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Feb 18, 2011 11:28 AM

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.

                      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.

                        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.