If there ever was a season and a reason to braise, it is now! The cold, windy days and dark, chilly and rainy nights, comes down upon San Francisco like a hammer! We locals know it all too well. Some of us hate it. Some love it. Some deal with it. Although I do not enjoy the rain, I do like the cold at times. It pushes me in many different directions and thoughts about my food and cooking. It forces me out of my more contemporary m.o. in plating, and is a trade off for a much favored soothing and hearty style of cooking…i.e. braising!
I obtain much satisfaction out of just about any and every type and nuance of cooking, but braising is special to me.
It is very personal and intellectual as well as involved and technical. It is not everyone’s second nature. It is one that when I am pressed upon to execute, I am engulfed in and become very giddy over. Braising, whether done in small batches or large, with meats or fish, vegetables or fruits, can be very rewarding. Not many other food preparation techniques and projects are as much so. Baking a nice loaf of bread, making a very intricate and labor-intensive ornate terrine, a delicate and painstaking sauce and the art of mastering salumi are also inn this category, but braising right now at this junction of the year is the one.
I challenge all of you to try it if you have not done so lately, and to do it again if so. The marination of the items, the proper searing, and use of flour in such, the “caramelize” of the mirepoix and the addition of aromatics and the delicate hand of spices or flavor enhancers, the deglazing and addition of stocks, the long, drawn out simmering and final stages of the cooking to a doneness only summarized as velvety, rich, tender and silky, with a subtle tooth, the finishing of the sauce, or “braisage”, the last glazing of the meats or main items by basting constantly with that cuisson until a beautiful and sexy sheen is apparent, like a superbly glazed cake with ganache. Life is great when this occurs. It’s not something to be rushed for anything.
This takes time, and time that must be endured and reveled by the cook. Time that must be honored and obeyed. Time that must be respected between the team and with much discipline, for to rush this only results in mediocrity at best. So, once you can commit to the excellence of the braise and commit full well to it’s process and all the beauty it stands for, then, and only then can it become great. Right now our menu at the Meritage @ the Claremont finds us braising many different items~ one of my favorites; Pork Belly; with nuances of Chinese 5 spices, Beef Short Ribs, served boneless so nothing but goodness is holding you back. We also butter braise lobsters as well as leeks, salsify, artichokes, fennel and onions. As you read and probably wonder “why would someone take all this time to cook something in this fast food world”? The answer is simple.
It is to nurture your soul and mind. It is to feel great about something great in our lives, as we will have created something. Something meaningful and worthy of recognition, if by nobody other than ourselves, which is to say, the most important. Enjoy!