I didn’t think I knew what braising was when I picked up America Test Kitchen’s “How to Braise Everything: Classic, Modern, and Global Dishes Using a Time-honored Technique.” But it turns out I have used this cooking technique many times before. And now that I have read about it and tested out several recipes, I will be turning to braising — and this cookbook — again and again.

Braising, which results in a fusion of flavors and a luscious sauce, is one-pot cooking at its best. There is none of the big mess that comes with frying or the big fuss that comes with whipping up a fancy sauce.

So what exactly is braising? Here’s the definition, from “How to Braise Everything”: “to cook a main ingredient – meat, vegetable, legume – in a closed environment to break down its proteins or fibers and achieve ultra-tender results.” Braising usually involves liquid, too.

The cookbook is filled with basic information about cooking. The first 33 pages are devoted to explaining various cuts of meat, types of fish and even the best side dishes to serve to soak up the wonderful juices created by a braise. Along the way, plentiful illustrations and informational boxes help guide even the most novice cook. The recipes range from sophisticated company fare to homey Saturday night supper dishes.

Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

The hardest part of writing this review was selecting just one dish to sample from among the book’s 230 recipes. I was torn between fish or beans and finally settled on a Moroccan tagine that called for monkfish, an underused species that is reasonably priced and available fresh off the coast of Maine. Ask the fishmonger to trim the membrane from the fish or you will have to do it yourself.

The dish called for a half dozen spices but nothing, excepting dried mint, that I didn’t already have in my spice rack. The only other items I had to pick up at the supermarket were oil-cured olives, a bottle of clam juice and fresh mint.

The directions were easy to follow. My only complaint is that the recipe suggested dinner would be done in a half hour, but it was more like 45 minutes. Still, 15 minutes of overtime is far better than some recipes that promise quick results but have trapped me in what feels like a never-ending cooking nightmare.

I served the tagine on a bed of couscous with some green beans. It was sweet and tangy and filled the whole house with the sweet smell of Moroccan spices.

Now on to the Black-Eyed Peas and Greens, the Chinese-Style Red-Cooked Beef, then the Chicken Provencal. It’ll be hard to stop…

 

Monkfish Tagine

To trim monkfish, slip a knife under the membrane, angle knife slightly upward, and use a back-and-forth motion to cut it away from fish.

Serves 4-6

3 (2-inch) strips of orange zest

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 1/4 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried mint

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice

1 1/2 pounds skinless monkfish fillets, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces

1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, quartered

2 tablespoons fresh mint

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

  1. Mince 1 strip orange zest and combine with 1 teaspoon garlic in a bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 2 strips orange zest and cook until vegetables ares softened and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in remaining garlic, tomato paste, paprika, cumin, dried mint and saffron and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in clam juice, scraping up any browned bits.
  3. Pat monkfish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Nestle monkfish into pot, spoon some cooking liquid over top, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer gently until monkfish is opaque in center and registers 160 degrees, 8 to 12 minutes.
  4. Discard orange zest. Gently stir in olives, fresh mint, vinegar, and garlic-orange zest mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

 

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