Praise the Braise!

By Anya Fernald 

Praise the Braise!

First up, what’s a braise?

Braises are meats cooked with low and slow exposure to moisture, which breaks down collagenous connective tissue in the meat – yielding tender soft meat surrounded by a collagen-rich broth. For my health and budget goals, I aim to eat braised meats about two times a week, the dishes that make the most frequent appearances in our home are:

 

Why Braise?

I like to have a stock of these types of dishes in my fridge for a couple reasons:

1) Braises are made from less expensive cuts rich in connective tissue. That connective tissue has loads of health-boosting collagen in it. Collagen helps in beauty (hair, skin, nails), recovery, gut health and in general immunity and resistance. Bone broth is popular primarily for its collagen content – so you can think of these braises as a two-for-one: lots of protein and a good part of it is the super-health collagen protein. Instead of drinking a cup of bone broth while eating your steak, a braise checks both those boxes (lean protein, loads of collagen).

2) Braises keep incredibly well in the fridge as they are cooked in moisture – no dry meat on Day 2 (or 3, or 4!)

3) Braises are easy to make. They are a “set it and forget it” kind of dish – focus on a few prep steps and then let it simmer

To make a fantastic braise you need to follow a few basic steps

1) Lightly brown the meat in fat on as many sides / faces as you can. This adds texture and depth of flavor to your finished dish
2) Use enough water to cover the meat and slowly simmer for enough time to fully render out the collagen (so the sinews and silver skin turns into silky broth) and cook it for long enough for the meat to become tender. It does not have to fall apart – some braises like pulled pork are designed for fall-apart meat, for cuts like short ribs and lamb shoulder, I prefer the meat to be fork tender but not fully falling apart
3) Let it rest and recover. I like to make most braises the day before I eat them. That way they fully cool, the fat congeals and can be removed, and the meat becomes tender and consistent.