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College Kitchen: Braising hell

Let time cook for you.
A simple pulled pork taco with homemade salsa.
Image by Ichigo Takikawa
A simple pulled pork taco with homemade salsa.

Sometimes in life you want to craft a delicate meal to woo a date. Other times in life you want to do the exact opposite: slow cook an enormous hunk of meat.

Braising is essentially a fancy word for very un-fancy process. It refers to roasting a tough cut of meat in a small amount of liquid for hours at a time.

Cheaper cuts of meat generally contain large amounts of fat that takes time to break down. When cooked long enough, though, the fat melts into pure buttery flavor. This prevents the meat from drying out as well.

All you need to start braising hell is an oven-safe pot or pan and a lid. Any pan with plastic handles or a non-stick coating should not go in the oven. In the absence of a lid, aluminum foil can serve as a makeshift solution.


Old-school pot roast

Now, pot roast might not be the “hippest” or “jazziest” meal out there. But let me tell you what’s really “groovy”: cheap, practical dinner. You can cook up a hefty roast and repurpose it for days. Leftovers make perfect sandwich meat, for instance.

1 3-pound chuck roast — alternatively, you can use chuck steak or round steak
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, peeled and halved
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon butter
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.

Liberally coat each side of the roast in salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe pan. Sauté the carrots and onion halves for about five minutes then remove. In the same pan, heat the butter until melted.

Using tongs, brown the roast on all sides. Remove the roast from the pan.

Add the wine to the same pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the residue at the bottom of the pan and let it incorporate into the sauce. This process is known as “deglazing” and is a common way to start a sauce.

Let the wine simmer and reduce in the pan. This helps burn off the alcohol taste.

Return the roast, onions, carrots and crushed garlic to the pan. Add water until liquid covers about half of the roast. Cover and put in the oven for about three hours.

The roast should pull apart with little resistance. Otherwise, return it to the oven until it does.

Serve alongside some real comfort food: mashed potatoes, green beans and the like. You know, like a TV mom would make.


Pulled pork

Pulled pork is not the most elegant of foods, but it’s versatile. Throw it on a tortilla with some salsa (see recipe below) to make carnitas. Slather it in barbecue sauce and throw it on a hamburger bun. Mix it up with some hash browns. The possibilities are as vast as your pork-fueled brain can dream up.

1 3-pound pork shoulder
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeño, chopped
Olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Combine the salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, cumin and cinnamon in a small bowl. This mixture is called a “dry rub” and is common in barbecuing. Completely coat the pork shoulder in the rub. Really make sure to get it in every crease and crevice. Let it sit for at least an hour before cooking.

In an oven-safe pot, brown the pork shoulder on all sides. Add the onions, garlic, jalapeño and lime juice to the pot. Cover and put in the oven for about three hours.

When you take it out of the oven, move the pork shoulder to a cutting board and shred with two forks. The meat should fall apart with little resistance.

Add the shredded pork back to the pot and let roast for another 10 minutes in the oven. This helps keep the pork moist.


Salsa Fresca

Anyone with any kind of chops should have a salsa recipe in their back pocket. Although variations are endless, this basic chunky salsa should serve as an adequate base for any future salsa endeavors.

3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onions, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. 

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