note: you want the oil hot but not enough to scorch the flour.
- Add the fennel and cook until nicely browned.
- If using butter, add enough water to come up about a ½ inch (1¼ cm) around the fennel. If not using butter, add same quantity of chicken or vegetable stock.
- Add thyme and butter (if using) and salt to taste – bring to a simmer.
- Cover, switch to possibly lowest heat. Alternatively, you can pop it in a oven.
- Cook for 20-30 minutes, until fennel is tender.
- Serve immediately.
Beautiful cut!

Browned fennel, before braising.

This is fennel dredged in flour, fried and then braised in an oven. On the picture under the header is a slice of fennel cooked without flour and braised on a stove. I can't tell which one is better, both are great.

Braising technique for tofu is great also. It can compete with my usual way for cooking tofu - dredging in dry spices and frying.

2  14 oz packs of firm tofu
3/4 c low sodium soy sauce
.5 c brown sugar
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp sesame oil
some crushed chili pepper to taste
3 tbs light olive oil

- Cut tofu in cubes, on the same surface, cover tofu with paper towel and put some weight like heavy pan to remove excess liquid.
- Meanwhile, do a sauce. Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil and chili pepper.
- In a large frying pan, heat oil to medium heat.
- Pat tofu dry with a paper towel.
- Place tofu in a single layer into the the pan, cook until all sides slightly brown. 
- Add sauce and turn heat down to low and cook turning pieces of tofu until sauce thickens and tofu looks uniform on all sides.
- Serve with rice or another side dish of your choice. I served it with boiled and then browned in olive oil young potato.

Blog-checking lines: The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you enjoyed the challenge and your post pics are fabulous! Well done:)


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