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On Wasteful, Costly Braising Liquid

This post is mostly inspired by the TK Stroganoff thread, but I've been meaning to write it for awhile.

The braising liquid in the TK Stroganoff recipe calls for red wine, mushrooms, shallots, carrots, leeks, bay leaves, etc, etc good things. The short rib is braised in this good liquid, and then the liquid and vegetables DISCARDED. The short rib is later enrobed in a delicious cream and mushroom sauce (which has also been refined, so plenty of flavor.)

I understand TK is all about refinement, but good grief. The waste! This is his home-cooking book. I see people on CH pouring good bottles of wine into this stuff. The fact is, the aromatics just flavor the braising liquid, which only sticks to the outside of the meat and has minimal effect on the flavor of the meat. I can understand making an awesome braising liquid if you're going to reduce it into a sauce. If you're going to throw it away, it'd be ALMOST as good if you just threw a bouillon cube into some cheap red wine-no need to reduce. The amount of salt is pretty much the most important thing.

I used to work for someone who has been on TCM. Our standard mirepoix recipe amount was 2 onions, 8 carrots, and some celery, for like 10-20 lbs of meat. Our braising red wine for boeuf bourguignon was Carlo Rossi jugs of burgundy (! He is from Burgundy.)

I don't mind if someone wants to go through all that work just to throw it away if they're looking for like a 2% improvement in the outcome. I just don't want people to think that if they don't have mushrooms or leeks, or good wine, they can't make good food.

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  1. I have not made or seen this recipe, but isn't the easy answer to save the braising liquid for something else? Just off the top of my head, brown some ground beef and throw the braising liquid in and serve over egg noodles.
    If TK can and will throw that liquid out, let him.
    I wouldn't, and it doesn't mean anyone else has to either.
    His cookbooks/tomes are not about shortcuts or budget cooking for that matter. I will say that I shall probably never, ever spend 4 hours caramelizing onions on the stove top for 4 hours in order to make French Onion Soup ;-)
    Regarding less costly ingredients- I agree. Leeks- sub in onions. Shallot? I usually have a red onion around that I'll use. Mushrooms- no sub there and their cost pisses me off, truth be told. Using the Carlo Rossi jug of burgundy-- brilliant.

    1. A few years ago the NY Times (I think) tested 3 wines for a beef braising--cheap but drinkable, moderate and expensive. A panel of tasters felt the "cheap" beef had the best flavor. It is thought that all the subtle flavors that make a great wine great are lost in a braising, whereas the simpler, bolder flavor of a cheap wine can stand up to the assault of time and temperature. I don't use 2 buck Chuck for my braisings, but I do stay around the $5 mark (from TJs) and it works well.

      As to the braising liquid, TK can afford to throw it out, I might repurpose it as the base for an onion soup--caramelizing time for onions is up to you.

      17 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        YES!!! I have made the ADAH recipe many times, and save the braising liqud for Onion soup. I enjoy a day of cooking, so a Dutch Oven full of slowly caramelising onions on a cold winter day is wonderous to me. 7 or 8 hours, typically.

        Add the reserved braising liquid, left over short ribs, and some cream- Boom!!! Amazing soup.

        Keller does not ever suggest to throw out the braising liquid, he simply says to reserve for another use. I typically go for the $15 range for a bottle of wine, but I live in Alberta Canada, so that accounts for the additonal 50-100% increase per bottle...

        Braising is one of my favorite winter methods to cook, and this recipe is definately one of the bes tI have ever tried.

        1. re: RodVito

          We Albertans must think alike! :-) The braising liquid indeed makes lovely stuff including what you mention. Plus you can throw it in with beef stews, pan sauces and so on. Heck, you can freeze it for use later on.

          1. re: chefathome

            For Albertans (and Canadians in general): I have found the YellowTail Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot blends to be great for braising (and not so terrible that you can't force a glass or two down during all that long, lazy, cabin-fever, snowed-in time you are waiting). They go for about $13.00 a bottle here in NS.

            I am sitting by my woodstove here on the East Coast right now, smelling lamb shanks braising their way to wonderful, in a puddle of YT Shiraz-Cab, with rosemary and spanish onion.

            That braise will reappear tomorrow, reduced and with a little of the lamb as a ragu over orrecchiette with kale and white beans.

            1. re: LJS

              Me, too! It's actually one of my favourites for braising - about the same price here, too. And you're right about the long, lazy, cabin-fever, snowed-in days (months) that seem to go on forever and ever and ever... But the long winters make for a long and delicious braising season!

              Those lamb shanks sound gorgeous. I'm braising pork shoulder today.

              1. re: LJS

                Also for Canadians in general: I highly recommend checking out Winexpert to make your own wine. All you have to do is be there at the bottling and slap the labels on. The result is very decent wine for $6/bottle on average (the second time around you can reuse the bottles and save $1/bottle).

          2. re: escondido123

            Wow, fantastic idea to use the braising liquid for onion soup!

            1. re: escondido123

              >>"I don't use 2 buck Chuck for my braisings"<<

              I do; it's my go-to cooking wine. And, coincidentally, the wine that a majority of the tasters in that New York Times article preferred.

              1. re: alanbarnes

                I have used the white but not the red since I really don't like the taste of it. I didn't remember that was the winner in the NY Times article! Will have to try it. Thanks.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Ditto to Alan's post. There's nothing wrong with two-buck Chuck - all it really does is pick up the flavors of the additional ingredients, and if those ingredients are plentiful, your braising liquid will be absolutely delicious.
                  That being said, I wouldn't attempt anything with Night Train or White Port. : )
                  Skidrow Stew. : )

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Sorry.. I know I'm slow. When you guys refer to "2 buck chuck", you are talking about Carlo Rossi jug burgundy, right?

                    When I was a 19 year old kid, it was just "Red Mountain" burgundy and it was $0.89 a gallon.
                    Kids used to get drunk on it...well they got drunk on it once. It was a bad, bad drunk.

                    BTW, I thought chefs said use wine you would drink an use the best wine you can afford.

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      Two buck Chuck comes from Trader Joe's. "Chuck" is Charles Shaw. http://hubpages.com/hub/Two_Buck_Chuc...

                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                        "Two Buck Chuck" is Charles Shaw - it's made by Bronco Wine Co. and sold exclusively at Trader Joe's. It comes in a standard 750ml bottle with a real cork and costs $1.99.

                        The NYTimes article effectively debunks the notion that more expensive wine produces a better finished dish. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/21/din...

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Great article! And we must remind people who don't live in CA that it's Three Buck Chuck in other states.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            No Trader Joes in Austin. So I really could use jug burgundy?

                            If so... I'll have to apologize to the guy or gal that was praising Coq au Vin. I said I didn't think chicken was worth spending $25 to make.

                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                              Yep. Any dry, fruit-forward wine with minimal or no oak will work fine. Back in the days before 2BC I made more than one batch of Boeuf [Hearty] Bourguignon.

                          2. re: Hank Hanover

                            In my opinion, if the wine is decent (not transcendent, not baby Jesus in velvet slippers sliding down your throat, but decent) it is just going to be a nice canvas for the aromatics and other et. cetera that you use in your braising liquid. The wine's character changes in the infusion and the cooking process anyway - your finished product is not what you started with. Using an expensive wine isn't necessary to a beautiful braise, and to me it's somewhat akin to ordering a cocktail made with Grey Goose Vodka and diet coke or kool-aid; I guess if you can afford it it's a nice thing to do, but.......(?)
                            We buy the best wine we can afford for quaffing purposes. If we have some left, I keep it for a braise or a stew, usually mixed with other half-inch leavings of red wine. But if I'm purchasing wine solely for the purpose of adding flavor, with all the other infusions, decent old pedestrian Chuck has it hands down.

                        2. re: escondido123

                          I agree, cheaper wines are preferable for braising. I also usually stick to TJ's or yellow tail. Works great.

                          I could never throw away all that good braising liquid. Not trying to get preachy here but it just seems kind of morally wrong to waste that much food.

                        3. Is Keller the chef who famously learned to kill his own rabbits--? I can't think that the same person would waste *anything*.
                          But maybe better wine for a 2% improvement IS something he'd insist on.
                          It's hard for me to include expensive items in a meal when the meal would be just fine without. Fancy mushrooms instead of button mushrooms, that kind of decision is hard for me. Yukon golds instead of the $2.99 for 15 lbs. kind of potato. Just today (in other threads) I heard someone wish they didn't have to toss oil used for deep fat frying (shrimp). And I read about a delicious method for asparagus -- but you have to heat your oven to 500F. I guess everyone makes his own decision.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: blue room

                            Curious, blue room, why you would hesitate to heat your oven to 500F to roast asparagus for 10 minutes? I'm not aware of any real loss of economy for heating it to a higher temperature (though I may be ignorant on that point), but then again, the asparagus roasts faster at high temp. so the oven needn't be on as long.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              I assume she meant heating an oven to 500 and then roasting asparagus would use more fuel than quickly boiling them in a little water.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                Well, roast asparagus tastes different from boiled or steamed, so they're not the same dish, if that's what br meant.

                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                  For me, when I can't get fresh, local asparagus, roasting is about the only thing that makes them good. Very different.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I adore asparagus...but roasted asparagus is sublime.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      I agree - roasted or grilled like most other veg. I love the char from the grill.

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      Roast local asparagus is even better! Best of both worlds.

                                2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  Well, I figure for the sake of about 10 stalks of asparagus (there are just two of us) I'm taking a 70 degree space up to 500 degrees--it seems like overkill. Vegetables steamed in the microwave retain flavor, and it's quick and cheap, better than boiling.
                                  But my thrift is horribly hit and miss -- time money food energy words -- I waste my share I'm sure!

                                  1. re: blue room

                                    I dn't think I ever cook less than a full one-pound bunch of asparagus even if I'm the only one eating it, but that's just me (I'm an asparagus gorger, eating it often during its brief local season, and don't buy it the rest of the year). What you say makes sense. I have steamed it in the microwave many, many times, but my most frequent cooking method, and I prefer the result to microwaving, is to lay it in a skillet, add about a quarter-cup of water (or sometimes dry vermouth), turn the heat med-high, slap a lid on, and let it cook 5 min. or so, until it's tender and the water is pretty much gone, then dress (or not). It's awfully good roasted, though and something that may be worth it especially if the oven is heated ror something else beforehand.

                                    And I hear you about fickle thrift; most of us are the same way, I'd wager.

                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      Me, too - I now live less than a half-hour from a big asparagus field. I start out buying the big fat white stalks, work my way through that, then the little skinny green ones (my favorites) then the big fat green ones.

                                      I think it's awfully nice that they planted that whole field just for me. ;)

                                    2. re: blue room

                                      Rather than a microwave, I have a toaster oven, and to get it up to broiling temperature for ten minutes is not such a big deal as if I were to do it "in the big oven".

                                3. Braising liquid, soaking/plumping liquids--add to soups, stews, ragu, risotto, other braises, beans; reduce and use to sauce something else.

                                  1. I NEVER throw away braising liquids like that. ALWAYS save them for another use.

                                    No one is twisting anyone's arm to toss it. You just have to learn to think for yourself when working a recipe, regardless of how high-brow its origin.

                                    1. Where does he say discard the strained liquid? Even if he does not need all the liquid for this dish (where the creaminess is supposed to dominate), it does not have to be thrown away.

                                      One online version (CBS) puts it this way: "Braised Beef Short Ribs (page 41), chilled, braising liquid reserved for another braise if desired "

                                      1. Ok, ok. So, no one here throws it away. My major point is actually that the flavor of the braising liquid contributes very little to the flavor of the meat.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: jaykayen

                                          "...the flavor of the braising liquid contributes very little to the flavor of the meat."

                                          That's a good point--using it for very little effect is sort of like wasting it to begin with. Maybe the ingredients could be used for something else, again, to begin with.

                                            1. re: monavano

                                              Braising something else! ;-)
                                              I dunno, more ribs?

                                              Even with a cheap marinade, I have been known to throw it in the freezer for re-use.

                                            2. re: jaykayen

                                              I disagree. I find the braising liquid contributes a fair amount of flavor of the meat.

                                              1. re: jaykayen

                                                Do what now? I respectfully disagree, jaykayen! IMO, the braising liquid is where the magic happens!

                                                1. re: jaykayen

                                                  Maybe it's a case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts?
                                                  I've seen Alton Brown disprove food myths, wine tasters get fooled by "inferior" wines, experts unable to tell imitation vanilla from the real stuff. I'm willing to be skeptical.
                                                  In this case, the nice tender meat is served with braising liquid under, over, and all around it -- so the question is moot?

                                                2. I am offended when any food is discarded no matter how inexpensive it was. I find new uses. But one can donate it. One of the worst offenders is Ina Garten, who's always advising to toss the vegetables and the chicken after making soup. She's supposed to be creative. There are too many hungry people all around us to do this!

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: bellaboa

                                                    You donate mushy flavorless vegetables after making stock?

                                                    1. re: bellaboa

                                                      I always eat the carrots and give the chicken to the feral cats since mine won't touch it.

                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                        My carrots are added to my dogs' meals. Man, they love it!

                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                          apparently none of you have college students....

                                                          we love it too!

                                                      2. re: bellaboa

                                                        Hungry people would have to fight my dogs for the stuff strained out of my stocks and soups. Even chicken bones - they crumble readily once they've been cooked for a while. I take everything that's left in the bottom of the pot and mix it up with leftover rice - the pups love it!

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          There's another thread about throwing stock bones to the neighborhood raccoons.

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            Not my neighbors, I hope. Must be the same $&@/! people who feed the seagulls at the beach.

                                                        2. re: bellaboa

                                                          I gotta admit I compost the veggies from stock, but my MIL does make a point to eat them, even cold, as a side dish.

                                                        3. I save braising liquid and make soup. Always the best soup you have ever eaten. Generally, I do strain out the now-completely-cooked veggies, and start with some new ones.

                                                          1. I have never understood cooking Coq au Vin. I certainly understand why a French farmers wife cooked it. She had an old rooster. She had a basement full of burgundy that she had made herself.

                                                            I wouldn't dream of using $20 worth of burgundy to cook a chicken even if you do use the braising liquid. I go with a chicken cacciatore. I am sure there are die hard Coq au Vin fans out there and we will hear from them.

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              Very interesting, Hank.

                                                              Three times this winter, I've gone to the store with a coq au vin shopping list, and three times I've come home with something completely different to make for dinner. I'd attributed this to the facts that (a) chicken has skeeved me out since I first read about "factory" chicken around 12 years ago, and (b) I don't drink, and don't really want to be around open bottles of wine.

                                                              But now that you mention it, I haven't felt like spending at least $10 on a bottle, either.

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                I used to make Coq au Vin in the US with a $5 bottle of wine ALL the time. I can't remember know the label, but it was French and while not terrific, was drinkable, and made a great sauce.

                                                                Doesn't have to be Burgundy...any oaked red will do. (the farm wives in the Languedoc and Provence and the Loire didn't use Burgundy, but they all made/make coq au vin!)

                                                              2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                How timely! I just made a FABULOUS rich & delicious Coq au Vin the other day (we had the leftovers last night for dinner), & I don't think the total cost was more than $25 for the whole thing. One chicken, pearl onions, button mushrooms, a California Burgundy, a dollop of cognac (which I did already have on hand), some chicken stock, dollop of tomato paste - it's Julia Child's recipe. Served it over egg noodles. Unbelievably rich, flavorful, aromatic, & even better the 2nd time around. While I also love Chicken Cacciatore, it's like comparing apples to oranges to say it's better than Coq au Vin simply because it may be a little more economical. The two dishes are COMPLETELY different. And since I also add dry red wine to my Cacciatore, the cost is pretty much the same when all is said & done. :)

                                                                1. re: Breezychow

                                                                  It's like comparing an $8 dish to a $25 dish. In my opinion a chicken dish isn't worth $25. However, you are free to do as you wish. I'm sure it is delicious.

                                                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                    How do you make a decent authentic "Chicken Cacciatore" for $8?? Enquiring minds would LOVE to know. Just off the top of my head you need at minimum a chicken, decent whole canned (or fresh) Italian plum tomatoes, fresh peppers, mushrooms, onions, dry red wine, oregano & other seasonings. I'd love to know what your $8 recipe consists of.

                                                                  2. re: Breezychow

                                                                    I may owe you an apology. Some other posters are saying it is fine to braise with cheap wine so if I wanted to make Coq au vin with jug burgundy at about $10/gallon then Coq au Vin wouldn't be a $25 dish and would consequently be worth it.

                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                      Hank - California jug Burgundy (Gallo usually) is exactly what I use, & the dish comes out to die for. Please try it some time - it's definitely worth it. Especially on a cold raw day. :)

                                                                  3. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                    Funny. : ) There seem to be lots of peasant dishes that are no longer affordable for lots of different reasons. Especially if you seek out high quality ingredients.

                                                                  4. I reread the OP in the TK Stroganoff thread, and see nothing about throwing away good bottles of wine. In the OP's version 1 bottle is reduced to a glaze; broth is added, presumably enough to braise the meat. My guess is that the end of the braise you would have a couple of cups of well flavored broth. There's nothing about discarding; it just isn't used further in this recipe. What's wasteful about that?

                                                                    Nor do I get the idea that " the flavor of the braising liquid contributes very little to the flavor of the meat."

                                                                    Are you sure this complaint wasn't triggered by some other recipe or discussion?

                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                      The VEGGIES, actually, are completely wasted. They contribute virtually NOTHING to the flavor of the beef. Half a bottle of wine is wasted (if you didn't reduce it, you could have drunk the other half.) Your time is mis-appropriated, since the effort to shop for ingredients, prep them, and reduce the wine is unnecessary since you weren't going to use this liquid in the final dish.

                                                                      The point of braising liquid flavor having virtually zero effect on the flavor of the meat comes from my experience. It isn't a complaint, it is just a note of my experience that I thought some people might be interested in.

                                                                      This is the Home Cooking board on CH, and while many of us are accomplished home cooks and professionals, I also see a lot of noobs who don't really know what's going on. And I just wanted to say that the refinements in restaurant cookbooks are a small improvement; in fact, some famous chefs don't believe in them, and that not that much effort is necessary to cook well at home. The first time I did the Suzanne Goin SS@L port short ribs, it took me over an hour just to prep veggies, caramelize them, brown the beef, deglaze pans, and reduce the wine.

                                                                      1. re: jaykayen

                                                                        You believe that braising liquid has "virtually zero effect on the flavor of the meat?" Then how is it when I cook beef with red wine and tomatoes it tasted different from when I cook it with porter and caramelized onions--and if I add carrots to the former it changes the flavor. Am I just hallucinating? Are we all just victims of a mass delusion?

                                                                        1. re: jaykayen

                                                                          If any of that were true, we'd all be boiling it in water.

                                                                          It's simply not true that they contribute nothing. Try it yourself. Next time you see a recipe calling for a braising liquid of wine and vegetables and herbs, just cook it in plain water. It's an easy experiment. (not cheap, but easy)

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            How true!!

                                                                            I may just be a silly uneducated novice who doesn't know ( or care ) what all those initials stand for, but in the 40 years or so i have been cooking I have certainly learned that what goes into braising liquid makes a difference and not just to a sauce.

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              As long as the water is salted.... yes.

                                                                              If you want the flavor of red wine and tomatoes, it would be easier to saute a few tomatoes, add red wine, reduce by half, and then toss your braised meat in it. Virtually the same effect.

                                                                              People put too much stock into this complex braising liquid thing.

                                                                              I guess I'll be going to make my birthday short ribs with red wine and a bouillon cube this weekend.

                                                                              1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                hogwash. Pure and simple.

                                                                                You run that experiment all you want, then go back and make it the right way...spending some time on it. Try it three ways if you really want...once with plain water, one with red wine and a bouillon cube, and once making the whole thing from scratch.

                                                                                You'll probably come back and say you couldn't tell the difference, but it would mean only that you're either lying or you actually have no taste buds.

                                                                                Braising in wine/beer and vegetables has been done for centuries, and was born of the need to make an otherwise edible cut palatable...the cheap tough cuts were chosen because that's all they could afford, and braising them in some vegetables and herbs made them taste good.

                                                                                I promise you that the farmhouse wives and innkeepers of yore didn't faff around putting wine/beer in the braising liquid because it impressed someone...they did it because it meant they could feed people otherwise inedible cuts of meat because it was tender and had FLAVOR.

                                                                                If it didn't add anything, they wouldn't have done it...and passed along the tradition for doing so...because they frequently didn't have the time or money to do it for sh*ts and giggles and impress each other.

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  I'm sure I didn't work for a James Beard nominated chef because I have no taste buds.

                                                                                2. re: jaykayen

                                                                                  Jaykayen, you seem to be having a hard time in this thread, but I'll come down on your side. Sorta anyway.

                                                                                  I've definitely found that acidic ingredients like wine and tomatoes come through strongly in a braise, even if the braising liquid doesn't make it to the final dish. Likewise the presence or absence of salt or sugar. But I wonder whether the people who are convinced that the vegetables add strong flavor to the meat have ever tried a braise without and compared. As you state, the effect is very subtle - detectable if the braising liquid is made into a sauce (and also on the meat in the form of tiny vegetable particles clinging to the meat's surface). There is also a nice aroma added while cooking that has minimal effect on the meat once it's removed from the braise.

                                                                                  But if your end dish uses other strong flavors and smells (as many braised dishes do and should), the subtle effect of vegetables in a no-longer-present braising liquid can be completely drowned out. Also, if you braise your meat in larger cuts rather than cutting it up, the braising liquid does little to flavor the bulk of it. Marinades have been shown to have little power to penetrate beyond the surfaces of meat. Braising is similar.

                                                                                  I mean, let's be honest - vegetables are traditional in braises because traditionally the braising liquid is used (where the vegetables are detectable). And also traditionally, onions, carrots and the like are cheap and on-hand. But you'd have to make a real strong onion stock to actually get that flavor to transfer to the meat in a significant way.

                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                    I've tried it both ways (sometimes not really intentionally, more like I forgot the veggies :P ) and there's no doubt in my mind that the vegetables make a difference.

                                                                                    Try it yourself and see.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      I have. My post is the result of trying it both ways.

                                                                                      Like I said, I suspect that some of the difference is that I might flavor completed dishes more aggressively than you do, which tends to cover the very subtle effect of veg on the meat.

                                                                                      And i didn't say there was no difference (though I will say that throwing an onion/carrot/etc or so into a braise of a, say, multi-kilo pork shoulder left whole will have no effect whatsoever on the majority of the meat unless you use a pressure cooker and also overcook it to hell). I said the effect is so subtle that it makes perfect sense for a cook to wonder if there is a better, less wasteful way to use said vegetables when there is no intention of using the braising liquid a base for a sauce.

                                                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                      YES! Acid like tomato or wines, definitely changes the flavor. Sugar will change the flavor. I've mentioned salt previously. Been at work and with family all day, haven't had time to clarify that acid and sugar also are noticeable, and it didn't seem like anyone cared.

                                                                                      Sugar. Acid. Salt. That's it.

                                                                                      1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                        The veggies used in braises *have* sugars and sodium in them, along with other components of flavor.

                                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    That had been my thought, sunshine. Why not just boil everything in water?

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      Between a braise in broth/stock and a braise in salted water.... no difference. I promise, it will be good. That is actually what I meant to say in my OP; at work, we braised in water with a comparatively small amount of veggies, like maybe half a gallon of vegetables to 8 gallons of water. I think my boss left it in more for tradition than any contribution to flavor, since we often did not use the resulting broth to make sauce.

                                                                                      Of course, if you wanted the acidity and sugar from wine or beer, that is a different animal. But once again, the veggies will have very minimal effect on your meat.

                                                                                      1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                        Well, when I braise pork shoulder with "Mexcian" seasonings, the meat definitely has the taste of the jalapenos, cumin, etc. The same when I use garlic, fennel seed, red pepper flakes. Go figure.

                                                                                  3. re: jaykayen

                                                                                    "The VEGGIES, actually, are completely wasted. They contribute virtually NOTHING to the flavor of the beef."

                                                                                    The veggies and wine/stock/tomato or whatever do add hugely to the flavor of the meat, especially when you braise a roast, say, take it out, reduce and puree the contents of the pot, then place the sliced meat back in it overnight or even briefly to reheat and eat.

                                                                                    Reduced and pureed braising liquid is about as good as life gets, culinarily speaking. :-)

                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                      ...and maybe not just culinarily speaking. : )

                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                        Right, but there you are eating 1/2 braising liquid and 1/2 meat, which is a little different from the trace amounts left by the OP's recipe which goes on to flavor the meat only with a second, contrasting, sauce.

                                                                                        In fact, in the situation you describe, more than the veggie flavor it's the vast amount of meat flavor that has escaped TO the braising liquid that's getting put *back* along with the meat that counts, I think.

                                                                                        1. re: lidia

                                                                                          Only if meat tastes really strongly of red wine, tomato and rosemary. :-)

                                                                                  4. Whenever i braise my short ribs I reduce the braising liquids prior to serving, fantastic flavors

                                                                                    I read Daniel Boulud's recipe which called for 3 bottles of wine and stopped reading. that is a waste of money and they may be better, but please 3 bottles?

                                                                                    I also think the braising liquid infuses tons of flavor in the meats. In fact my recipe calls for marinating the ribs for 12+ hours in a wine suger mixture prior to searing, and yes it does absorb the wine tor about 1/2" into the meat, another great flavor addition.

                                                                                    But i have to ask...what are TK, TCM, ADAH, SS@L, ? i think TK is Keller, SS@L is the cookbook like sundays at Lucs , but man this is confusing. :-)

                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                      I also noticed that this thread seemed heavy in cryptic acronyms. I gathered that TK meant Keller after it became clear that the acronym was to indicate a chef's name, but the remaining acronyms remain puzzling.

                                                                                      At least we're not in the military: those folks loves them some acronyms.

                                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                                          Peeled, Deveined and Quick Frozen?

                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                        TK = Thomas Keller
                                                                                        TCM = Top Chef Masters
                                                                                        ADAH = Ad Hoc at Home
                                                                                        SS@L= Sunday Suppers at Lucques

                                                                                        took me a minute to figure out all of them except TCM, and i do think all these acronyms were a bit much. only those of us who are familiar with these chefs, their cookbooks, and the cooking competitions on TV would have ANY idea what they're talking about!

                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                              ITAWFMTUBNID (It took a while for me to understand, but now I do.)

                                                                                      2. I'm peeved! I can't get past the ABBREVIATIONS in these posts. TK and TCM and ADAH??! I feel like a kid in junior high school who is trying to get into the popular clique and can't understand all their secret language. Sheesh and double sheesh!

                                                                                        The only abbreviation I DID get was the "NY" in "NY Times" Please take pity on us poor, lame bozos who aren't hip enough to understand. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                            Thank you oh goddess of food from the East!

                                                                                        1. A less blasphemous example, perhaps:

                                                                                          Brining. I once made this outrageous brine, the one out of Sunday Suppers at Lucques, that had fennel, carrot, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and juniper berries among the usual suspects.

                                                                                          My Niman Ranch porkchops sat in brine for 24 hrs. I cooked them to a lovely medium in my cast iron skillet. Did I detect any aromatics from all of those veggies and spices? Hah. Color me disappointed after that experiment. I might as well have dry-brined it in salt and some sugar.

                                                                                          Back to waste and braising:

                                                                                          Many refined recipes call for two batches of veggies, one for the intial braise which results in a mush you may throw out, and then a second batch which will retain enough texture to eat. I say, skip the first, just do the second.

                                                                                          I've worked at another restaurant that would use 6 GALLONS of mirepoix for perhaps 30-40 lbs of meat. The meat was slathered in the stuff. We did not use the resulting broth. This is a huge waste that comes from a common misconception.

                                                                                          18 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                            First off, you're correct -- salt and sugar are the most important components of a BRINE. A brine works completely differently than a braise, because you're talking about hydration, rehydration, membranes and osmosis. It's an entirely separate treatment for meat (I suppose you could brine and then braise, but it'd be weird, and possibly just mushy. Brine and roast, absolutely)

                                                                                            Second of all, you started out talking about how there's no point in putting anything in the braising liquid, and now you're talking about using bouillon and tomatoes to flavor your braising liquid.

                                                                                            Are you confusing braising with brining, or have you changed your mind about using flavored braising liquid?

                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              No, I'm sorry. I am talking about how much aromatic flavors in a liquid flavors meat, and an aromatic brine is an example of that, as well as a braise. The bouillon is really just for the salt, since I maintain that aromatic flavors do not penetrate meat by any noticeable amount, but I thought it might make it easier for the nonbelievers to swallow.

                                                                                              Many chefs say that flavor compounds can travel across cell membranes, piggy backing on the salt.

                                                                                              1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                But braising and brining are two very different things -- the chemistry is completely different. I completely agree with you that the aromatics aren't the crucial part of a brine. It's all about moving salt and moisture and sugar across cell membranes.

                                                                                                That's a COMPLETELY different thing than cooking something in a broth containing vegetables. If your former boss really cooked that much meat in that much liquid and that small an amount of aromatics, it's no wonder you're nonplussed.

                                                                                                Next time you're braising, forget the bouillon -- make it with lots of aromatic vegetables and herbs and some drinkable wine...you'll be happily surprised with the difference.

                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  I wonder how much rosemary or carrots one would taste in a piece of braised beef that is completely removed from the braising liquid (i.e. removed and lightly rinsed). I don't recall intentionally trying this, but my intuition is that the penetration of aromatics into an intact piece of meat is not very deep.

                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                    but who rinses their braised meat? and why would you want to?

                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      It's a thought experiment, trying to address this issue of whether the flavorings in the braising liquid make a big difference in the flavor of the meat. No doubt they make a big difference in the flavor of the combination. But what if they are separated? A lot of meat flavor (fat, juices and gelatin) has entered the sauce; but what about the reverse?

                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                        I think the braising makes the meat tender by breaking down the connective tissue. The varied and very flavored braising liquid is what flavors the meat--but mostly by being on it and around it, not IN it.

                                                                                                  2. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                    jaykayen, give Thomas Keller's fried chicken a try if you haven't already. If you follow the recipe and give it the full brine time, I'd be extremely surprised if you couldn't taste the bay, garlic, rosemary and other aromatics in the finished chicken. Really delicious.


                                                                                                    1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                      >>"I maintain that aromatic flavors do not penetrate meat by any noticeable amount"<<

                                                                                                      I've found that the aromatics in my brines penetrate the meat better if I can get them water-soluble. Try covering the herbs and spices with vodka and letting them sit overnight to extract the essential oils. Dump the whole thing in the brining liquid and the flavors come through loud and clear in the finished dish.

                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                        Just a home cook here, but aromatics used in stew/ braise should cook in a little oil first to release their flavors?
                                                                                                        I understand that a brine is Different -- what a good idea to allow the flavor to be carried into the meat that vodka way.!
                                                                                                        I suppose chicken and beef react to brines differently? Will chicken suck up more than beef or vice-versa because of its physical structure?

                                                                                                        1. re: blue room

                                                                                                          Sometimes spices are fried or toasted to 'do something' to the aromas. They do smell different when heated like this, but it is harder to say what is happening. The molecules that you smell at the start of cooking are not longer around at the end.

                                                                                                          Sauteing things like onions and carrots does several things: it softens them (vegetables soften much faster at boiling or above than below boiling), it drives off some excess moisture, and if done long enough caramelizes them, creating new flavors. But some of those things happen during the braise as well.

                                                                                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                          It's an intriguing idea but how would it work? Steeping the herbs in alcohol might get their flavor into the brine itself better but the meat itself is full of non-water-soluble fat.

                                                                                                          If it really works I'm all ready to try it but I just don't entirely understand how it would work.

                                                                                                          1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                                                                            The aromatics in spices tend to be oil-based. And as we all know, oil and water don't mix. But oil and alcohol do. It's easy to infuse vodka with the essence of whatever spices you want to use.

                                                                                                            And alcohol and water mix easily, too. So when you put the spice-infused vodka into your brine, the water holds hands with the alcohol which holds hands with the oil. (Another practical application - back in the day we used to add a quart of denatured alcohol to a tank of gas to get rid of condensation. The gasoline would bind to the alcohol, the alcohol would bind to the water, and the mixture would get drawn into the engine, where the water turned to steam and exited via the exhaust pipe.)

                                                                                                            Brining is an osmotic process; unsalted water is drawn out of meat and replaced by the salted water it's soaking in. As that salted water brings along the essential oils of herbs and spices, those flavors begin to permeate the meat.

                                                                                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                            Yes, actually, great idea about the vodka, especially for the juniper berries.

                                                                                                            1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                              What about the juniper berries???

                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                Flavor of the juniper berries can be extracted by using alcohol.

                                                                                                                1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                                  Isn't vodka made with juniper berries? I would think you could make a tea with water and your favorite herbs and use that tea to make the brine. The salt would carry the herb flavor into the meat with it. I suspect.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Hank Hanover


                                                                                                                    And, I did steep the spices in boiling water before adding it to the brine. No real difference in flavor.

                                                                                                    2. The OP could have raised the question of whether, when using a rich finishing sauce, does the flavoring of the braising liquid matter that much. It wasn't necessary to make a big deal about throwing away expensive vegetables and wine. There are plenty of examples of traditional dishes that cook meat in a simple liquid, and finish it with a savory sauce. The classic mole poblano comes to mind. Most tongue dishes follow this pattern. Same for tripe dishes. You could even claim Mexican carnitas follows this, whether using the lard or water simmer.

                                                                                                      1. If I were doing the cooking, I wouldn't include the mushrooms with the braising. But I'd braise the meat and the rest of the veggies as directed. When the meat was cooked, I'd remove the bay leaves and any excess fat floating on the top. Then, with an immersion blender I'd puree the now-mushy vegetables along with the braising liquid. Separately, I'd saute the mushrooms in a little butter and EVOO, then add the cooked 'shrooms to the gravy. Slice the meat (if necessary), re-heat it in the gravy, and serve. YUM!!!

                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                          What would you do if the goal was tender short ribs (or other beef cut like that) served with a mushroom and sour cream sauce? That is, a sauce that can't be based directly on the braising liquid.

                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                            I have just such a recipe, for brisket. I now omit the cream part and the horseradish, and it's still a wonderful dish that I've used for short ribs, too:


                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                              sure it can -- you're describing stroganoff...which is *usually* based on the braising liquid, and creme fraiche whisked in just before serving. Mushrooms can be either added to the braise or sauteed in butter and added at the end.

                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                There are two schools of thought on stroganoff. One that any meat works, the other that it has to be a tender cut that is cooked quickly. With the 2nd, there is no braising liquid. However the earliest printed recipe does call for a glass of beef broth. TK's fancy recipe is a spin off from the 1st type. His mother probably used ground beef.

                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                  Seems a bit of a waste or at least an extravagance to use tenderloin in Beef stroganoff, which is probably why the Czars liked it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                    How else would you use beef tenderloin, especially the pieces that are too small to roast whole, or cook as steaks. It was those trimmings that my father (no czar) used for a stroganoff like dish, when he bought and cut a whole tenderloin. But that was in a time and place where beef tenderloin was a lot cheaper. The closest I come is pork tenderloin.

                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                      Do you make a stroganoff with pork tenderloin? I would think that would be good. It seems to me, I made one like that once.

                                                                                                                      If I was going to make a beef stroganoff, I would either use sirloin and just live with the fact that it wasn't going to be as tender as tenderloin or I would use chuck or round and braise it. Sort of like Swiss steak where you add sour cream at the last.

                                                                                                                      I do like the references to other threads... nice touch. You too, Monovano :-D

                                                                                                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                        High-five-same wavelength on using the lesser cut of chuck. I just count on having to braise it, but it's cubed and doesn't take all that long to get tender.

                                                                                                          2. This is not true, otherwise people would have stopped making court bouillon ages ago.

                                                                                                            1. Freeze it and reuse it. Any braising liquid.

                                                                                                              1. Braised beef shank last week in carrots, onion, celery, bay leaf, mushrooms, herbed tomatoes and red wine. Served it with polenta, some of the braising liquid and veg, gremolata sprinkled on top and a salad. Maybe it's my imagination but that meat was far more tasty moist and tender than boiled salted beef. And I like boiled salted beef.

                                                                                                                The leftover braised veg and liquid were used another night to poach boneless chicken breasts in. Didn't notice it had much effect on the breasts themselves flavor wise but I had it and used it. Sliced and crisp fried the polenta for a side. Still good.

                                                                                                                Another night I used the leftover braised veg and liquid to poach eggs in and served that over noodles. That was really good.

                                                                                                                In it's last incarnation I pureed the braised veg and liquid, thinned it with some turkey stock and half and half, added a little curry to taste along with the leftover noodles and diced leftover chicken. That and a salad was a quick supper.

                                                                                                                Ya know, I'm just not seeing any waste.

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                  morwen, you are inspiring. I really like that poached egg idea.

                                                                                                                  1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                    Ooohhh...poaching the eggs in braising liquid is genious. Thanks for that.

                                                                                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                      Thank you for the egg idea. What a nice meal that must be.

                                                                                                                    2. Great base for homemade minestrone or beef/noodle/mushroom soup.