I've been making a lot of braised meats lately. Pot roast, stew, ragu... I'm wondering if anybody knows any secrets about getting deep, meaty flavour out of braises. Whenever I eat foods like that in good restaurants, they always seem to have this amazing meatiness which I can't seem to replicate at home I always start by drying the meat off and painstakingly browning it on all sides. Then I sweat off carrots/onions/celery and some mushrooms (sometimes rosemary) in the pan. I deglaze with red wine and add beef stock and a spoonful of tomato paste, and let it cook for a couple hours. My homemade dishes are always very good, but don't have that wow factor, that real pop that you get in restaurants. Anybody have any tips?
People mentioned almost everything that I'd recommend. Sealing the pot well with parchment paper or tinfoil. Getting it really deeply brown (4-5 mins per side). I think braising at 275 is the perfect temp. Adds about 30-45minsj compared to 325, and is worth the wait.
The two things I'd recommend are:
1.) A la Judy Rodgers of Zuni, I'd recommend pre-salting the meat 2-3 days in advance. (about 3/4 tsp per pound of meat). Keep it loosely covered in the fridge for at least 24 hrs but up to 3 days. You'll hear differing opinions that this dries out the meat, it's non-sense that has been debunked. What little moisture that leaves the meat after a few hours, is reabsorbed in a reverse osmosis which seasons/brines the meat.
2.) Add some anchovies to the braising liquid (very similar to the worcestershire or Braggs). No one will know they are there. They dissolve and add a umami richness.
There may be a couple of suggestions:
1 - Make sure you are starting off with a good piece of meat. By good jfood means tasty.
2 - When you sear, make sure you bring as dark of a color as you can stand just this side of burnt,
3 - Make sure you braise long enough at a low temperature. The way the meat (beef) will cook, it goes gray and as it cooks longer it turns almost a purply color. That's when you know you're done. It should take >4 hours for a good braise at 300 degrees.
4 - Use a good flavored red wine, a chianti, rioja, etc.
Then place in fridge when cool and serve re-heated the next night.
The three most important things, IMO, are choice of cut. , searing and sauce reduction. For pot roast, chuck for instance. Then, searing it well followed by deglazing with red wine to get all the carmelized bits into the braising liquid. Braise in liquid that comes only halfway up the side of the meat, remove the meat and strain and skim the liquid, then reduce it until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Flavor and richness intensify the more you reduce the braising liquid. Those deeply colored, rich braises in restaurants are reduced. Sometimes a beurre manie (butter mixed with flour) is swirled into the sauce after it's removed from the heat, but that thickens, it doesn't create beefy flavor, which comes from reduction.
Also, braising works best at 3-4 hours, at low temp, like 250-300 at most, IME.
I don't used wine in my braises, that would be the first suggestion I would make, try leaving it out.
And I do this trick: After I have the proper braise temp going; I seal the pot lid on tight, either with foil or some folk make a salt dough. Then I throw it into the oven on low. Wake up the next morning, refrig it and drool all day knowing I have an extra special dinner waiting fro me at home.
You can try a little soy sauce, Bragg's Amino Acids, or.....beef base. Yep. Sounds like you need some umami goodness---possibly even some MSG. And are you using enough salt?
Also, try adding the tomato paste right after you sweat the veggies, getting it a little brown in the pot before deglazing. Just be careful not to burn it. You'll extract more flavor that way.
You can also try dusting your sweated veggies with a little flour and letting that brown before proceeding.
One more idea: restaurants are notorious for using butter liberally to finish sauces. Might try it.