Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The basic french cooking method for braised meat

This basic method is used for braising meat (lamb/beef/pork) and makes delicious stews (where the meat is cut into blocks) or whole meat cuts.

I used very thickly cut pieces of lamb chops from the friendly Pick n Pay butcher.
First the meat is browned well on all sides in a pan covered in a film of normal vegetable oil. Be careful that the oil does not burn so you may want to turn down the heat a bit if it gets smoky. Do not use olive oil since it has too strong a flavour. Do this in batches and as they are finished put them into a big enough oven casserole dish (with lid).

Next you add one chopped onion, one sliced carrot (I used 2 since they were a bit skinny) and 2 sliced stalks for celery (1 was too skinny again) to the same oil in the pan. Fry these lightly over medium heat until the onion soften. Be very careful not to burn / toast the onion.

Strew the vegetables over the meat pieces in the casserole dish. Since I made a big dish for 5 people I used 12 lamb cuts and this barely fit into a very large roasting tin. For this amount I used 400ml extra dry vermouth (that's Cinzano for those who have to discover this like I had to :) ) with 400ml beef stock (one beef stock block dissolved in boiling water) in which you stirred 1 tablespoon crushed garlic. Pour this over the meat pieces. If the pieces are sticking out too much, add a little more boiling water. They can stick out by about 5mm.
Into the liquid push 5-6 twigs of thyme and 4-5 twigs of parsley. (Remember this is for quite a large dish.)
Before you put the lid on, take a piece of foil big enough to cover the top and put that over first. Then put the lid on. It provides a nice seal so you don't lose any liquid through evaporation.
Put this into a pre-heated oven of about 160C and cook for about 3 hours. (Or more if you like your meat to fall apart). Check about every hour just to make sure everything is still nice a bubbly.
NEXT: How to finish off your dish with a nice gravy

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