Braising is one of the best techniques to learn in winter, when a hot oven makes the kitchen cozy.
A technique that makes lean cuts of meat fork-tender, braising works equally well for winter vegetables. If there’s something in the crisper drawer you’re avoiding, braising can probably transform it into a warming meal. Hardy greens, such as collards, are great candidates. So are fennel, leeks, onions, and winter squashes.
The low, slow cooking technique works for tough meats and vegetables because it breaks down connective tissues—collagen in a pork shoulder or brisket becomes gelatin and plant fibers soften.
But the key to a great braise is to build flavor at the stove before you slide it into the oven.
Sear your meat or vegetable in a Dutch oven then remove it and cook a mirepoix in the juices in the bottom of the pot. Next, deglaze with stock, wine, or cider, scraping the bottom with a flat-edged wooden spatula. Return the main ingredient to the pot and, if there’s less than an inch of liquid, add some stock. To braise, you only want to cook in a pool of liquid. Otherwise, it’s a stew.
Cover and cook in a 250- to 325-degree oven until done. For meats, this will take several hours. Watch vegetables closely and remove when tender. Then enjoy a flavorful winter meal.