Varying cooking techniques is essential for keeping things interesting in your kitchen. This is especially true for vegetables, which might seem less appealing than certain heartier options in weather as cold as this. You already know that we at Plated are big fans of roasting our veggies, but if you want to maximize your plant-based dish’s flavor potential, we highly recommend a method that many cooks reserve for meat: braising.
What Is Braising?
But braising is not exclusively for meaty meals. As Plated Head Chef Elana Karp explains, “Braising is a great technique for any kind of food, adding great texture and taste. For vegetables, it brings out flavors that might have gone unnoticed, as well as softens them for a comforting texture.”
Braising is simply a cooking process where you slowly cook ingredients with a little bit of liquid in a covered pot, to infuse flavor into otherwise bland foods. It’s a two-step process: first searing at medium-high heat until browned, then simmering low and slow in liquid.
There are three essential components to braising vegetables: the veggies themselves, the liquid you choose to flavor them, and the seasonings you add.
Our Chicken Cassoulet with Braised Vegetables, currently on the menu, contains fennel, carrot, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and white beans, which add a creaminess to the dish as they simmer. The flavoring liquid is chicken base, and salt and pepper are used for seasoning. Braising liquid can be as simple as water or as flavorful as wine, beer, cider, or coconut milk. Why such a wide range? Because the magic is in the mingling of all the ingredients. As they cook in the steaming juices under the lid of a braising pot, your vegetables release their own flavors, mix with the liquid and seasonings, and become bathed in a savory sauce.
How Long Does Braising Take?
The amount of time really depends on the type and size of your vegetables, and how much flavor you’d like to infuse. Generally, the more slowly your vegetables cook, the more flavors they absorb.
You can cut your veggies into smaller pieces so that they braise more quickly, and leave them in the pot for as little as 20 minutes. Or, you can cut your veggies into big chunks and keep them braising for a couple of hours. Veggies with rougher exteriors, such as fennel, carrot, onion, and garlic, should require more time than more delicate ingredients, like white beans, rosemary, or thyme. In this case, you can chop the tougher veggies into smaller pieces so that all the ingredients cook evenly. In any case, you’re done when the vegetables are tender.
Whatever amount of vegetables you’re cooking, you shouldn’t totally submerge them in the added liquid, as in boiling. If you drown your veggies, the results will be soupy.
But don’t get worried by this seeming lack of specificity, because it’s actually a good sign: Braising is a pretty forgiving technique. If you added a little more of one ingredient than another, there’s no need to worry—braising will meld the flavors so well that it helps mask the difference.
If all this talk has got you eager to braise your veggies for your next meal, there’s still time to order the Chicken Cassoulet with Braised Vegetables recipe from this week’s menu!