Schweinebrate prepared by Brad Parker, executive chef of Dantanna’s Buckhead. On the front plate, it’s shown with sauerkraut and German potato salad. STYLING BY BRAD PARKER / CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

Worth the wait: Braising can turn ordinary meats, vegetables into something special

Our rainy February has many of us craving the sense of well-being that comes from gently bubbling dishes perfuming our kitchens for hours at a time.

Braised meals, especially braised meats, warm us inside while providing dishes with intense, concentrated flavors. Start them in the middle of the day and let them cook unattended through the afternoon. They’re ready for dinner that night, or even better, let them cool and then refrigerate them for a day or two.

“Braising is that rare technique that gives you food that tastes better after it’s been chilled and reheated.”

That’s a quote from Michael Ruhlman, author of “How to Braise” (Little, Brown and Company, $25). If you have time to braise your meat the day before you want to eat it, the fat will separate out and congeal on the surface, where it’s easy to remove.

And braised dishes are perfect for dinner parties. The main course, and frequently its accompanying vegetables, is all done ahead of time, just waiting for reheating.

Braising by definition is the process of searing food in oil or by a dry heat method such as grilling, and then cooking it in liquid. The searing adds flavor; cooking in liquid tenderizes the meat.

Ruhlman describes braising as metamorphosis. “When you braise, you begin with a tough, often inexpensive cut of meat, and through your care and knowledge as a cook, you turn it into something tender and succulent and exquisite.”

And this works for vegetables like artichokes and leeks just as well as it does lamb shanks and brisket.

Here are a few tips for braises from Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers from “The Ultimate Companion to Meat” (The Countryman Press, $45):

• Gently season the ingredients to begin with, but don’t season the dish until the very end, after the sauce has reduced, or you risk the whole dish becoming too salty.

• When using wine or beer in your cooking liquid, remember you are going to cook out the alcohol and many of the intricate flavors.

• Use a cartouche, a round of parchment paper cut just bigger than the diameter of your casserole dish. Crumple and wet it before laying it on top of the braise. This helps keep the liquid from evaporating too quickly and prevents a skin from forming on top of the sauce. Some recipes will call for using a cartouche with no lid; others add a lid as extra protection for the braise.

Try these recipes and people will say, “It smells good in here” when they walk in the door.

RECIPES

Never attempt a braised meat recipe on a day when you’re facing a deadline. As Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers write in “The Ultimate Companion to Meat” (The Countryman Press, $45), “There is no hurrying a braise. This is a good reason to do this a day in advance, giving the meat time to tell you it is ready.”

If the weather puts you in the mood for beef stew, some extra time and effort can produce Beef Daube, adapted from a recipe in “The Ultimate Companion to Meat” by Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers (The Countryman Press, $45). CONTRIBUTED BY ALAN BENSON
Photo: Alan Benson

Beef Daube

A daube is a classic dish of inexpensive beef braised with wine, vegetables and seasonings. Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers tweak the recipe by using a flat iron steak instead of the chuck you might expect. They had lots of umami by including anchovies and olives in the final dish and add a small amount of vinegar to cut through the richness.

Consider this as an option the next time you’re thinking “beef stew” for dinner. Just prepare ahead as you’ll marinate the beef overnight.

Beef Daube
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 1/4-pound flat iron steak, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped pancetta
  • Zest of 1 orange, divided
  • Bouquet garni (2 rosemary sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 2 Italian parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves, tied together with kitchen string)
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
  • 4 finely chopped anchovies
  • 1/2 cup black olives
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Make marinade: In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and saute until tender and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and garlic and saute 2 minutes. Then add wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Cool completely, then put into a large bowl or refrigerator bag. Add beef and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.
  • Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Pour meat and marinade into a large Dutch oven. Add tomatoes, fennel, pancetta and half the orange zest. Add bouquet garni. Cut a round of parchment paper to just a little larger than the diameter of the Dutch oven. Crumple the paper then wet it under running water. Lay it directly on the surface of the mixture, pressing to remove any air bubbles. Cover Dutch oven and put in oven. Cook 1 hour, then reduce temperature to 235 degrees and braise 3 to 4 hours or until meat falls apart easily. Remove from oven and discard bouquet garni. Skim fat from surface.
  • In a small bowl, mix butter and anchovies. Stir into cooking liquid. Add olives and vinegar. Taste for seasoning, adding more vinegar, salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with chopped parsley, chopped fennel fronds and remaining orange zest. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 598 calories (percent of calories from fat, 55), 40 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 34 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 108 milligrams cholesterol, 906 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from a recipe in “The Ultimate Companion to Meat” by Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers (The Countryman Press, $45).

Brad Parker, executive chef of Dantanna’s Buckhead, prepared this Schweinebrate. He suggests using a Bavarian marzen beer in the braising liquid. Here it’s shown with German potato salad. STYLING BY BRAD PARKER / CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis

Brad Parker’s Schweinebrate

This traditional German dish is an Oktoberfest specialty, pork shoulder that’s cooked long and slow in a rich sauce. Brad Parker, executive chef of Dantanna’s Buckhead, adapted his recipe from the traditional, and suggests using a Bavarian marzen beer in the braising liquid. You want to use a beer with a nice balance of malt to hop. The alcohol will cook out, but the flavor remains and the resulting gravy is delicious.

Parker suggests accompanying this braised pork with sauerkraut and German potato salad.

Brad Parker’s Schweinebrate
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway
  • Stone-ground mustard
  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 carrots, cut into large dice
  • 1 large onion, cut into large dice
  • 1 (12-ounce) Bavarian-style beer
  • 2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • In a small bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and caraway. Stir in enough mustard to make a smooth paste.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pat pork shoulder dry and coat with mustard mixture.
  • In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown pork shoulder on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove pork from Dutch oven and add carrots and onions. Reduce heat to medium and cook vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes. Leave vegetables in Dutch oven and deglaze Dutch oven with beer and 1 cup chicken broth. Return pork to Dutch oven and place, uncovered, in oven. Braise until the pork reaches 165 degrees and the meat is tender, about 2 hours. If you find the meat is browning too much before the pork is tender, cover the Dutch oven with its lid. Remove Dutch oven from oven, remove pork from mixture and allow to rest. Strain liquid into a medium saucepan. Add remaining cup chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook until mixture reduces to gravy consistency. When pork has rested 15 minutes, it’s ready to serve. Slice and top with gravy. Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 270 calories (percent of calories from fat, 40), 33 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 12 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 97 milligrams cholesterol, 629 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by executive chef Brad Parker of Dantanna’s Buckhead.

A lovely side dish for braised meat is Butter-Braised Radishes with English Peas, adapted from a recipe in “How to Braise” by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown and Company, $25). CONTRIBUTED BY DONNA TURNER RUHLMAN
Photo: Donna Turner Ruhlman

Butter-Braised Radishes with English Peas

These radishes would be a bright accompaniment to any braised meat you serve. The recipe follows the rules of a braise — searing the radishes in butter, then covering them so they’ll cook in the liquid they produce — but you want to cook them just until tender, not falling apart.

You’ll find farmers bringing beautiful radishes to your local farmers market, including the pretty French breakfast radishes pictured here. But no fancy radishes are required. If using regular red radishes, cut them in half or quarter them.

Butter-Braised Radishes with English Peas
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound radishes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup English peas or snow peas, blanched
  • In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add radishes and a large pinch of salt. Toss the radishes in the butter until they are coated, then cover skillet, reduce heat to low and braise for 5 minutes. Uncover, add the peas or snow peas. Increase heat to medium, toss peas with radishes until peas are heated through. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 98 calories (percent of calories from fat, 55), 2 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 6 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 56 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from a recipe in “How to Braise” by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown and Company, $25).

Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition

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