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Browning meat and onions


Hassouni
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I'm curious what everyone does here for a stew containing meat and onions. Do you sear the meat, remove it, then fry the onions in the fond? Or do you brown onions and add the meat to them later? I find frying onions in the fond tends to end up burning the fond. Occasionally I fry the onions till soft, remove them, turn the heat up, add the meat, then add the onions back later. None of these seems like a really good method. What do you do?

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I do things the traditional way -- meat, then veg, then deglaze and replace the meat.

I've found the right pan makes all the difference. A really heavy bottomed pan makes braises and stews much easier. There's a reason most of the good cooks I know have forearms like Popeye.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I brown the meat and remove, then cook the onions (and any other vegetables). If the fond is very dark by the time the meat is done, I go ahead and deglaze, then pour off any remaining liquid, then add more oil and cook the vegetables.

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I do things the traditional way -- meat, then veg, then deglaze and replace the meat.

I've found the right pan makes all the difference. A really heavy bottomed pan makes braises and stews much easier. There's a reason most of the good cooks I know have forearms like Popeye.

Same here. Mirepoix after the meat comes out, deglaze, then put the meat back in on top of the mirepoix. And go from there.

eta: Like Scoop says the right pan. Heavy. I always use Le Creuset doing this.

Edited by Country (log)
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so I guess the trick is to make sure the fond isn't too dark by the time I take the meat out huh

This may be obvious, but how high is your heat turned up? Browning the meat requires high heat, but not browning the onions. Try browning the onions over very moderate heat. Onions contain a lot of water, and over moderate heat they won't burn up. Their moisture should keep the fond from burning also.

Cast iron retains heat. If your pan is too hot even when you lower the heat on your stove, take the pan off the burner for a minute.

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Richard Olney says you can't brown onions satisfactorily on an enameled surface, so I always do the browning / deglazing process it separately in an All-Clad saute pan, and then decant into the enameled pot for the braising.

I have gone both ways on this - there's a Ruth Rogers recipe where you brown sausage meat, then add red onions and garlic to the meat for a 30-minute period - it requires lots of extra care and attention to get the onions to cook through, but the result is wonderful.

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I was curious, too, so I scouted around the web. Try reading this passage by Olney in The French Menu Cookbook, page 161, his explication of browning for lamb stew:

http://books.google.com/books?id=jNWo_bhPvscC&pg=PA161&lpg=PA161&dq=richard+olney+brown+onions+enamel&source=bl&ots=wvGXnCvUCG&sig=e_tyZgdYl-D0qappGOp0po7sh7k&hl=en&ei=BDKmTq37BoTiiAKBponQDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

He makes a distinction between a heavy iron skillet and an enameled ironware casserole. Perhaps he has problems with the high sides of the casserole dish? More moisture will evaporate off faster in a conventional skillet for browning. (Of course, then you have an extra pan to wash. Who washed Richard's dishes for him?)

BTW, Olney first browns the onions, removes them from the pan, browns the meat, and returns the onions to the pan. That does make sense to get around the burning fond problem.

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Well the stew I made tonight was just cooked at lower heat - meat first, meat out, mirepoix in, the moisture from which loosened the fond and avoided any burning. The thing is, I wasn't able to get a really crusty deep brown sear (I didn't raise the heat past a highish medium).

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It's an art, no doubt about it: it's all about knowing your own cookware and your own stove, no recipe can teach that to you. Practice, practice, practice. Fortunately, the results are (usually) edible! On my stove I sear the meat on a heat setting of 8, being careful to only move the pieces when they are fully seared on the pan side; then I reduce the heat to three and actually pull the pan off the heat entirely when I dump in the onions. Lid on off the heat for a couple minutes, then slide back on the heat and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the fond. Timing is everything here.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I brown the meat over high heat, take out the meat, dump in the onions with a good sprinkle of salt turn the heat to low and rely on the residual heat in the pan to start cooking the onions. Once the onions have exuded their juices, I rely on the onion juice to deglaze the pan and then turn the heat back up to high to cook the onions. Once the pan dries up again, I add in the garlic and other more delicate aromatics.

I find this way allows the sugars from the onions to mingle with the fond and get a second cooking, leading to even more maillard while being safe from burning.

PS: I am a guy.

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I do things the traditional way -- meat, then veg, then deglaze and replace the meat.

I've found the right pan makes all the difference. A really heavy bottomed pan makes braises and stews much easier. There's a reason most of the good cooks I know have forearms like Popeye.

Always, always, always this. Whenever a recipe tells me to do both at once I ignore it and stick to the old way for a bunch of reasons. Notably, I want the meat perfectly brown and the onions perfectly caramelised--I don't want to sacrifice the quality of one for the other, which is something you probably need to do (unless you have ninja timing skills) if you do both at once. And, of course, because crowding the pan with vegetables means the meat is more likely to stew in the resulting liquid. Also, I cook vegetables at a lower heat than I brown meat.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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Richard Olney says you can't brown onions satisfactorily on an enameled surface, so I always do the browning / deglazing process it separately in an All-Clad saute pan, and then decant into the enameled pot for the braising.

You can brown onions and get a fond on an enameled surface, but it does take much longer than in a clad pan. We've done side by side tests in our cooking classes and the Le Creuset group always finishes much later than the others.

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It's one of those recipes that seems straightforward when you read it, but actually has devilish details. For example, after browning the onions, he requires you to remove every single speck of onion from the pan - "the slightest fragment of onion that remains in the pan at this point will inevitably burn while the meat is coloring and leave a bitter taste in the sauce." This sounds straightforward but in practice it's difficult to get the last few bits of onion out of the pan while leaving any oil in there.

Then there's the whole skimming and skinning thing - two separate processes.

I'm used to complicated Asian dishes. I don't do a ton of French cooking. The processes are subtle and unfamiliar to me, and the flavors are mild enough that the slightest variation has an impact on the dish.

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