Stew comes from the French voice ethouffer (to drown or suffocate) or from stufer , which means stove referring to a warm and closed space. And it is that the food is cooked covered, in its own juice and generally with added liquid, it is therefore a method of cooking in a liquid or wet medium.
The braising technique is usually used with pieces of meat (whole, boneless or chopped) or other ingredients that need slow and prolonged cooking to make them tender, generally dipped in broth or cooking juices that add flavor, and is characterized by the fact that cook with the container covered, avoiding evaporation and, consequently, preserving the juices of the food and the ingredients incorporated for cooking.
It is usually made with vegetables and / or vegetables, water or broth, wine (or vinegar), spices … The result of a stew is, therefore, a dish full of nutrients and concentration of flavors. Cooking can last several hours, it all depends on what you want to cook, and the temperature should always be below the boiling point, at most 80ºC (inside the meat). It is at this approximate temperature that the collagen of some meats, as we mentioned with the cheeks, is dissolved and gelatin is formed, offering a tender and juicy bite.
But it must also be taken into account that the high temperature causes the meat fibers to dry, so it is interesting to play between 60º C, when the fibers begin to lose their juices and 80º C in which the collagen is made jelly. In some stews it may even be necessary to bring the liquid to a boil, add the meat to eliminate bacteria from the surface and add more cold liquid to cool the whole.
It is true that it resembles the Brasear cooking method, but in this case the first step of browning the food in a fat or oil is omitted. For this type of cooking you can use different pots, kettles or cocottes, remember the ones we showed you in the post Cocotte, there are models that have a special lid for steam condensation, thus facilitating the hydration of the stew during its preparation.
To make a stew, we usually start with all the ingredients raw, without sautéing, frying, frying or browning. But it is usual that a thick broth is desired as a result of cooking, to serve it as a sauce to accompany the stew, that is why some link ingredient such as flour, breadcrumbs, potatoes is usually incorporated.
Another option is to remove the meat and reduce the liquid through boiling, then reincorporate the meat, since the rest allows the meat to reabsorb some liquid, making it juicier and more flavorful. That is why it is always said that a stew is much richer from one day to the next.
We will know that a meat stew has been made at a mild temperature, with gradual increases in temperature up to the maximum recommended, because it will retain a reddish color inside even though it has been cooking for two hours in a Le Creuset cocotte.
Fish stews are also made, but as we know, most need little cooking time, so to get them to absorb the flavors of other vegetable ingredients, especially the broth in which they are going to be cooked is prepared in advance.