If your goal is to become become a zen master cook like sneff, you need to be able to create your own recipe. In order to create your own recipe, you must understand the principles of basic cooking methods. Braising is one of the most basic methods of preparing food. It involves cooking meat or vegetables in a small amount of liquid at a medium heat for a long period of time. Braising is suitable for all cheap cuts of meat that have a lot of connective tissue and other things that make meat tough. Chicken legs, pork shoulder, beef short ribs, and lamb shanks are all things that lend themselves to braising.
The steps involved in braising are as follows:
- Brown the meat
- Sweat the vegetables that you will use to flavor the stock
- celery, carrots, onions, leeks, tomatoes, shallots, green peppers, apples, lemon zest, bamboo shoots, scallions, juniper berries, pitted prunes
- Bloom the spices
- marjoram, tarragon, cardamon, garlic, basil, oregano, caraway seeds, ginger, thyme, red currant jelly, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
- Add 1 cup flavoring liquid to the spices
- Put it all in a deep cast iron pot with just enough stock to cover 1/3 to 1/2 of the meat
- Cook it in the oven, unlidded,for 2-3 hours at 350 F
- Reduce the stock to make a pan sauce
- Garnish with tasty tidbits
Of course, I am not suggesting you take all the ingredients listed and throw them into a big pot. The next step in being able to cook without recipes is to develop a relationship with your ingredients, to know which spice goes with what meat, how to create an asian flavor, and finally, how to coax a delightful flavor out of what ever is is season or is cheap. Because to me, cooking without recipes is to be able to buy whatever is cheap at the store and still make desirable food out of it.
If you want to see this methodology in action check out the recipe for Braised chicken with capers and olives.