When liquid is maintained at a temperature just below a boil, it is called a simmer. When there are tiny bubbles barely breaking the surface it’s considered a “gentle” or “low” simmer. If the bubbles are larger and moving faster, it’s considered a “rapid” simmer.
Simmering cooks food gently and slowly, perfect for delicate foods such as fish or fibrous root vegetables like potatoes. Keeping potatoes at a simmer allows them to cook more evenly.
When liquid is brought to a boil, the bubbles will be numerous, large, and consistently breaking at the surface. At this point, the liquid will also quickly evaporate.
Because boiling keeps food in motion it helps to cook it quickly and prevent it from sticking to itself which is ideal when cooking pasta. Tender green vegetables also do well with boiling because it helps to maintain their color and flavor. Lastly, because boiling causes speedy evaporation of liquids it’s also the best method to use when trying to reduce sauces.
An emulsion is a stabilized mixture which contains two or more liquids that wouldn’t ordinarily combine, such as oil and vinegar. Some emulsions are temporary such as a homemade vinaigrette however, other emulsions like mayonnaise are more stable and permanent.
All emulsions require vigorous blending in order to get the ingredients to combine. A stable emulsion (mayo) will require a emulsifier to help hold the ingredients together. A common and popular emulsifier is egg yolks. Mustard and cream can also be used.
Braising means to simmer food slowly in liquid. Braising liquid can be wine, stock, beer, or even water. Herbs, seasonings, and vegetables are added to the braising liquid to create a depth of flavor to both the meat and the resulting sauce. Typical meats for braising are those that are tough cuts such as briskets, chuck roasts, and short ribs.
When braising meats, they are first seared (browned) in a pan on all sides in a little bit of fat, usually butter or oil. The meat is then removed in order to saute the mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots, etc) Once the mirepoix is nice and caramelized it’s important to deglaze the pan being sure to scrape up all of the delicious browned bits. The meat is then added back into the braising liquid, covered tightly, and left to cook for hours in the oven. The resulting meat is extremely tender and flavorful.
Braised Short Ribs