Thursday, March 18, 2010

Current obsession: slow cooked meats

For the first twenty five years of my life I didn't have a very good view of braised meats. I don't recall my mother ever really making it when I was little- perhaps that's a Southern California thing? My first exposure to it wasn't until I was in college in Indiana, which is probably swinging to the most opposite extreme possible. Seeing so many overweight middle-Americans scarfing down badly made beef for nearly every meal is not the best way to put a (if you'll humor me) "good taste" in one's mouth.* I left Indiana thinking that all slow cooked meats tasted like pot roast.

About a year and a half ago, I began watching a friend of mine braise meats over and over again for her family for dinner. She did mostly beef as well, but she is a good cook and I noted the delicious dinners that can come from a 5 pound brisket. That was the tipping point I needed. I began to research this technique- remember about this time last year when I first made coffee braised lamb? It was so exciting watching a piece of meat become a shredded, tender, melt in your mouth dish with very little effort on my part.

Over the past year I have been a student of braising. I realized any meat will do, and to date I have prepared many different cuts of beef, lamb, pork (just last week if you recall), and duck legs. The mastery of it is not difficult, as long as you have a good recipe, and it's oh so perfect for the cooler days of the year. Slow cooked meats, especially when done on the bone, are great for your immunity- so long as you use high quality, grass fed, farm raised meat, but doesn't that go without saying at this point?

And let me reiterate how simple it is: you just brown the meat on all sides (sometimes you don't even do this), throw in some flavorings, and put it in the oven, covered, for a few hours or more. Other than the coffee braised lamb, here are some of my favorite recipes:

Edna Lewis' Oven Brisket or Rolled Chuck

Braised duck legs with shallots and parsnips

White bean and ham hock soup
(That's not the bean soup I make, but I don't really use a recipe when I do it. This one sounded good, and uses basically the same technique, except I put the beans in at the very beginning and cook for about 5 hours.)

Pulled-Pork Barbecue

(Doesn't that picture just make you want to reach your hand into the computer screen, pull out the sandwich, and eat it? Or am I just really weird?)

*I know, I know, you're not all overweight.

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