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Braising Saddles

February 27, 1992|JOAN DRAKE

Braising--simmering food in a covered pan with liquid--is an ideal way to cook less-tender cuts of meat. And because the technique involves browning the meat first, both the meat and gravy have good color and flavor.

The long, slow cooking breaks down the meat's connective tissue and combines its juices with the braising liquid. On the other hand, this technique dries the meat out, so the liquid should be served as a sauce (you can also thicken it).

After removing the packaging materials, wipe the meat with damp paper towels to remove any bone dust that may be left after butchering. Use a sharp knife to trim away any fat that is thicker than an eighth of an inch.

Season the meat to taste with salt and pepper (Step 1) and dredge with flour (Step 2). The flour, which is optional, enhances browning and helps thicken the pan juices.

Melt the butter in the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the meat and brown slowly, about 10 minutes on each side (Step 3). Remove the meat and pour off any excess fat.

Deglaze the pan by adding broth or wine (Step 4) and scraping the browned bits from the bottom. Return the meat to the pan, add more liquid and increase the heat until the liquid boils. Cover the pan, reduce the heat so the liquid just simmers and cook the meat for about 2 1/2 hours. (Additional liquid may be added if the lid doesn't fit tightly and too much evaporates.)

Some people like to add a clove of garlic, a bay leaf and a teaspoon or two of dried thyme, oregano or marjoram to enhance flavor. Others choose beer as the liquid.

Potatoes, onions and carrots are simmered along with the roast for the last 45 minutes to an hour (Step 5). This recipe calls for small new potatoes, but russets that have been peeled and cut into large pieces may be substituted. Tuck the potatoes and onions around the edges of the roast and place the carrots over the top.

When everything is tender, remove the meat and allow its juices to set a few minutes before slicing. The remaining liquid in the pan may be served with or without thickening.

If thickened gravy is desired, remove the vegetables along with the meat. Cover both loosely with foil to retain the heat.

Pour the liquid in the pan into a measuring cup, then strain, if desired. As the fat rises to the top, spoon off as much as possible. Add enough water to the remaining liquid to measure 1 1/2 cups, return it to the pan and place over medium heat.

Combine two tablespoons each of cornstarch and water and add to the liquid in the pan (Step 6). Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer two to three minutes until the gravy thickens. Serve along with the meat and vegetables.

POT ROAST WITH GRAVY

1 (3- to 4-pound) beef chuck roast

Salt, pepper

Flour, optional

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 cups beef broth

6 small new potatoes

2 small onions

6 medium carrots

2 tablespoons cornstarch, optional

2 tablespoons water, optional

Wipe meat with damp paper towels. Trim any fat in excess of 1/8 inch and discard. Season meat to taste with salt and pepper. Dredge with flour.

Melt butter in oil in 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown meat slowly on both sides, turning once.

Remove meat from pan and pour off excess fat. Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup beef broth, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. Return meat to pan and add remaining 1 cup beef broth. Bring liquid to boil, cover, reduce heat and cook over low heat 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile scrub potatoes and peel strip from around center of each one. Peel onions and cut X in both ends. Peel carrots and cut in half lengthwise.

Place vegetables around and over top of roast. Bring liquid back to boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, until meat and vegetables are tender.

Remove meat and vegetables to warm platter. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Pour liquid in pan into measuring cup, straining, if desired. Spoon off as much fat as possible, then add enough water to measure 1 1/2 cups. Return liquid to pan and place over medium heat. Combine cornstarch and water and stir into liquid. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

Slice roast. Serve with vegetables and gravy. Makes about 6 servings.

Note: Additional liquid may be added if lid doesn't fit tightly and too much evaporates during cooking. Oil may be substituted for butter and 1/2 cup red or white wine for beef broth used to deglaze pan.

Each serving, made without flour or cornstarch, contains about:

788 calories; 417 mg sodium; 174 mg cholesterol; 59 grams fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 42 grams protein; 0.88 grams fiber; 68% calories from fat.

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