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.

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