Here’s what I learned this week. Short and Sweet. Those winter root vegetables. Over it? We still have some time you know until tender sweet greens begin to show up at the farmers’ market. I’ve done my fair share of roasting parsnips, beets, carrots and potatoes these past few cold months. But now I know something more. Braising isn’t just for meat. It turns out vegetables take quite nicely to the low and slow method.
I came across an article in The Washington Post written by Molly Stevens author of the cookbook: All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking. And I believe in her method and I’m an advocate of the four things she says every good braiser needs to know about this art form.
Just about any vegetable can be braised. Stevens stays away from summer squash because of the mushy results. Earlier this week I braised a bunch of beet greens, escarole and a couple of carrots together and the flavor was outstanding.
Four is the magic number here. Here are Stevens’ four parts to braising:
- there’s the vegetable (s), main ingredient
- liquid, a small amount
- fat in the form of butter, bacon fat, olive oil, etc.
I would actually add one more: time. How much time have you got? Two hours? Leave the vegetables in large chunks. Twenty minutes? Cut them smaller. Just keep whatever size you’ve decided on uniform throughout all the vegetables going into your pot.
Actually, I think there’s a sixth factor: A covered pot.
Here’s what I did. First, I gave a rough chop to a giant-sized head of escarole (which braises down to very little in the end, by the way). Then I gently sauteed a shallot and a few cloves of garlic in about two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil. I did not let the garlic brown.
Then into the pot with the garlic, shallot (seasonings) and the fat (olive oil and butter) went the greens and two carrots (the main ingredients)–I chopped these small–I did not have two hours.
Next, I added way too much chicken broth (store-bought)–the liquid. If I had just added enough at the beginning to cover the bottom of the pot that would’ve been perfect. I would then continue to add a little more at a time as it evaporated. However, the resulting soupiness was easily fixed. At the end, I removed the lid, turned the heat up high and let it all bubble away. I stayed right there at the stove watching it the whole time.
That’s the idea, I believe. Like cooking risotto. A little bit of liquid at a time. Let it almost all evaporate (without putting your vegetables in danger of scorching) before you add a little bit more, then a little bit more.
Keep the pot covered and when the vegetables come to the desired consistency, take the pot off the heat and add a little bit more butter or a drizzle of olive oil. Finally, a thrifty pour of balsamic makes it all so very nice.