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Getting into a Stew

Braises and Stews - what’s the difference?

It's a well-kept kitchen secret - Braising makes heroes out of weekend cooks.

There is no other technique that asks so little - yet gives so much back.

Braising may sound complicated, but you probably already know it by a more familiar term - Pot Roasting.

And while Braising is similar to Stewing, the two cooking methods do have some slight differences.

Both are moist heat, slow cooking methods that tenderize and develop rich meaty flavours

Both start with less-tender Cuts as this cooking method softens the strong muscle fibres and connective tissue, guaranteeing tender, moist, flavourful results

The Difference?

Braising cooks large Cuts of meat in enough liquid to partially cover the meat

Stewing uses small, uniform pieces of meat for that are totally immersed in liquid. This technique is used in Beef Bourguignon

How to Braise

It's what you do before the Braise goes into the oven that counts.

Sear Your Meat

Season the meat on all sides. Pour oil into a heavy lidded pot - set over medium-high heat, then add the meat. Don't crowd the pot and take time to get deep colour all over. Remove meat; set aside.

Prepare Your Vegetables

Cook chopped Onions, Celery, Carrots, etc. in the Drippings left behind from searing, stirring frequently. Like the sear, use medium-high heat and aim for a caramel brown colour - without scorching your ingredients.

Deglaze the Pot

Add the Braising liquid, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden Turner. These bits are flavour bombs. When they're dissolved in the cooking liquid they enrich the entire dish.

Braise It

Return the meat to the pot, with any accumulated juices and the stock. The meat should not be submerged - (adding too much stock will ultimately dilute the Sauce.) Bring the liquid to a simmer - not a boil, then cover and slide into a hot oven

The Next Level

Add more Veg: If your recipe includes added Vegetables (such as Fennel, Potatoes, or Greens), add them to the pot 45 minutes before the meat is done. Check the liquid. If it's low (say, less than an inch), add a splash more. Return pot to the oven.

Reduce the Sauce

When the meat is fork-tender, remove it and any Vegetables. Skim surface fat, then simmer until you've got a rich Sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Return Meat (and vegetables, if using) to the pot to heat through.

Most Braises prescribe a standard, usually the classic Onion-Carrot-Celery combinations. But for a twist, add one of these ingredients as well.

Citrus Zest: A couple of wide strips of Orange, Lemon, or Lime Zest add a subtle citrus perfume

Mushroom: Wild or cultivated Mushrooms (either fresh or dried) give any dish a deep, woody flavour

Anchovy: Minced Anchovies provide an umami blast - savoury, briny, and complex without tasting fishy

Ginger: A fine julienne of fresh Ginger (or Galangal, if you can find it) adds a note of sweet heat and fresh spice

Lemongrass: This lemony stalk provides a bright citrus hit with a distinct floral aspect

Braising Liquid: Make it count. Most Braises are done with Stock and/or Wine. But a splash of this or that brings balance, complexity, and depth to the final product.

Fresh Stock underscores the meatiness of the main ingredient. Match the Stock with the protein when you can, but Fresh Chicken Stock is universal. Darker Stouts and Porters play well with Beef, as do certain Belgian Ales.

Water is often overlooked as a braising liquid, but it works when you want to keep things light or if there are other strong flavours at play. It's always a better choice than poor-quality Stock

Wine adds nuance and a jolt of acidity to any dish. Use it in combination with Stock and, whether Red or White, choose something dry. Cook with a bottle you'd actually drink.

How to Take Your Braise from Good to Great

A proper Braise needs no embellishment, but sometimes we can't resist adding a final flourish to brighten, boost, or add texture to the dish. here are a few more ideas to get you started:

A handful of just-chopped Herbs (Parsley, Mint, Celery) adds colour and freshness.

Grated citrus Zest and a squeeze of juice injects a bright note. A splash of Vinegar balances the richness. A pinch of Maldon Sea Salt gives any dish a saline crunch. A dollop of Crème Fraiche or heavy Cream will mellow. Spice blends, such as Shichimi Togarashi or Za'atar lend a savoury punch.

The great thing about Pot Roasts

The great thing about a Pot Roast - or a Braise - is that it feeds the same number of people but leaves you in peace until you're ready to serve.

A fraction of the price

Its other great virtue is that it enables you to use some of those very lean, delicious cuts of meat that are not suitable for roasting - and cost a fraction of the price of the more expensive fast roasting Cuts!

Get ready for easy-to-cook, inexpensive but flavour-packed treats

A slow-cooked Braise is a wonderful indulgence on a cold day

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