First, it is important to understand the action of braising. As Master class explains, braising is a two-step cooking process. First, the foods to be braised are seared quickly over high heat. Commonly referred to as “browning”, this stage not only promotes a color change, but also a deepening of rich flavors and aromas known as the Maillard reaction. Culinary scientist Jessica Gavin lays out the technical specifics, explaining that the Maillard reaction “is a form of non-enzymatic browning that occurs in foods when proteins and/or amino acids react chemically with carbohydrates from reducing sugars.” She further explains how, in the presence of heat, this process is accelerated.
After searing, aromatics such as garlic, herbs and mirepoix can be added, but what is essential is the introduction of the main cooking medium, which technically could be just water, but which is often a savory liquid, such as broth or wine. Again, often, but not always, the braising liquid is added to the same container in which the searing took place, thus deglazing or loosening any bits of food stuck in place by the previous searing (via Enjoy your meal.) And you can safely assume that because the Maillard reaction promotes deep flavor transformation, these little bites are taste bombs. You want them – no, you need them – swimming in your embers.