5 Fast Weeknight Braises
Admittedly, writing about braising in the middle of winter is not the most out-of-the box idea I've ever come up with. This cooking technique is basically synonymous with this time of year, and I'm sure many of you who live in cold places have had things (meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, beans, etc.,) gently bubbling away on your stoves or in your ovens since October or November.
However, it's recently come to my attention that the common conception of braising is that it must take hours and hours. It mustn't. Sure, the kinds of recipes we typically associate with braising (short ribs, lamb shanks, coq au vin, pulled pork and the like) all take a long time to get tender. But braising (which is basically just searing something then simmering it in some amount of liquid until it's done) can also happen quickly. If you pick cuts of meat or other base ingredients that will cook in a relatively short amount of time, then you can whip up weeknight braises that are both comforting and quick, without relying on a pressure cooker or slow cooker. This is a really useful type of cooking in winter (and beyond), and the recipes below are a great introduction.
Here's what we've got: 1. Wedges of cabbage braised with Spanish chorizo and white beans, and topped with toasted breadcrumbs. (If you want to make it meatless but replicate the chorizo flavor, just start by sautéing some garlic in and smoked paprika in olive oil before adding the cabbage.) 2. Sturdy fish fillets or steaks braised in citrus juices (dealer's choice), which is hearty and bright at the same time, and a good reminder of how essential citrus is to wake up our winter cooking. 3. Ketchup-braised tofu (don't laugh, it's awesome), which takes no time, and proves that ketchup (here, spiked with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil) is a totally plausible and effective braising "liquid." 4. Chicken cutlets simmered in a surprising, wonderfully sweet-salty mixture of green olives, raisins, and white wine pulsed in the food processor. 5. Pork chops with rosemary, butter, and wine, which will stay nice and juicy as long as you don't leave them on the heat for too long.
If you scan the recipes, you'll notice that all of them employ quick-cooking main ingredients and relatively small amounts of liquid, which results in intensely-flavored dishes that come together fast. Anyway, something to think about this weekend while you're waiting for your lamb shanks to finish. See you Tuesday.
Yes, braising can take all day, but it doesn't always have to. Here's proof.
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Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.