Rain and cooler temperatures have finally come to town, heralding the braising season. You know braising, right? It’s the centuries-old method of slow-and-low, in-a-pot cooking of tough cuts of meat (and poultry), transforming them into fork-tender masterpieces.
The key element is the seasoned braising liquid. It’s what gives the meat its flavor, and can be costly and time-consuming to assemble. The upscale cookware chain Williams-Sonoma offers a tasty shortcut with its recently stocked variety of braising bases. The flavors are intriguing: leek-truffle, maple-bourbon, ginger-sesame, artichoke-roasted garlic, citrus-garlic, Meyer lemon, apple cider-sage, beef stew, Hungarian paprikash, beef Bourguignon, coq au vin, osso buco and chicken fricassee.
We bought a 24.5-ounce jar of base for yankee pot roast ($17), a thick concoction of beef stock, three kinds of mushrooms, red wine, red wine vinegar, onion, celery, carrot, tomato paste, garlic, molasses, Worchestershire sauce and seasonings.
Following the directions on the back label (sort of), we browned a chuck roast in olive oil in a black-iron skillet, then placed the meat into a Le Creuset oval oven (a slow cooker or Dutch oven work as well). It was followed by the base, a bunch of fingerling potatoes, a handful of baby carrots, a couple of halved shallots, two stalks of chopped celery, a bay leaf and two garlic cloves. We put on the lid and turned the gas on low. The lifting of the lid a few hours later filled the house with aromatic scents and put appetites on high alert.
The base gave the beef a delicious, complexly layered depth of flavor, but the roast’s vinegary tang was more reminiscent of a German sauerbraten than the classic New England dish. Still, there were no complaints. Or leftovers.