Summer’s usually considered the season for entertaining thanks to warm weather and the fun of grilling. The chillier months may just have the advantage when it comes to feeding a crowd, and it has everything to do with slowly cooked main courses. No matter what type of meat you braise, you’ll wind up with something elegant and perfectly cooked every time. You just can’t achieve that level of consistency when trying to flip burgers, chicken, and steak in your backyard.
Braising is also a perfect method for days when you’re flying solo because leftovers can easily morph into different meals. Shred the meat for sandwiches, soups, tacos, or anything else you can dream up. Best of all, braising works well for just about any of your favorite proteins. Add these six recipes to your repertoire to stay warm and well fed.
1. Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder
Pork chops and applesauce are delicious combo that many turn to again and again. After so many years of cooking the same meal, it just doesn’t hold the same appeal. Using some of the same flavors and a method that’s just as easy, this braised pork with cider and dried fruit from Every Day with Rachael Ray is a welcome way to shake things up. Just sear the pork, then transfer it to a slow cooker along with some onions, celery, raisins, dried apples, and cider. Pop the lid on, let it cook, and you’re good to go.
A few easy sides are all you need to turn this dish into a complete meal. Something creamy would be great to soak up the sauce, so go for mashed potatoes or a quick-cooking polenta. For a super fast side, toss a salad of thinly sliced celery, some parsley leaves, and a quick dressing made with lemon juice and olive oil.
- 1 (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 cup apple cider
- 6 ounces dried apples
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon ground sage
Directions: Season pork with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add pork roast and cook, turning once, until browned, about 15 minutes.
Grease the inside of a large slow cooker. Add onions and celery. Arrange pork on top and pour in the cider. Scatter apples and raisins over the top and sprinkle with sage. Cover and cook on low heat until tender, about 5 hours.
Transfer pork to a cutting board and thickly slice. Skim fat from sauce and serve with pork, fruit, and veggies.
2. Beer-Braised Brisket
Good quality beef can be pretty pricey. Luckily, brisket is still a pretty affordable cut and it’s as tasty as any steak when cooked properly. All you need is a little bit of patience and a few flavorful ingredients to make it shine. See for yourself with Cooking Light’s brisket cooked in pale ale. It’s nothing more than the booze, beef, some simple veggies, and a few seasonings.
Since you’ve already saved a few bucks on the meat, you can afford to invest a little more in a good brew. It doesn’t have to be outlandishly expensive, but the flavors will concentrate as it cooks, so go with something you’d actually drink. If you’re struggling to find a place that sells quality brews, you can find local favorites using apps like Taphunter.
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 2½ pound flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ cups pale ale
- 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 5 garlic cloves, sliced
- 6 carrots, cut diagonally into 1½-inch pieces
- 6 celery stalks, cut diagonally into 1½-inch pieces
- 2 medium onions, each cut into 12 wedges
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup water
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, combine first three ingredients in a small bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Rub mixture evenly over both sides of brisket. Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add brisket and sear until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove brisket, add beer, and bring a boil, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add broth and garlic. Return to a boil, add brisket, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook for 2 hours. Turn brisket and cook an additional 2 hours. Turn brisket once more and add carrot, celery, onion, and cook 1 hour longer, or until brisket is very tender.
Remove brisket and vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon. Skim fat from cooking liquid and discard. Bring cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Place flour in a small bowl and stir in ½ cup water. Add flour mixture to pan, stirring until smooth. Bring to a boil while constantly stirring. Cook 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Stir in remaining salt and serve sauce with beef and vegetables.
3. Lamb Shank Tagine with Dates
Most think of tagines as fragrant stews, but the term also refers to the cooking vessel. A traditional tagine is a dish with a cone-shaped top that’s designed to allow steam to condense and trickle back down into the food as it gently cooks. As long as you have some sort of heavy pot or Dutch oven, you really don’t need to buy a tagine to turn out fantastic Morroccan food.
If you’ve never given the North African cuisine a spin in your own kitchen, this braised lamb and date dish from The New York Times is a great place to start. It’s sweet, savory, and filled with a bunch of delicious spices. This is the way to wow your friends.
- 3 large lamb shanks, trimmed
- Salt and pepper
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, sliced
- Small pinch of saffron
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 (2-inch) piece of cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons dried ginger
- ½ cup chopped dates, plus 24 whole dates
- ½ cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften for 30 minutes, and drained
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- Cilantro sprigs
Directions: Season shanks generously with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix garlic, fresh ginger, paprika, and cumin. Spread mixture evenly over shanks and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Alternatively, wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before continuing.
In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, saffron, and cayenne. Season with salt and cook for 5 minutes, until beginning to soften. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Lower heat to medium, add shanks, and let cook, turning occasionally, until meat and onions are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add cinnamon stick, dried ginger, chopped dates, and water just to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Check sauce and add water if level falls below meat. Continue baking for another hour, checking liquid level occasionally. Test meat by probing with a sharp knife. It should slide in easily and meat should just be falling off the bone.
Remove meat from pot and place in a deep, wide serving bowl. Skim fat from surface and discard. Add whole dates to pot and simmer for a few minutes to reduce. Pour sauce over meat. Garnish with raisins, pomegranate seeds, and cilantro sprigs. Serve.
4. Chicken Cacciatore
Turn this Italian favorite into a fuss-free supper by introducing it to your crockpot with Angie Ketterman’s recipe, featured on Food Network. This method includes an extra step where you flour the chicken before browning it. Though not crucial, it helps thicken the sauce without requiring additional simmering at the end of the process. Just add a side of pasta, bread, or rice to complete the meal.
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ pound button mushrooms, quartered
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow onions, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 carrot, peeled, and chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup red wine
Directions: Combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a flat dish. Dredge chicken in flour mixture and shake to remove excess. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown chicken on both sides, about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, green pepper, onion, garlic, carrot, tomatoes, chili flakes, remaining salt, remaining pepper, basil, and parsley to the bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker. Add chicken, broth, and wine. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or until chicken is tender. Serve.
5. Rabbit Braised in Red Wine
Once considered an exotic meat, rabbit is showing up on restaurant menus a lot more frequently. You can even find it regularly at good butcher shops. If your favorite meat provider doesn’t carry rabbit, you can usually ask them to order it for you. If that doesn’t work, you have tons of online options.
Once you get your hands on some rabbit, it’s time to get cooking. The meat is perfect for braising and it’s a welcome change from the usual chicken or pork. We like this recipe from Saveur because it’s incredibly simple, but still manages to deliver a serious amount of flavor. If you have extra herbs sitting around your fridge, this is a good way to use them up. Sturdier ones can cook along with the meat while softer ones make a nice finishing touch.
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle of red wine
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2¼ tablespoons sugar
- 1 (2- to 3-pound) rabbit, cut into 8 pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 16 garlic cloves, crushed
- 16 sage leaves
- 6 rosemary sprigs
- Crusty bread or cooked egg noodles
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, whisk together wine, vinegar, and sugar. Set aside. Meanwhile, season rabbit with salt and pepper. Put flour on a plate and dredge rabbit, shaking to remove excess. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook rabbit, turning once, until well browned, about 6 minutes per side.
Transfer rabbit to a deep 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in wine mixture, boil, and scrape brown bits from bottom using a wooden spoon. Pour sauce over rabbit.
Scatter rosemary and sage over the top, cover with foil, and transfer to the oven. Braise until tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover, increase temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue to cook, basting, until sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with bread or egg noodles.
6. Short Ribs Braised in Coffee and Ancho Chile Sauce
Most short rib recipes look to a bottle of wine and a handful of herbs to get flavor. This tried-and-true method is just one way to go, though. Take things in a completely different direction by making Epicurious’s beef simmered in coffee and chiles. The process is nearly identical to any other recipe for short ribs, but the flavors are completely unexpected. Leftovers make fantastic tacos.
- 4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and ribs discarded
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 6 pounds beef short ribs
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup brewed coffee
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Soak ancho chiles in boiling water until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain chiles in a colander set over a bowl. Taste soaking liquid. If not too bitter, reserve for braising. If unpleasantly bitter, discard. Transfer ancho chiles to blend and blend with onion, garlic, chipotles, adobo, syrup, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Pat ribs dry and season with remaining salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, brown ribs, working in three batches, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a roasting pan large enough to hold ribs in a single layer.
Carefully add chile purée to skillet. It will splatter. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add reserved liquid or 1½ cups water plus coffee. Bring to a boil, then pour over ribs.
Cover roasting pan tightly with foil and braise ribs in center of oven until very tender, 3 to 3½ hours. Skim fat from juices, and serve.