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Robin Garr

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Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Robin Garr » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:32 pm

I'm pulling this one out of "what's cooking" in hope of discussing whether others have tried a technique I've been fooling with lately.

I've been experimenting with a procedure for cooking vegetables that concentrates their flavor by braising them with aromatics in a very small amount of liquid that remains in the dish, so no flavor or nutrients are lost by pouring off liquid after simmering or steaming. This approach has proved amazing with lima beans and very good with green beans.

Tonight it's fresh asparagus tips braised with browned onions and garlic, tossed with spaghetti, a free-range egg, black pepper and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mary said it's the best asparagus pasta she's ever had. :oops:

So, have any of you been doing this for ages and I'm just now catching up? Or should I patent the technique? :mrgreen:

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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Karen/NoCA » Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:05 pm

No sure if I understand exactly how you do the process...here is what I do and you can tell me if this is it. I sauté certain veggies in a little olive oil, sometimes with butter. I like for the veggie to turn a brilliant green. At this point I add garlic, and herbs. If I find the veggie is not a the crisp stage I prefer, I may add just a little water or stock, put the lid on just for a minute or two. It is a tricky balance to get it just right, so as not to over cook the veggie. Asparagus usually browns a little...other veggies such as green beans, broccoli rabe I don't brown. I like doing carrots this way, corn, zucchini and other summer squashes.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Robin Garr » Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:27 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:I sauté certain veggies in a little olive oil, sometimes with butter. I like for the veggie to turn a brilliant green. At this point I add garlic, and herbs. If I find the veggie is not a the crisp stage I prefer, I may add just a little water or stock, put the lid on just for a minute or two. It is a tricky balance to get it just right, so as not to over cook the veggie. Asparagus usually browns a little...other veggies such as green beans, broccoli rabe I don't brown. I like doing carrots this way, corn, zucchini and other summer squashes.

That's pretty much it, Karen! The only things I'm doing a little different are (1) start with some well-browned onions, garlic, maybe a little fresh ginger in the mix, things that will add bold aromatics to the finished dish; and (2) so far I've been doing this mostly for veggies like limas or green beans that can stand a little cooking time, which allows the flavors of the aromatics to get into the veggie while it cooks covered at fairly low heat after the initial saute.

Basically, though, it sounds like a similar approach. The key concept to me is NOT simmering veggies in a lot of water that gets poured off and takes nutrients and flavors with it when it goes, but rather concentrating those good things in the food and keeping it there.

I agree that timing is an issue. Overcooked veggies are no fun. But I think the picture speaks for itself ... the asparagus probably braised for five to seven minutes, but it's still green, tender but still firm.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Howie Hart » Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:42 pm

Not what you are doing at all, but somewhat along the same line of reasoning, I often steam veggies, especially potatoes for mashed potatoes or potato salad. I use a pasta basket for this with about an inch of water in the bottom of the pan. I steamed asparagus and topped with hollandaise for Easter dinner. I feel steaming is better than braising for retaining and not diluting the flavors.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Jenise » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:01 pm

I wouldn't call it braising it's a short vs. long process, but what you're doing is essentially what Chinese cooks have been doing for years: add aromatics to a pan with a little fat, season with salt and sometimes sugar too, add the principal vegetable(s) and then a small amount of water or broth to steam the veggies open-pan (or, wok). Some of the liquid will evaportate but most will concentrate and carry the flavors of the aromatics into the vegetables. Ideally you end up with perfect al-dente vegetables and maybe a tablespoon of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Robin Garr » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:13 pm

Jenise wrote:I wouldn't call it braising it's a short vs. long process, but what you're doing is essentially what Chinese cooks have been doing for years:

Well, yeah, sort of similar, but it's technically a braise the way I've been doing it: First sautee the aromatics; then put in the veggies and lid ON during a low-temp simmer so there is a lot of concentration of flavor but very little dilution. It works amazingly with limas and has been pretty effective with green beans and asparagus. I don't think I'd use it with just any veggie - spinach would just fall apart, I guess :lol: - but in these instances it has given very good results. You don't get a crisp just-cooked effect, but the veggie stays firm-tender, doesn't lose much of its green (see the asparagus photo) and develops a lot of flavor.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Robin Garr » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:16 pm

Yeah, I'd say it is a braise. Admitted, the "lengthy period of time" shrinks from an hour to five minutes, but that's because I'm consciously converting a meat technique to certain veggies.

braise
Pronunciation: [BRAYZ]

A cooking method by which food (usually meat or vegetables) is first browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a lengthy period of time. The long, slow cooking develops flavor and tenderizes foods by gently breaking down their fibers. Braising can be done on top of the range or in the oven. A tight-fitting lid is very important to prevent the liquid from evaporating.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Read more at: http://www.foodterms.com/encyclopedia/b ... c=linkback
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Christina Georgina » Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:44 am

My "in a hurry " broccoli is done this way with lemon juice, a bit of butter and water, finished off with lemon zest and a splash of fresh lemon juice at the end.

I do a long braise for some vegetables in the Italian style of Agro Dolce....sweet, sour. This is especially good with cippolini , the small, flat onions that are now easier to find in the market. This is just fantastic with any roasted meat.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Joy Lindholm » Sun Apr 14, 2013 3:08 pm

Robin, I believe the technique you are referring to is glazing. If I'm following you correctly, you saute veggies in a pan of hot oil, so you may begin to get some brown bits on the bottom of the pan, as you would with meat). You add liquid (water, stock, or I like to use a splash of vinegar) to de-glaze the pan, and simmer until most of the liquid is gone and you are left with a concentrated glossy layer over the veggies that you are cooking. The key is to keep the veggies moving around the pan, so that glaze covers them evenly. Mushrooms are also really easy (and delicious) to make this way. Is this what you are doing?
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Jenise » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:42 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Yeah, I'd say it is a braise. Admitted, the "lengthy period of time" shrinks from an hour to five minutes, but that's because I'm consciously converting a meat technique to certain veggies.


You're ignoring intention, Robin. The desirable and correct result of braising, of long-cooking, is well-done, fork-tender meat. Not rare, the equivalent in meat terms of what you seek with these vegetables. I agree with Joy, it's glazing.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Robin Garr » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:15 am

Jenise wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:I agree with Joy, it's glazing.

I guess I'm not expressing myself clearly. :(

It's not a glaze. No glaze results from this process. The veggies don't come out coated in a thick syrup. I'm just taking a braise technique but applying it, and converting it, with veggies as the center or attention rather than meat.

I dunno. I like it and I'm going to keep on doing it. But it isn't a glaze.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Joy Lindholm » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:49 pm

Robin Garr wrote:The veggies don't come out coated in a thick syrup.


I'm not talking about "honey-glazed ham" thick glaze. The glaze is the thin, glossy sheen that the veggies take on after being sauteed in the pan with the reduced aromatic liquid. This is a common technique used in professional kitchens. Perhaps we are arguing semantics at this point, but I agree with Jenise - braising is for long, low and slow cooking to tenderize a tough cut of meat.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Jenise » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:07 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Jenise wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:I agree with Joy, it's glazing.

I guess I'm not expressing myself clearly. :(

It's not a glaze. No glaze results from this process. The veggies don't come out coated in a thick syrup. I'm just taking a braise technique but applying it, and converting it, with veggies as the center or attention rather than meat.

I dunno. I like it and I'm going to keep on doing it. But it isn't a glaze.


A glaze does not have to be a thick syrup. It does not have to be applied. But in fact your combination of fat+aromatics+liquid creates the glaze and you're finishing the vegetables in it. If you were to remove your vegetables and then put liquid in the pan to float and or reduce any fond, you would be DE-glazing.

Braising requires long cooking, period.
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Robin Garr » Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:07 pm

Jenise wrote:Braising requires long cooking, period.

I'm getting to be kind of sorry I posted this. :roll:
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Joy Lindholm » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:22 pm

Robin Garr wrote:I'm getting to be kind of sorry I posted this. :roll:


Perhaps your next post on the "What's Cooking" page should be how to prepare a can of worms. :lol: Sorry, Robin. I couldn't resist!
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Re: Braising veggies with aromatics to concentrate flavor

by Robin Garr » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:59 pm

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