Photo via Craftsy instructor Molly Stevens
Braising is an ideal method of fall cooking.
This slow-cooking method is well-suited to the flavors of fall, and the simple preparation all but guarantees a flavorful, warming meal.
To learn and refine the art of braising, the Craftsy course Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise is the best place to get started. The course starts with ingredient selection suggestions before progressing to a detailed discussion of proper methods for browning, flavoring and cooking. Instructor Molly Stevens is certainly not green to the art of browning and tenderizing meat and vegetables: she's spent years honing and testing techniques, and won a James Beard Foundation Award for her book All About Braising.
Equipped with some skills on how to braise, it's easy to take inspiration from the flavors of fall to further your independent study.
Here are some delicious inspirations to get you seasonally braising like a seasoned pro.
Let's follow these simple steps to kick-start your fall braising, inspired by Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise.
Photo via Craftsy instructor Molly Stevens
First, consider what you'd like to braise.
If you're braising meat, it's often slightly tougher cuts of meat that work best. It sounds somewhat funny to say, but the more "economical" cuts of meat are often best suited for braising.
However, braising isn't just for meat eaters. You can braise vegetables, too! You'll follow the same basic method of braising, but keep an eye on the times, as vegetables may be more apt to become mushy than cuts of meat.
Meats that work well with braising:
Chuck, brisket or round cuts of beef; chicken thighs; pork shoulder; ribs; and firm fish, such as swordfish. In general, any firm meat or part of the animal that is "well worked" will be nicely suited to braising.
Some fall vegetables to braise:
Think of firm, solid vegetables. You want them to soften, but not to become mush. Vegetables that work well include firm uncooked squash, eggplant, carrots, endive, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and parsnips. Fruits such as firm apples work well, too.
Next, think about flavorings or "aromatics."
What's an aromatic? It's the herb and vegetable additions that add depth to the flavor during the braising process as well as to any sauce when the braising liquid is reduced. While onions or garlic are popular aromatics, they are not the only ones 00 they can be any number of different spice and vegetable combinations.
Suggested fall aromatics:
Onions; garlic; mushrooms; celery; green pepper; "warming" spices, such as pepper, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg.
Now, consider your braising sauces and liquids.
When it comes to fall cooking, there are a variety of different braising sauces and liquids that can add a fall flavor. You can go two routes here: choose a liquid that is harmonious with what you're braising (for instance, braised chicken thighs with apple slices braised in apple cider), or you can choose a liquid that will offer a pleasing contrast or complement (for instance, rich beef braised in a piquant red wine).
Suggested fall braising sauces and liquids:
Apple cider (regular or hard); rich Oktoberfest-type beers; pumpkin puree, warming liquors, such as bourbon or whiskey; fall vegetable stocks.
Then, think about vegetables or other complements.
The bounty of fall is upon us! You have any number of seasonal vegetables that can add an aspect of delight to your finished dish. Sometimes, even if vegetables aren't suitable for the main braise, they are nonetheless a fantastic accompaniment. But you can also complement your braise with other things, such as pickles or preserves from your cache of canned goods (Not sure what to can? Take a look at these fall canning recipes.)
Suggested fall braising complements:
Pumpkin or squash puree; apples; spinach; pickles; or preserves.
Now, it's time to put it all together.
Choose a meat or "main," aromatics, braising liquid and any other complements. The possibilities are limitless, and you can mix and match, too.
Here are a few inspiring combinations to get your appetite going.
Photo via CakeSpy
Bacon-apple braised chicken thighs with apple cider
Crispy bacon and apples add a rich harvest flavor to chicken thighs, and cider mellows the saltiness of the bacon while highlighting the sweetness of the apples.
- 2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
- 4 chicken thighs
- 1/2 medium apple, diced into small pieces
- 2 cups apple cider
Dice half of the apple. In a large sauté pan, brown the bacon and diced apple slices until the bacon is crispy and the apple slices are soft. Remove, and drain all but a small bit of fat.
Sear the chicken over medium-high heat in the small bit of remaining bacon fat, for 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and deglaze the pan.
Add the apple cider to the pan, and gently place the chicken back in the pan. Cook covered, over low heat, for 35 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced, turning once. Check that the juices run clear on the chicken. Remove the chicken and heat the remaining sauce to high until it has reduced to a sauce-like consistency.
Add the chicken back in. Then, add the bacon and apple bits to the mix. Heat until warm, then serve. Baked apples on the side make a fine complement.
Beer braised pumpkin pork
Pumpkin and pork are a match made in mellow heaven. A dark beer adds a stormy yet warming element to the dish.
- Olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 pound pork shoulder
- 2 cups dark, hoppy beer
- 4 tablespoons pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie spice)
Place a nice dollop of olive oil in a sauté pan. Sear the pork for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Salt and pepper the top of the pork while you sear the first side, and then salt and pepper the second side when you flip it.
Remove the pork and deglaze the pan.
Add the beer to the pan, and gently place the pork chops back in. Cook covered, over low heat, for 35 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced, turning once. When you flip the pork, add the pumpkin puree by dotting the top of the pork with the pumpkin.
Once your time is up, check that the juices run clear on the pork. Remove the pork, and heat the remaining sauce to high until it has reduced to a sauce-like consistency.
Add the pork back in to keep it warm, and serve.
Photo via CakeSpy
Bourbon braised butternut squash
Boozy and spicy, this is a warming and saucy little side dish.
- Olive oil
- 2 cups cubed butternut squash, uncooked
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 3/4 cup water
- cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg, to taste
Place a nice dollop of olive oil in a sauté pan. Sear the squash pieces for 2-3 minutes per side, or until browned.
There should be no need to deglaze the pan, so simply remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes, or until it won't sizzle too much if you add liquid.
Add the bourbon and water to the pan, and put it back on heat. Heat on medium-low, covered, for about 30 minutes. If the sauce has not reduced enough, raise the heat until it has; it shouldn't take more than 5 minutes once you increase the heat. Season as desired. Serve as a side dish.
Can't get enough of the delicious fall flavors? Neither can we! Take a look at these fall pies and fall cocktail recipes. You might also enjoy our recipes for a fall harvest salad and apple cider doughnuts.