One of the advantages of being around the house all weekend is that I get to take advantage of one of my favorite cooking methods: braising. I love it not just because it results in tasty food but because it represents a triumph of technique over inputs.
Braising is basically a two-step process. First you sear the outside of whatever it is you are cooking. Then you cook it for a long time either partially or wholely submerged in liquid at a relatively low temperature. The second step of the process — where you apply heat, moisture, and time — is what makes braising an alchemical reaction. In meat, it breaks down connective tissue and collagen, rendering normally tough, unappetizing cuts into moist, flavorful dishes that you can separate with a stern gaze, rather than a knife. Braising can take ingredients that are normally ill-suited for cooking and make them delicious. I have to respect that that.
This weekend, we braised beef short ribs we had in the freezer. I’d never made short ribs before, so I was curious to give it a try. Gwen commented during dinner that the beef was tasty, but it was the sauce — made from the red wine the ribs had been cooked in, a generous helping of sauteed vegetables, and the juices released by the meat as it cooked — that really made the dish. I think she could tell by the way I licked my bowl at the end of the meal that I agreed.