Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Does Braising Vegetables Do?

Turnips hold up well to long, slow braising.

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Braising is a widely used cooking technique that involves cooking foods slowly in enough liquid to keep them from drying out, but not enough to fully submerge them. Although braised meats are familiar, this technique can offer lovely results with vegetables as well, especially sturdy winter vegetables that hold up well to extended cooking.

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Braising vegetables gives them extra flavor. A braising liquid can be anything from a simple vegetable or chicken stock to a hearty sauce such as Mexican mole. Because braised vegetables tend to cook for a long time, braising liquid should be full of flavor, but it shouldn't be so thick that it will reduce to the point that it burns. For full flavor and low risk of burning, combine thick sauces such as mole with a vegetable or chicken stock before using as braising liquids.

Texture

Braising softens vegetables by cooking them for a long time in liquid, breaking down plant fibers. This occurs through the process of slow cooking and also if the braising liquid contains any acidic ingredients such as lemon or vinegar. While cooking techniques such as roasting and pan frying tend to draw moisture out of vegetables, the braising process infuses them with moisture, making them tender and succulent.

Economy

In his seminal work, "The Raw and the Cooked," the French anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss described the process of stewing as an economical, everyday cooking technique typically practiced by women. Braising, which is a form of stewing, is a cost-effective cooking strategy because no food is lost in the cooking process. Furthermore, the braising liquid is infused with additional flavor from the vegetables that cook in it. In contrast, the technique of roasting, associated with opulence and celebration, has traditionally been the province of men. Roasting vegetables can be a wasteful technique because the process of cooking moisture out of ingredients leaves you with less food than you had when you started.

Warmth

Braising is a cooking technique typically used during the cooler months of the year. It works particularly well with winter crops such as root vegetables, which stand up well to being cooked for a while, as opposed to summer vegetables such as zucchini and patty pan squash, which quickly get soggy and deteriorate. The process of braising vegetables on the stove can help to keep your home warmer, an additional bonus on very cold days.

ReferencesMeals: Braise AnythingCBS News; How to Braise Veggies and Fish; Brian Dakss"The Raw and the Cooked"; Claude Levi-StraussPhoto Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty ImagesRead Next:

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