Monday, February 28, 2005

Braising With Shao Xing Cooking Wine

Braising is a wonderful and rewarding cooking method. Simply seek out the toughest cut of meat you can find - beef blade is a great cut to start with. Make sure the cut comes with bone-in and lots of connective tissue (gristle). Brown the meat in a hot pan with some olive oil and salt and pepper; when you think it has browned enough, let it brown just a bit longer (the carmelisation here is the key to the eventual flavour). Remove the meat and put some mirepoix (diced carrots, celery, and onion) into the same pan. When this mixture is soft, place the browned meat on top, and de-glaze with some tasty wine and stock. Add garlic, bay leaves and some thyme.The choice of wine is yours - I like Italian reds from Abruzzo; my top choice is Shao Xing cooking wine from China. It is important to only add enough liquid to cover half the meat/mirepoix layer. After 30-40 minutes of cooking on low heat in the covered pan, turn the meat over and cook for another 30-40 minutes. Take the meat out and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid and reduce it by about 2/3. Reducing the liquid is simple but requires a bit of attention. Put it in a pan on high and watch it reduce. It will at some point change viscosity quite suddenly; from a watery liquid to a dark syrup-like sauce. When this happens, you are done; take it of the heat immediately and test for seasoning. Slice the meat thinly and serve with the reduction. Heaven!

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