Evolution comes from understanding the principles behind recipes: useful techniques applicable to more than one meal. Bearing in mind that ovens and animals are both variable creatures, two of our favorite chefs compressed years of experience into practical directives designed to support your cooking efforts, no matter the dish.
With Shane Solomon, Over Master and Chef , Philadelphia
Liquid is the heat transfer agent: The heat source heats the liquid, the liquid cooks the meat
Uses less expensive cuts from the most exercised parts of the animal, like the shoulder and shank. The connective tissue, fat, and sinew holding the muscles together require longer, slower cooking to melt into gelatin, yielding tender meat—and flavorful cooking liquid.
Braising uses a large cut as centerpiece, and the cooking liquid gets cooked down into a kind of sauce served as accompaniment.
- : the standard
- : expensive, but also useful for roasting and deep-frying
- (for skimming)
- or perforated skimmer (for lifting meats and removing vegetables)
Step 1: Sear the Meat
→ Meat must start out totally dry. Surface moisture prevents browning and introduces water into the fat, causing splattering.
→ Heat the pot, then add just enough oil to lm the bottom. When hot enough, the oil should skim across the surface, and the meat will sizzle on .
→ Sear meat on all sides, even the ends. Use tongs to turn it in the pan, then remove it and discard any discolored oil.
Step 2: The Vegetables
→ When added for the sole purpose of flavoring the broth, vegetables are left in larger pieces, like a quarter carrot or half an onion, and then removed. When part of the final dish—as in this one—vegetables are uniformly cut for even cooking (like half-inch dice or matchsticks, called julienne). Stir in the cut vegetables, which will then release their natural moisture, deglazing the pan. When you have some loosened fat as a cushion, add delicate items like garlic, ground spices, or dried herbs. If tomato paste is being used as a flavoring agent, stir it into the vegetables during the last minute or so, giving it a chance to toast.
Step 3: Deglaze the Pan
→ Deglaze the pan by adding a cup or two of wine or citrus, and reduce the liquid by at least half while scraping any meaty bits from the bottom of the pan.
Step 4: Add the Cooking Liquid (and the Meat)
→ Return the meat to the pot. Add your braising liquid (about two-thirds up the sides of the meat) and bring it to a simmer—this temperature is critical to the success of the final dish. The surface of the liquid should be gently trembling, never at a rolling boil, which toughens the proteins in the meat.
Step 5: Add the Fancy Aromatic Sachet
→ . . . directly into the liquid, then cover the pot tightly to prevent evaporation. (To make a sachet, use kitchen twine and cheesecloth, or even a white paper coffee filter in a pinch.)
Step 6: The Braise
→ Transfer covered pot to a moderate preheated oven— 325 degrees Fahrenheit—and wait. Tenderness, not time, is the indicator of doneness. Insert a fork and twist. If the meat comes apart, it's done.
Step 7: Skimming and Reduction
→ When the meat is done, discard the sachet. Remove the meat, which may be delicate by this time, using a kitchen skimmer—a large at spoon with holes that allows you to gently lift the meat and leave the liquid behind.
→ Skim the fat with a ladle. Reduce what's left over a low flame. This step eliminates water, leaving a richer, more intensely fortified sauce behind.
Step 8: Mounting and Garnish
→ Take the time to finish your sauce, giving it flavor with an ingredient so delicate it can't go in until the end. Depending upon the dish, it can be something fruity like olive oil, sweet like honey, or the classic addition of cold butter in small pieces. This addition is always done slowly and o the heat, swirling the pan for emulsication (this is called mounting). As a final step, add any herbs or greens that couldn't be in there for the long haul but will stay bright and green when thrown in at the end.
Recipe: Pork Shoulder South Philly Style
- Meat: 3 1⁄2 lb pork shoulder, bone out, fat cap on, salted
- Vegetables: 1⁄2 head fennel, 1 cubanelle pepper (much better variety but you can settle for green pepper), 1 red onion, 3 long hot peppers, all thinly sliced
- Other seasoning: 10 garlic cloves (roughly smashed), 1 tsp red-pepper flakes, 1 tsp dried oregano, 3 anchovy filets (chopped)
- Flavoring agent: 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- Deglazing liquid: 1 cup white wine, 1 cup lemon juice
- Cooking liquid: 3 qt chicken stock
- Sachet: 1 tsp each coriander seed and whole fennel seed with 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns, 2 rosemary stalks, 2 bay leaves Rest, portion, and serve over white beans.
- Mounting and garnish: Fresh parsley and oregano and a drizzle of lemon-infused olive oil
- Option: Shred meat into pasta ragu or make a two-handed sandwich
With Nathan Anda, Butcher and Chef, , Washington, D.C.
When dry-cooking, the meat comes in direct with the heat, as in broiling (heat comes from above), grilling, and the two methods every home cook should master: roasting (meat is surrounded by hot air), and the double-dry hybrid of pan-searing followed by oven roasting. Dry-cooking uses cuts that are already tender, primarily from the part of the animal that doesn't get much action, like across the upper center. Roasting calls for larger cuts, but unlike old-fashioned spit roasting, in which the meat was exposed to open flame, the oven provides only heat, not flavor. That comes from seasoning and from how good the meat is to begin with.
Here is your template. Armed with this, all you need is the weight of the meat and the temperature you're aiming for.
- (monitoring) and (temping the meat)
→ The meat must start at room temperature. When meat is cold, seasonings sit on top the fat cap and muscle. They don't penetrate. Room temperature meat allows the salt and pepper to break into that exterior shell, acting as a tenderizing agent as well as deepening flavor.
→ I use a heavy rimmed baking sheet lined with heavy-duty foil and topped with a at roasting rack. (Those large, expensive roasting pans with handles and V-shaped racks are primarily for turkey.)
→ Seasoning style depends upon size and cut. For a smaller roast with very little fat cap, like a pork loin, I might make a paste out of salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and a drop of oil (pasty, not runny), smear it on, and give it a chance to sink into the meat, about 20 minutes. For a roast that will bene t from some complexity, like a butter fried leg of lamb, I make a paste of roasted garlic (mellows it), Dijon mustard, rosemary, black pepper, and olive oil, smeared on the inside of the roast (before it is rolled and tied) as well as the outside.
→ On a larger roast with a substantial fat cap, like a majestic prime rib that can stand on its own flavor-wise, I just liberally season with salt and pepper and roast on top of a bed of aromatics: sliced onions and strong, woody herbs like rosemary and thyme (not soft ones like basil). Placed under the roasting rack, this gives the exterior crust a great aroma without flavoring the meat itself.
Step 2: Heat
→ When a roast goes into a hot oven, moisture trapped in the fibers of the meat is pulled toward that heat source. While you do get a beautiful dark exterior at the end of the roasting period, you also get a well-done rim around the edge—not desirable. But if you use a low-temperature oven, the roast slowly acclimates to the heat, gradually raising its internal temperature. As a result, the meat retains its moisture and has an even texture.
→ There's ongoing kitchen controversy about when to oven-sear the meat. Some swear by an initial blast prior to roasting in a moderate oven. I am a practitioner of the reverse sear, rst roasting in a low-temperature oven, then hitting it with the higher heat. I realize this is a break with tradition on what might be our most traditional meal. But why not do everything possible to preserve the meat's moisture, which is a function of heat plus time. So: When the roast gets to your desired internal temperature in the low oven, it's time to turn up the heat and brown the fat cap.
→ There will be rendered fat in the pan. Siphon most o , because you're about to heat things up to 450 degrees. In a 250-degree oven, that temperature rise is so slow it won't affect the meat itself. It will just give you a beautiful brown crust. The sign that it's done: color, which typically happens in about 10 minutes.
Step 3: Rest
→ Transfer the roast to a cutting board for about 30 minutes (15 for a small roast). Be patient. If you mess with the exterior too soon, the juices that are drawn to its heat will make a speedy exit rather than be absorbed back into the meat. (While the meat rests, carryover cooking can raise the internal temperature as much as 10 degrees.)
This story appears in the September 2017 issue.