Friday, March 12, 2010

Low and Slow - Braising

Most nights, I'm in a hurry to throw a meal together and opt to whip together a random sauce and stir fry whatever meat and veggies I happen to have in the fridge. Once the ingredients are all cut up it, it rarely takes more than 10 minutes to get food on the table. But when I have the time, I like to slow things down and cook something a little more time consuming, something that feels a bit more significant.

Since, for the first time in a long time, I didn't have any plans on a Saturday night, this past weekend I decided I was going to stay in and braise a big hunk of meat. Thrilling right? I know, I live a life of high adventure. It's totally ok if you're jealous.

I've been reading up on braising a little bit recently so I've got a basic idea of how to go about doing it, but still don't have enough experience to know the little tips and tricks to make it turn out particularly special. With no specific idea of how best to start, I picked up a 1lb pork loin and a bottle of white wine, I patted down the pork with paper towel, then heated a couple tbs of oil in my pan and browned the bejesus out if it. People have a terrible tendency to constantly mess around with food in the pan, when really they should just let it be. I am as guilty of this as any and have found my only way to resist the urge is to walk away from the stove all together. It's tough, it really is, but when you see the color you get when you leave the meat alone, you realize how important it is.

Once I'd browned each side of the pork, I temporarily removed the meat and swirled in a couple glugs of wine to deglaze the pan and free up all those delicious crispy brown bits at the bottom. I then poured that liquid into a pot, added the pork, more wine (I used 1/3 bottle total), 3 smashed garlic cloves, a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper, and enough chicken broth to half cover the meat. Normally, you could (and should) do everything in one pot, by my pot is a little on the small side and my pork was a bit on the large side, so this seemed like the best option. Once the liquid was simmering gently, I dropped the heat to low, put the lid on the pot, and left it. After an hour, I tossed in some roughly chopped carrots. An hour after that, I added some chopped onions. Finally, half an hour after that, I took the meat and veggies out, added about 1/2 tbs of butter and let the liquid reduce down into a sauce. Unfortunately, I got a little distracted talking to my dad on skype and let it reduce a bit more than I'd intended, but it was still ok and I drizzled it over the food before digging in. The carrots and onion were soft but not squishy and the pork was tender enough that you could pull it apart with a fork. Normally I'd try to avoid eating a pound of meat for dinner, but this was too good to even pretend like I wasn't going to finish it all, so I just dug in.

Start to finish, the process took nearly 3 hours, but it only required my attention for about 30 minutes of that, making it a fairly undemanding meal. It may not be an option on weekdays, but dinners like this are one of my favorite parts of the weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Next time add a glug of vinegar - apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar or something flavorful - to your braising liquid at the start - it adds a yumminess to the end result