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The “Study Of” Braisingphoto

Braising is by far my favorite method of cooking. Watching the transformation of ingredients into a wonderful meal is something that I never get tired of.  New England has a long history with this cooking method, but before we get to our regional specialty, a little facts about braising:

 A successful braise intermingles the flavors of the foods being cooked and the cooking liquid. Braising is economical for cooking at home, as it allows the use of tough and inexpensive cuts, and efficient, as it often employs a single pot to cook an entire meal. Pressure cooking and slow cooking (e.g., crockpots) are also forms of braising.

Braising relies on heat, time and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue in meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Most braises follow the same basic steps. The food to be braised is first seared to brown its surface and enhance its flavor. A small amount of cooking liquid that often includes an acidic element, such as tomatoes, beer, or wine, is added to the pot, often with stock.

A classical braise is done with a relatively whole cut of meat, and the braising liquid will cover 2/3 of the product. Then, the dish is covered and cooked at a very low simmer or in a low temperature oven until the meat is fork tender. Often the cooking liquid is finished to create a sauce or gravy. 

Since the 1800s, cooking meat in a pot with vegetables has been a staple of New England cuisine. This leads us to one of my favorite dishes: Pot Roast, where there are two very different types of thought. 

We should start with the classic-a New England boiled dinner. This meal was traditionally served at noontime, but the cooking began early in the morning, using the meat, which would usually be salted beef, from the animals who worked the land instead of being raised for meat consumption. The meat was very tough and had to be slowly cooked over time. Most likely a salted brisket of beef would be boiled with cabbage in a kettle over an open fire. Later the other vegetables would be added.

In France, such a meal is called pot au feu', in Italy bollito misto', and New England boiled dinners derive from English versions of the dish. Thus bringing us to pot roast, a natural evolution of the colonial-era ‘New England Boiled Dinner,’ a meal generally composed of the same ingredients.

The difference? Cooking technique (boiling/stewing vs. roasting in a pot) and type of meat (corned beef vs. fresh rump, top round, or chuck). The two types of pot roast you will find in New England households these days are “Pot Roast” and “Yankee Pot Roast.” The main difference between the two is when making the sauce.  Yankee Pot Roast has the stewed vegetables ground or pureed into the braising liquid to thicken the sauce, while others have the thinner natural jus. 

Either way, braising a good piece of meat all day is something every chef looks forward to for dinner.  The smells that will be created from the braise will seep through the house and welcome your guests to a traditional home cooked meal.  This method of cooking has been part of our region for well over 200 years. Why stop now! Good cooking!   

And check out this season's braising recipes on the Stowe Mountain Lodge recipe page. Enjoy.

Come see for yourself what Chef Berry offers at Solstice with his specialty dish, the New England Pot Roast, along with other braising options this month to celebrate our "Study of" cooking series at all Destination Hotel and Resort properties.


The talented Stowe Mountain Lodge Culinary Team: Chef Berry, Chef Esteban, Chef Harmon

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