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Braising sauce question


JohnRichardson
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When you guys braise something, how do you make the sauce? Most recipes I've seen just have you reduce the braising liquid then finish with butter. The problem with this is, if you made a large batch of something and have a bottle of wine plus a quart of stock in the pan, that takes quite a while to reduce to a reasonable consistency, and it's sometimes overconcentrated or overseasoned, and it's almost ridiculously rich from the extra butter. It's good, but a little goes a long way. If you want to use it with mashed potatoes or something like that, it's almost too rich. Plus, the meat has to sit for almost an hour while you're doing all of this, which is okay if you do the braise one day and serve the next thing, but not so much if you're trying to do it all in one day.

So my question is, does anyone ever thicken the sauce with roux? Yesterday, I made 4 lamb shanks, and reduced the braising liquid (1 bottle wine reduced by half, 5 c strong stock) by about half, then thickened with roux made from the extra fat. Before adding the roux, the liquid was slightly thickened, it clung to a spoon slightly when dribbled out of a spoon, but it was nowhere near sauce consistency. Still ended up a gorgeous color and a shiny silky consistency from all the gelatin, but it wasn't rediculously rich like a demi glace or like most pan sauces. It might not be quite strong enough to stand on its own if you just wanted to add a tsp or so of sauce to the meat, but wonderful on mashed potatoes and chased around with some pain l'ancienne -based rolls :)

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John,

In restaurants I've worked, we always had some demi-glace ready to go to make the sauces we needed to make. For instance, reducing the jus from the shanks to almost au sec then adding some demi, perhaps then some cream and/ or arromatics, then there you had it, no thickener was added.

But, seems in your case you want a good bit of sauce done ahead of time. So, yes, thickening with roux would work, just make sure you cook out the starch for about 10 minutes before serving, perhaps hit it with some heavy cream and cold butter right before serving would add a nice shine.

Hope that helps.

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If you dredge whatever you're braising in flour first before searing you'll usually have enough thickening power to tighten up the sauce. If not, you can add a little roux or slurry and cook it out for similar results. Sometimes you can even get some thickening by what you're using for mirepoix...a fine diced potato added to your basic mirepoix will break down during the cooking process and thicken the final sauce.

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I strain mine and use a roux when I have a lot of sauce and no reductio time. otherwise I reduce. It's never overly flavored, as I careful ith the salt and wine for reduction sauces.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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So my question is, does anyone ever thicken the sauce with roux? 

What you're describing is similar to the standard American method of making gravy.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i find that it works well to knead butter and flour together then whisk it in bit by bit, bringing it to a simmer in between. that allows you to thicken more closely to the exact texture you want. i think the modern aversion to flour-thickened sauces is silly. anything can be done to excess, but flour works wonderfully if used with discretion.

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--i find that it works well to knead butter and flour together then whisk it in bit by bit, bringing it to a simmer in between.--

Technically called Buerre Manie, a technique you don't widely see used today. You can get a similar result with oil and flour, something we used to call a "quick roux".

Another thing to consider when deciding how to thicken the sauce is the fat that cooks out of the meat. Everyone knows that fat equals flavor; if you aren't worried about dietary concerns, tightening the sauce with a little stiff roux will also emulsify the fat into the sauce giving it a much richer flavor. If you're going to skim the fat off the sauce after cooking, go with a reduction or a little slurry to preserve the sheen of the cooking liquid.

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I usually use reduction to thicken my braising liquid or Jus Lie. If I needed a large amount I would use either roux, or an arrowroot slurry depending on if I was going to use it all right away or re use it. Another way that you could get some body and not use starch would be to puree the mirepox into the liquid, although I usually remove it, puree it, and use it on the plate itself.

edited for spelling.

Edited by ChefJB (log)
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Read the EGCI braising class and Q&A threads. You should braise with only 1/2" of liquid. Additional liquid comes out of the meat, but it cooks down pretty quickly. Too much liquid makes a stew rather than a braise.

Also, the experimenters were unanimous in saying that you should use no wine at all, but just stock. The liquid therefore starts out rich and thickens up quickly when reduced.

With what you have, you should be able to put the liquid in a large frying pan or saute pan and reduce it quite well inside of an hour. Since the fond already exists in the braising pot, I deglaze it and do the reduction in a nonstick pan, which the thickened sauce comes out of easily.

On the other hand, with so much wine you run the risk that concentrating its flavor will overwhelm everything else, so the suggestions up the thread may work best. Perhaps you could reduce half the liquid and thicken the rest.

Edited by k43 (log)
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Sounds like cornstarch would work, no?  If not, why not?

cornstarch works as a thickener under certain very specific situations. if you're going to be thickening it at the very end and serving it immediately, cornstarch will be fine. but if it stands or if it is re-heated, it goes gluey in a hurry. also, since cornstarch is purer starch than wheat flour, cornstarch-thickened sauces tend to be (what seems to me to be) weirdly translucent, even transparent. then again, maybe i've just eaten too much bad chinese food.

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Another way that you could get some body and not use starch would be to puree the mirepox into the liquid

I'll cast my vote with ChefJB.

I don't like to use either butter or starch (including potato) to thicken my braising sauces. The sauce is fat enough already, and starches dull the flavor. Butter and starch do make the sauce silky on the tongue, however. I reserve the Rich Sauce treatment for company.

Usually I push some braised vegetables through a strainer and add it to the sauce. This is quick and easy to do. These are the veggies that are overcooked, like the carrots, celery or onion. I don't like to serve them with the braised meat, but they are still very tasty in the sauce.

Also, k43 makes a good point. Maybe you are using too much liquid in your braise to begin with.

good luck!

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Read the EGCI braising class and Q&A threads.  You should braise with only 1/2" of liquid.  Additional liquid comes out of the meat, but it cooks down pretty quickly.  Too much liquid makes a stew rather than a braise.

Also, the experimenters were unanimous in saying that you should use no wine at all, but just stock.  The liquid therefore starts out rich and thickens up quickly when reduced.

Hmm... I remember reading the braising threads, but I don't remember the "no wine" part, but I read them while they were originally active so that's been a while. I personally love what the wine does in this dish, both color and taste, and I start with it reduced by at least half, although my frozen stocks are fairly strong to begin with. I suppose I could add less stock or pre-reduce that as well. I've also thought about using a roasting pan for the reduction since it's 2x the surface area, and I can get 2 burners going under it since my stove is a little underpowered. My usual target is to have the amount of liquid such that whatever I'm braising peeks out, maybe right around 2/3 of the meat covered.

Let's say you did use 300 mL of reduced wine, and ~ 1L stock, leaving maybe 1ish L of liquid after straining and defatting before starting the sauce building. How much final sauce would you shoot for? I ended up with about a cup and a half of strong gravy / weak sauce, so I guess I did a 3:1 reduction. Is it okay to reduce at an angry boil, or does that affect the flavor? Perhaps next time, I'll uncover for the last hour to get a jump on the ol' reduction and I'll shoot for halfway up the meat instead of 2/3.

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Read the EGCI braising class and Q&A threads.  You should braise with only 1/2" of liquid.  Additional liquid comes out of the meat, but it cooks down pretty quickly.  Too much liquid makes a stew rather than a braise.

Also, the experimenters were unanimous in saying that you should use no wine at all, but just stock.  The liquid therefore starts out rich and thickens up quickly when reduced.

Hmm... I remember reading the braising threads, but I don't remember the "no wine" part, but I read them while they were originally active so that's been a while. I personally love what the wine does in this dish, both color and taste, and I start with it reduced by at least half, although my frozen stocks are fairly strong to begin with. I suppose I could add less stock or pre-reduce that as well. I've also thought about using a roasting pan for the reduction since it's 2x the surface area, and I can get 2 burners going under it since my stove is a little underpowered. My usual target is to have the amount of liquid such that whatever I'm braising peeks out, maybe right around 2/3 of the meat covered.

Let's say you did use 300 mL of reduced wine, and ~ 1L stock, leaving maybe 1ish L of liquid after straining and defatting before starting the sauce building. How much final sauce would you shoot for? I ended up with about a cup and a half of strong gravy / weak sauce, so I guess I did a 3:1 reduction. Is it okay to reduce at an angry boil, or does that affect the flavor? Perhaps next time, I'll uncover for the last hour to get a jump on the ol' reduction and I'll shoot for halfway up the meat instead of 2/3.

At school we teach 1/3rd to halfway up the meat for a good braise, one of the best parts of a good braise is the different textures, the falling of the bone tender and the crispy of the exposed meat IMHO. Also when you reduce at a lower heat you are able to skim off impurities that are just re-incorporated into the sauce when you reduce it fast.

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My $.02

I am against coating anything to be browned in flour first (with the possible exception of some fish), but red meat, IMO, is a no-no for flour. Reason being is that you end up browning the flour and not the meat, and lose out on all that special flavor enhancing quality that browned meat gives you (mostly the umami and depth of flavor, as well as fond).

That being said, I also think that a rich stock shouldn't be used to braise. Mostly for the reasons you stated in your post. If you braise with Demi, or a strong veal stock, then you may/will end up with an overly poweful, overlly rich sauce. I like my braising sauces to add moisture and flavor, but not overwhelm the meat and become the main event.

Therefore, when I braise, I favor a lighter ratio of stock. Basically, I use half stock, half water, or sometimes just water. I also think that wine is a great additive, mostly as a deglazer. The meat is going to impart a lot of flavor to the braise, so why use expensive and time consuming stock solely? So wine, weak stock, and water are what I use. Demi, or whatever, can be added in smaller quantities in the end if you choose, though I usually don't.

Also, IMO, add the vegetables at about the last hour of cooking (I also do this when making stock). Why you ask? Aroma.

When you make a vegetable stock from scratch, how long do you simmer it for? 30, 40 minutes? An hour at most...otherwise the vegetables turn gray, give off, overcooked flavors, and your veg stock, well, sucks. So why add veg at the beginning of a braise? All you will do is add that overcooked veg flavor to the braise. I say add them near the end, so that the full flavor/aroma from the veg is released, without any adverse effects.

Like I said, my $.02. Take it for what it's worth (it ain't much).

Edited by Qwerty (log)
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Sounds like cornstarch would work, no?  If not, why not?

cornstarch works as a thickener under certain very specific situations. if you're going to be thickening it at the very end and serving it immediately, cornstarch will be fine. but if it stands or if it is re-heated, it goes gluey in a hurry. also, since cornstarch is purer starch than wheat flour, cornstarch-thickened sauces tend to be (what seems to me to be) weirdly translucent, even transparent. then again, maybe i've just eaten too much bad chinese food.

Thanks for clearing that up, Russ.

"Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit." -- Anthony Bourdain

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I don't like coating things in flour first.

From the great Paula Wolfert, I got my best suggestion, from her daube recipes. Cook the braise the day (or two, or three!) before you want to eat it.

Remove the meat, and strain the aromatics out of the liquid (if you have time and the kids aren't getting off the bus when it needs to be done, or you can whiz them into the liquid with the IB). Fridge them separate, the meat in a ziplock with all of the air removed.

Next day, remove the layer of fat off the top of the liquid, reduce, and add the meat, put back in the oven at a VERY low temp (like 225 or 250).

My liquids are never too thin, and heck, if they are, take some out, reduce the remainder, and thin out the stuff you took out with appropriate stock and make soup out of that and the leftover meat.

Some leftover braises make remarkable soups.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I am against coating anything to be browned in flour first (with the possible exception of some fish), but red meat, IMO, is a no-no for flour. Reason being is that you end up browning the flour and not the meat, and lose out on all that special flavor enhancing quality that browned meat gives you (mostly the umami and depth of flavor, as well as fond).

just out of curiosity, have you tried this? or are you arguing from theory? because it seems improbable to me that a thin layer of flour could provide enough of a thermal barrier to prevent browning.

In fact, in my experience, it can even promote browning by absorbing surface moisture on the meat. i commonly flour some meat before browning when i'm making certain kinds of braises and i have never found a shortage of "brown" flavor. (one thing that does happen is that the flour does lose much of its thickening power in the browning because of dextrinization.)

all of these suggestions are good ones, it just depends on your taste and what kind of finished product you want.

personally, after a few experiments with it, i've gone off of thickening the braising liquid with the braising vegetables. in my experience, the resulting sauce was somewhat grainy and "muddy" tasting.

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Last night I braised a couple of boned Canada goose legs , just to see what I came up with.

Turned out to be a pretty good idea! I flamed them with a little gin, added maybe that amount again of sherry, then some duck stock with the caremelized mirepoix and the whole thing then simmered for about two hours.

I ended up with about a pint and a half of braising liquid, which I really didn't want to use all of; so I just ladled some off into a smaller pan and reduced slightly, added a spoonful of duck demi, and finished with beurre manie.

Worked a treat. Point being, just because you have a given amount of something, that doesn't mean you have to use all of it right then. I still have a cup or so of very intensely-flavored liquid that can be the base for a quick sauce some time when I'm running behind or whatever.

Which reminds me, I need to go buy more ice-cube trays.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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My $0.02.

In my braises, I may marinate meat in (de-alcoholized) wine and, if so, this marinade joins chicken stock for the braising liquid. That, and prodigious aromatics, usually.

I usually pull 1/2 the braising jus at the completion of the braise, and simmer, clarifying religiously and reducing to sauce consistency. I may or may not add a bit of demi or integral glace, although usually I do as I find demi adds a velvety mouthfeel and difficult-to-define sense of "round" sweetness not otherwise obtained.

The remainder of the jus stays with the meat, which is finished in a hotter oven, basting every 5 minutes or so for about 45 minutes, to add a deep, rich glaze to the surface.

I am never shy of enough sauce, and don't find the jus overly rich or seasoned. I do find using demi or an integral stock in the braise may be too much for some meats - i.e., braised lamb shoulder with lamb stock, so I just use chicken stock in the braise and depend on time and extraction to contribute integral flavor to the finished jus.

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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just out of curiosity, have you tried this? or are you arguing from theory? because it seems improbable to me that a thin layer of flour could provide enough of a thermal barrier to prevent browning.

In fact, in my experience, it can even promote browning by absorbing surface moisture on the meat. i commonly flour some meat before browning when i'm making certain kinds of braises and i have never found a shortage of "brown" flavor. (one thing that does happen is that the flour does lose much of its thickening power in the browning because of dextrinization.)

Yes I have tried it. And like I said, when you dust something in flour and brown, then you end up browning the flour, not the meat--best case scenraio at least partially. Not my cup of tea. And if you use proper searing technique, there is absolutely no reason to flour meat before you sear it. To me, a beautiful, properly browned piece of protein is more desireable than a properly browned protein dusted in flour. The argument for thickening power is moot because you can always add flour/roux/slurry later, and keep the meat free of it.

If you want to do it, fine. There are many theories and ways to cook food, none of them are correct. I was merely throwing my ideas and reccomendations on to someone who posed the question.

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It's not that the flour protects the meat from the heat. It's that the flour browns so quickly that the meat has no chance to brown. Floured meat takes maybe 40 seconds per side to brown and 2 minutes to burn. Unfloured meat should be seared for 3 - 4 minutes. Next time you braise, try and experiment. Flour 90% of the meat and leave the other 10% unfloured. See what the unfloured meat looks like when the floured meat has browned and thats how much browned meat flavour you're adding to the braise. The rest is browned flour flavour.

PS: I am a guy.

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Mr Keller flours his meat for braises when he browns. Perhaps--and I'm gonna just throw this up there-- he knows something we don't.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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When I braise I either thicken with the mirepoix or leave the jus as is. Perosnally for my tastes (and by extension my families) a braise should not have a super thick rich sauce. Instead it should have a "braising jus" as described on a restaurant menu. This works for us, and I braise most weeks Fall through early sping.

Robin

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Mr Keller flours his meat for braises when he browns.  Perhaps--and I'm gonna just throw this up there-- he knows something we don't.

As I stated, it's a matter of opinion. My own personal experiences and opinion is that you shouldn't flour meat before searing it, for the reasons described above. Keller is certainly a great chef and I'm sure his braises are fantastic, but what he says certainly isn't the one and only way to do something. His techniques and recipes, while usually outstanding, are not infallible and shouldn't be taken as gospel.

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