Braised meat is the perfect porridge for cooking in a pandemic. The best feature of braising these days is the way it pushes the void out of the house and fills it with such a magnificent aroma. But this is only praise for the embers; there are several others.
This old cook dog has learned new braising tricks to pass on to you.
But first, to emphasize the most important and reliable technique: browning the meat very Good. This causes the Maillard effect, a chemical reaction that explains the caramelization of proteins and sugars in golden foods of all kinds (cookies, steaks, caramel itself and roasted vegetables, for example). It is named after Louis Camille Maillard, who discovered it in the early 1900s.
To do this, be sure to leave enough space between pieces of beef chuck, for example, or lamb shoulder as they brown on the stovetop before the coals start. The cooks who pile up the pieces of meat are content to steam them. The browning also creates what the French call “fond” (the golden bits at the bottom of the post-Maillard pot) which is, as it suggests, the basis for the rich tastes of the sauce to come as a result of the embers itself. same.
Deglaze the base in a pan with a little white or red wine (depending on the heaviness of the meat) or apple cider or slightly sweet tart cherry juice; a cup should do. Then when you add the liquid you are going to braise the meat with – preferably broth, although plain water works too – pour just enough to get halfway over the meat.
Do not use wine or juice alone as a braising liquid. In the end, the sauce might just get too strong and awkward. Deglaze with wine (or juice); braise with broth.
I always thought it was important to cover the meat with the braising liquid, but it doesn’t make sense. In truth, it diffuses the flavors. Plus, meat (and veg, if you use any) will give off a lot of their own moisture, so flush it out with the liquid.
All in all, successful browning and braising means choosing and using a suitable pot. Good browning requires a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or casserole dish. And a large, well-opened pot is better than a tall-sided pot. For embers, the meat should rest on the bottom in a single layer, with the braising liquid poured evenly around it.
When you have some spare time in your kitchen, have both classic garnished bouquets and a few spice bouquets ready. The first are sprigs of thyme and parsley and a bay leaf tied together with kitchen twine. And these are the same, in a small bag of cheesecloth, tied around the neck with string, which also includes a few peppercorns and a peeled clove of garlic.
For my garnished bouquets, I like to use a green leek “leaf” as a wrap. Both types of bouquets can be frozen and used as needed. You will need one or the other to flavor the embers while cooking, then remove it for serving.
Finally, I had also thought that braising vegetables – carrots and onions are common, but turnips, celery, mushrooms and potatoes play too – should accompany the meat. But an embers usually last a long time (two hours is not uncommon) and can boil vegetables as well as render their flavors bland.
Add the vegetables about an hour (depending on the size of their cuts, maybe as little as 45 minutes) before you estimate the embers will be over. Some of the fresh flavors will stick and that’s a bonus.
Today’s recipe is a riff on a classic Italian treat for pork loin braised in milk (yes, milk). It uses thick pork chops instead of a whole loin. It’s delicious, especially its sauce which can end up tasting like caramel (unsweetened) or Sugar Baby candy. I want to say.
Milk-braised pork chops
- 6 pork chops, 1 inch or thicker
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1-2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 sprigs of fresh sage (or less if the leaves are very large)
- Peels of 1 small lemon (with little or no white pith)
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large Dutch oven or enameled cast iron saucepan, over medium-high heat, sear the chops in the olive oil and butter mixture until nicely browned on both sides, seasoning with the salt and ground pepper as you go.
Add the milk and the rest of the ingredients, taking care to prevent the milk from foaming when pouring it. Arrange the garlic, sage and lemon around the chops in the milk.
Bring to a boil on the heat, then cover, lid slightly open, and place in the oven for at least 2 hours, turning the chops twice during cooking, until the chops are tender and the milk has started to curdle. or little liquid remains in the pot. (You can also braise on the stovetop, over very low heat, for about the same amount of time.)
However, if the liquid evaporates before the pork is cooked, add more milk in small amounts as needed to maintain the embers. On the other hand, at the end of cooking, if there is still significant liquid in the pan, remove the chops on a hot plate and try with aluminum foil, and collect the lemon zest and the sage sprigs. Reduce the liquid by scraping the bottom of the pan until the sauce is thickened.
Serve with oiled, herb and seasoned roasted potatoes and steamed or wilted greens flavored with chili flakes and garlic.