We’re back with another cooking lesson and Le Creuset giveaway! This time with my favorite cooking method: braising. Why is it my favorite? Because it so definitively expresses what real cooking is: transformation.

Great cooking is about transforming something that would be unpleasant to eat into something exquisite. In my view, grilling a steak is not cooking, it’s heating. That’s not to diminish grilling steaks—one of my favorite activities and foods to eat. It can be done well or poorly, but it doesn’t transform food, which is what truly inspires me in the kitchen. To transform pork shoulder into a sausage is cooking. Whether caramelizing onions to develop their sweetness or toasting seasonings in a pan to grind and create a curry, that’s cooking.

And braising, transforming tough cuts of meat into meltingly tender mouthfuls of pleasure—that is cooking.

In the above video, I talk about the steps of proper braising, but I also talk about the pot, which I didn’t even know existed till they gave it to me. It’s called a braiser, but really, you could do anything in it, make a stew or roast a chicken or make a soup. It’s a fabulous, fabulous piece and Le Creuset will be giving away TEN of them, just as they chose ten people at random who filled out the simple entry form on their site for the previous giveaway.

I will braise only in Le Creuset because the enameled cast-iron is basically a nonstick surface but also lets you develop a fond, the great brown stuff that remains in the pan, and browns the meat beautifully. The vessel goes from the stove top, where you start the braise, into the oven, and it’s a beautiful vessel to serve from.

Go to Le Creuset and enter to win yours.

Here’s the link to the details on how I got myself into this if you want to know, or to learn more about Le Creuset’s offer, or to watch the first technique on how to bake professional-caliber bread in a Le Creuset French Oven. (And congrats to Lily Mathews Naidu, of Pleasant Grove, UT, Matt Schunke, of St. Louis, MO, and Evita G., of Decateur, GA, among the ten winners of the awesome Le Creuset French Oven.)

There’s a great recipe on the Le Creuset site for short ribs, the one I demo in the video, which uses canned tomatoes that are pureed (I misspoke, by the way—they weren’t “fresh” tomatoes, of course. I meant to say it was a freshly made sauce using raw canned tomatoes). This recipe is from the chapter called “Braise” in my book Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, a Cook’s Manifesto. This one uses red wine as the cooking medium.

Red Wine–Braised Short Ribs

  • Canola oil
  • All-purpose/plain flour
  • 8 beef short ribs
  • 2 large onions, cut into large dice
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch/2.5-centimeter pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste/puree
  • 3 cups/720 milliliters Zinfandel or other fruit-heavy red wine
  • 1 garlic head, halved horizontally
  • One 1-inch/2.5-centimeter piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/3 cup/75 milliliters honey
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns, cracked beneath a sauté pan
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound/455 grams mushrooms, seared

Gremolata

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated or minced lemon zest
    1. In a Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot, add enough oil to reach 1/4 inch/6 millimeters up the sides and heat over high heat. Put some flour on a plate. Dredge the short ribs in the flour, shaking off the excess. When the oil is hot, add the ribs and brown on all sides. You may need to do this in batches; you don’t want to crowd the pan, or the ribs won’t brown. Remove the ribs to a plate lined with paper towels/absorbent paper. (This can be done a day before cooking the ribs; cover them and refrigerate until you’re ready to proceed).
    2. Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C/gas 1/2.
    3. Wipe the pot clean and sauté half of the onions in a film of oil over medium heat until softened. (Refrigerate the remaining onions until needed.) Add a four-finger pinch of salt and stir. Add half of the carrots (refrigerate the remaining carrots until needed) and the celery and cook for about 4 minutes longer. The longer you cook the vegetables, the deeper the flavor of the sauce will be. For intensely deep flavor, cook until the carrots and onions are browned. Add the tomato paste/puree and cook to heat it.
    4. Nestle the ribs in the pot. Add the wine (it should come three-fourths of the way up the ribs), garlic, ginger, and bay leaves. Season with a three-finger pinch of salt and add the honey and peppercorns. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a parchment round or a lid set ajar, and slide into the oven  Cook the ribs for 4 hours.
    5. Remove the pot from the oven and allow the ribs to cool, covered. When the ribs are cool enough to handle, put them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap/cling film, and refrigerate.  Strain the cooking liquid into a tall vessel (a 4-cup/96-milliliter glass measuring cup is best), cover, and refrigerate. When the liquid is chilled, remove the congealed fat and discard.
    6. Melt the butter in your braising pot. Add the reserved onions and carrots and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the ribs to the pot and add the seared mushrooms. Add the reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until the carrots are tender and the ribs are heated through, about 15 minutes.
    7. Make the Gremolata: In a small bowl, stir the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest until evenly distributed. Serve the short ribs with the carrots, onions, mushrooms, and sauce. Garnish with the gremolata.

Other links you may like:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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20 Wonderful responses to “Le Creuset Giveaway: The Way to Braise”

  • Andre Reis

    Really enjoyed the video. Two quick questions:
    - What’s the size of the braiser you’re using in the video? I can’t tell if it’s the 3.5qt or the 5qt.
    - In the video, you mention 300ºF as the perfect temperature for braising, but the recipe says 250ºF. Were the cooking times different, perhaps?

    • Michael Ruhlman

      It’s the big one, 5qt, and fabulous. 300 is correct! 250 will work but takes more time! thanks for the catch!

      • Mantonat

        I was actually going to thank you for listing 250F as a good braising temperature. I’ve seen so many recipes where the temp is listed at 325 or even 350, which is just too high to get tough meats tender while allowing the liquids to absorb into the meat. I don’t mind the extra cooking time as long as the results are superior.

      • Andre Reis

        Gah, you tease us with a 5qt beautiful Caribbean-blue braiser, but Le Creuset doesn’t even sell it! They only have Caribbean blue on the 3-1/2qt.

        What a shame, I really wanted to get exactly the one you used here.

  • Tasha Jaeger

    I love braising – for my wedding I made braised brisket (yes, I catered my own wedding). I can imagine that this pot would be wonderful for brisket or my personal favorite pork belly. Thanks for another great recipe/video and giveaway!

  • *susan*

    I have owned a brasier for years. Short ribs are good, but braised duck legs ragu is still my favorite “special” foods, or a lamb shoulder provençal, or… I love a good braise. I admit it.

  • erik

    hey michael – one question i always have with braising recipes. many of them call for cooling the meat in the liquid, and there is usually not enough liquid to cleanly remove the fat. i like that you separate in the recipe above, as it makes my life easier, but does the meat lose anything? does it matter what cut or type of meat?

    thanks!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      not as long as you cover immediately with plastic and fridge. it’s a great way to defat a braise.

  • Andrew

    If grilling a steak is heating and not cooking, then roasting a chicken is also heating and not cooking. This would go against your own antidote to people complaining about not having time to cook (http://ruhlman.com/2010/01/america-too-stupid-to-cook/). By grilling a steak you are indeed transforming it from a less appetizing raw piece of meat into a delicious, juicy, warm, Maillardized cut that looks, smells, and tastes exquisite in comparison to its raw, relatively unpleasant predecessor. That’s cooking. Your definition of cooking above is too narrow. Yes, braising a tough cut into something tender or caramelizing onions may be more subtle and transformative methods of cooking than grilling a steak. But sourcing good meat, selecting the right cut of steak, seasoning it properly, knowing to warm it up towards room temperature, properly choosing the type of heat and vessel (e.g., hot grill or cast iron skillet), monitoring its progress and knowing how much heat should be applied and for how long, letting it rest for an appropriate length of time. Sorry, Michael, that’s cooking. And diminishing the thought that goes into such a process runs against your own advice to always THINK, which is one of the main elements that define cooking. You could just mindlessly grab any piece of meat and thoughtlessly heat it, but it’s not going to turn out as well if you don’t think. Better to keep encouraging people to cook for themselves and keeping that definition broad, rather than claiming that it’s not cooking if it’s not a mind-blowing transformation with an exquisite result.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      You can eat and enjoy a raw steak, but not a raw chicken!

      I was trying to make a point. But I agree with you that best to keep cooking definition broad. Your point is duly noted.

      • Andrew

        You can eat raw chicken!!! Your pal Bourdain did just that eating chicken sashimi on No Reservations. And not to beat a dead horse, because you graciously acknowledged my point (which directly benefits you as one whose livelihood is based on encouraging people to cook), but had you maintained that cooking be defined by transformation, you would be left in the unfortunate position of having to argue that microwaving a bag of popcorn kernels (which is extremely transformative) is a higher form of cooking than grilling a steak!

    • Scordo

      Well said, Andrew. If the above were true in relation to the Italian culinary tradition then most of the food produced in the country would not come about via “real cooking.”

  • Tim

    Gremolata is the step I always forget but it adds so much freshness. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Wendy Smith

    I have used the recipe in the Silver Palate cookbook, the original one, for years. My husband loves, loves, loves braises. I think I might try the separation/refrigeration idea as it can be a bit greasy. Thanks! (Hope I win!)

  • RanchoDeluxe

    Love this – love my kiwi green Le Creuset braiser. Stove, oven, kamado oven. You’d have to pry mine out of my cold, dead hands…

  • Victoria

    I also love my red Le Creuset 5-quart braiser. My favorite braise is a pot roast using chuck from the really good butcher in the market at Grand Central. Yum, yum, yum – perfect for this time of the year. Your recipe sounds good, and I have some homemade tomato paste; this would be a perfect use for it. Thanks.

  • Anthony Garzia

    Michael, nice braised short rib but with winter coming and comfort food as a necessity. It would have been an awesome video and recipe if you showed Osso Bucco( my favorite braise). Not only fun to cook but the pleasure in your guests faces when they indulge in the meal.

  • Pat Barnes

    I am going to cook this later in the day. I realize now that the actual recipe is VERY different from the video! You show a can of toms in the vid..no mention of them in the written recipe. Plus a lot of other deviations. The recipe is a lot more complicated that the video would lead one to believe. Since I already bought the short ribs,I am going to trt it anyway.