Help with braising.

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by bobcooks, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. bobcooks

    bobcooks

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    I had braised short ribs in a restaurant and thought that I might try it at home.  I picked a recipe on-line as follows. 

    Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat (Le Creuset 7 quart). Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well.

    Preheat the oven to 375°F.

    While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in a food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a fond has formed on the bottom of the pan. Scrape the fond and let it reform. Scrape the fond again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.

    Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water.  Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time.

    The outcome was sour.  I have attempted other braises using similar combinations of tomato and red wine and the outcome was sour.

    It has to be something that I’m doing.  Can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong?
     
  2. kmstl

    kmstl

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    One thing to check is that you are not burning the meat or the fond. If it goes from browned to "burnt" it will make the dish bitter tasting. When you say "sour" it could be the same thing?  I'm pretty new to this type of cooking myself, but what I've been seeing is that if you need to sear/brown a bigger piece of meat for roasting/braising etc, you need to do it on a bit lower heat for a bit longer than if you are doing the same thing with smaller pieces (like stew meat pieces). 

    Hopefully someone more experienced can give you some more suggestions.

    Best of luck
     
  3. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    The recipe is not guiding you correctly.  Did you write out the recipe for us exactly?  Because from the sound of it you are burning your dish.  I'll break it down one statement at a time:

    "Season and brown until they are very dark and a fond has formed" is incorrect.  The fond forms from the meat, not the vegetables.  An essential step to getting a good braise is to sear and brown the meat correctly without burning.  First of all make sure your meat is very very dry.  I like to keep the meat pressed between absorbent paper towels until I am ready to sear.  The creuset should be very hot.  Add a little oil, season your meat and put the meat in being careful not to crowd the pan.  Crowding the pan creates too much steam and essentially boils the meat rather than brown it.  So brown the meat in batches if you have to.  Once you put the meat in there leave it there and don't move it around.  You want the flesh to stick to the bottom of the pan.  When the pan releases the meat you can turn it over and let the other side sear.  Remove the meat and repeat with the second batch of ribs.  This sticking to the bottom or "searing" are what causes fond.

    Now add a little oil and the vegetables.  Let them sweat but don't burn them, this is what causes the bitter flavor.  The moisture from these vegetables helps to deglaze the pan.  Don't wait too long to add the tomato paste and do not cook the tomato paste for 5 minutes, that's too long and certainly contributes further to the bitter flavor.  Tomato paste is sweet and if you over cook the sugars in it you're creating a flavor close to burnt caramel.  The whole process of veggies plus paste plus wine shouldn't take more than 5 minutes combined.  You do not need to reduce the mixture by half.  Just bring it up to a simmer. 

    Add a cup of water and simmer, then nestle the ribs in the braising mixture.  If you need more water add it now, but I always opt for less liquid than more.  I'm not making soup.  Some people will tell you to use beef broth instead of water, it's up to you but I find water to work well.  Bring the pot to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven.  I'll be honest, 375 is a bit high for my oven I braise between 325-350 for something like this.  Lower the heat and extend the cooking time by an hour if necessary, you'll get a better outcome.

    After the dish is cooked look at your braising mixture, is it as thick as you want it, does it need more reduction?  Take the meat out and decide if you want to reduce it further or not.
     
  4. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    With one addition, a hearty yeah, that's it, to Koukouvagia. She's just provided you with braising 101. So pay attention!

    The addition is that with braising you add enough liquid to come 2/3 to 3/4 up the meat. I usually go with the lower figure, cuz, like her, I'm not looking to make soup.

    Personally I don't see what's added by pureeing the veggies. I mean, what's the point? But each to his own.
     
  5. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I've done it both ways with pureed veggies or not.  The pureed veggies melt and become the sauce, it's kind of nice.  Purely a texture preference.
     
  6. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    KK gave you excellent directions.

    Couple of ambiguities to clear up; plus a little advice.

    Many people flour their meat by dredging it lightly before browning.  It will help thicken the sauce later, but is by no means mandatory.  If your recipe doesn't call for flour early, don't do it and don't worry about it.

    For a long braise, like short ribs, the vegetables (typically a mirepoix) are usually rough chopped. 

    When the meat is browned, remove it completely from the pan and set it aside.  If the oil is burnt and has dark flecks in it, pour it off.  

    Add a little fresh oil if necessary, and brown your vegetables without anything else in the pan -- if you're using garlic, hold off on it.  Browned vegetables actually do create fond.  As the vegetables brown, add a little salt and pepper.

    When the onions are clear, you can add the garlic (if using), and continue browning until the garlic is fragrant -- a minute or two.  If you want to use tomato paste, now is the time to do so.  Add your paste, and smush it around until it cooks a little and creates a "pincage" with the vegetables.  Make sure "the raw" is cooked off the paste (if using) -- two minutes or so -- before going on to the next step.

    Add some liquid and deglaze the pan by scraping all the fond off the bottom with a spoon.

    At this time you can return the meat and add the rest of ingredients -- including the herbs (often tied together as a bouquet garni).  Taste and adjust for seasoning, keeping the dish slightly undersalted.  The salt flavor will concentrate as it cooks. 

    When the dish is almost or fully cooked (depending), you can remove the meat, defat the gravy, pour off the gravy and vegetables.  Remove the bouquet garni. If you like you can use a blender or mill to puree the vegetables back into the gravy.  Whether you puree the old vegetables into the gravy or not, you can add attractively cut fresh vegetables if you like.  Return the gravy to the pan, and cook long enough to cook the fresh vegetables if using.  Thicken the gravy if that's you plan.  Return the meat to the finished gravy, reduce the heat to a bare flame and let the meat warm through. 

    Add fresh herbs just before plating, and sprinkle some more herbs on top when you've plated.   

    Serve.

    BDL
     
  7. foodpump

    foodpump

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    All of the above, excellent advice.  I would leave out the garlic untill the rest of the vegetables have coloured and softened sufficiently--then add it in.  Garlic burns easy and is not pleasant when burnt.
     
  8. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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  9. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Excellent tutorial KKV!