In praise of the braise

Baby, it’s cold outside and there’s no better way to warm up than with a braised dish that requires nothing but a fork and an appetite. Low and slow is the key for turning meat into comfort food that slips off the bone. Here are some plates around town to cozy up to when the winter winds are whipping.—Eric Angevine

The Cuban-inspired braised pork belly at Duner’s is served over black beans and sopa bread and topped with jalapeño BBQ sauce. (Photo by John Robinson)

Maya marinates smoked beef short ribs from Timbercreek Organics in red wine before searing and braising them for three hours with onions, carrots, and celery. The reduced sauce is so tasty you’ll want to consider your sides wisely. Stone-ground grits with white cheddar and green beans will ensure you don’t waste a smidgen of it.

At Bashir’s Taverna, a traditional Algerian offering called kasswela combines braised chicken with white beans, lamb sausage, peas, and carrots all spiced with cumin and paprika. A heaping spoonful of fragrant basmati rice and a touch of lemon zest and vinegar brings it all to life.

Al Hamraa’s tagine-braised rabbit, knia belbasla, is spiced with cinnamon and saffron and naturally sweetened by the addition of caramelized onions and raisins. This Moroccan favorite should be eaten authentically—with your hands and a piece of bread to swipe up every last luscious drop.

Duner’s takes the perfection that is pork belly and improves upon it by braising it and serving it with black beans atop a flat piece of sopa bread. This Cuban-inspired dish gets spiced up with a drizzle of roasted jalapeño BBQ sauce.

Shebeen flavors its signature lamb shank by rubbing it with tomato paste before searing it then braising it in port wine seasoned with garlic, bay, and thyme. The fork-tender shank is served pub-style with veg and mash—and, if you’re lucky, at a seat by the fireplace.

Falling off the bone

We all know that meat that shreds at the touch of a fork is delicious, but we don’t all know how to go from A to B. When it comes to braising, not all cuts of meat are created equal. We consulted Foods of All Nations’ butcher of five years (plus 23 more years under his apron strings) Bill Yenovkian for a rundown on rendering meat so tender that knives go back in their drawers.—Megan Headley

What is braising?
Braising is a cooking method that involves cooking large cuts of meat in liquid at a lower temperature for a long period of time.

What types of meat and cuts are recommended for braising?
Because the technique evolved from the attempt to make less expensive cuts of beef more palatable, we recommend tougher cuts like chuck, shoulder, knuckles, or shanks. You can do everything from beef bourguignon on the gourmet end to pot roast on the rustic end. Then, of course, there are lamb shanks and veal shanks for osso buco.

How long do braises typically take?
It varies, but four hours is a good rule of thumb. The key is to be patient enough to let the cooking do what it needs to do. You can’t just cook stew meat until you think it’s done and then expect it to be fall apart tender. I like to use a Dutch oven, but a lot of people use slow cookers.

Do you recommend entertaining with braised meals?
Absolutely. Braised dishes are great for family get-togethers and dinner parties because the meat’s less expensive (braising cuts cost between $3.99 and $6.99 per pound compared to beef tenderloin which costs $19.99 per pound), yet they’re super easy to cook, impressive, and delicious. Figure about a half a pound of meat per person.

Do you have a favorite braising recipe?
I still love my mom’s pot roast—and I think she used Lipton’s onion soup mix!

One pot wonders

When you’re headed home on a dark and bitter weeknight, cozy jammies, the sofa, and a warm dinner can’t come soon enough. If you’ve got a slow cooker and a bit of time to prep in the morning, dinner will be waiting for you. You throw your protein, your veggies, your grains, your herbs and spices, and your liquid all into one pot, set it to low, and forget it. Versatile beyond belief, slow cookers are for more than just pot roast. Here are two dozen different ways to give your slow cooker a workout this winter. Now, if only you could set the house to clean itself, too.—M.H.

Oatmeal, granola, grits, yogurt, coffee cake, fruit butters, beans, soup, stock, chili, fondues, curries, pulled pork/carnitas, chicken adobo, enchiladas, brisket, paella, bolognese and ragu, meatballs, lasagne, ratatouille, stuffed peppers, soufflés, warm beverages (virgin and adult!). 

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