Braising is one-pot cooking that is tenderizing, aromatic, incredibly flavorful and easy. Technically, it means cooking food, with just a little liquid and tightly covered, over low heat for a long time.

Braising differs from stewing, which uses lots of liquid and can be done in an uncovered pot. It does not produce the seductively intense sauces you get from braising.

Because it tenderizes, braising is ideal for today's leaner, often tough cuts of meat, especially the less expensive ones. The moist heat is also ideal for making skinless poultry as succulent as possible.

In fact, a recent cookbook, In Praise of Braising, by Molly Stevens, recommends short braising, which takes, at most, an hour of untended simmering, perfect for both poultry and fish because of its ability to infuse them with deep flavor.

The best pot for braising is heavy, ideally made of cast iron, enameled or not, or stainless steel-clad aluminum, both of which conduct heat slowly and evenly and work both on top of the stove and in the oven.

A tight-fitting lid holds in the braising liquid along with the juices, so as the food cooks their flavors can mingle and concentrate. Use a pot that holds what you are cooking snugly. Placing a sheet of cooking parchment or foil between the pot and lid can assure a good seal if a lid does not.

Two of the best braised dishes I know are Shanghai red-cooked pork and Greek green beans simmered with tomatoes. Most of the braised dishes you know probably have foreign origins, from coq au vin French and osso bucco Italian to pot roast, which was Americanized from French boeuf a la mode and German sauerbraten.

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Many Indian dishes are braised, including this one. It uses onions two ways pured in a spicy sauce, and sliced to cook on top of the chicken. Draining the yogurt first before it is stirred into the sauce at the end makes this dish creamier.

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I suggest using a Greek- or Turkish-style yogurt. Thicker and richer, even when reduced-fat or fat-free, they have become increasingly available at supermarkets.

Indian-Style Braised Chicken

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 container (6 oz.) low-fat plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. grated or finely chopped ginger
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • 1 Spanish onion, quartered and sliced thinly

Directions

  1. Place the yogurt into a fine strainer lined with a paper towel and let drain while preparing the other ingredients. (The yogurt can also be drained overnight, if refrigerated.)
  2. In a blender or food processor, pure the onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper and orange juice. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 8 minutes. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a plate.
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Carefully pour the pured mixture into the pan to avoid sputters. Bring it to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover tightly and simmer gently 15 minutes. Turn chicken, cover, and continue to simmer. When chicken is almost done, add onions, cover and simmer until the meat is thoroughly cooked through. Place the chicken on a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  5. Turn off heat under skillet to allow mixture to cool slightly. Stir in the drained yogurt. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until mixture is hot, taking care not to let it boil or the sauce will separate. Spoon the mixture over the chicken and serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
237 calories,
6 g. total fat,
1 g. saturated fat,
15 g. carbohydrate,
31 g. protein,
2 g. dietary fiber,
115 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 4-1/4 Lean Meat, 1 Low-Fat Milk


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