Stephanie Izard definitely knows her way around a braise. In Chicago, her inventive menus at The Girl & The Goat, Little Goat, and Duck Duck Goat draw big crowds, and much of the fanfare centers around her tender braised meats, like the namesake goat dishes, beef short ribs, and even a milk-braised pork ragu. If you’ve had the pleasure of sampling her food, you know that an Izard braise isn’t just tender—though it certainly is that—but also extraordinarily flavorful with deep and complex flavors.
I caught up with Izard at this year’s Cayman Cookout, a celebrity-chef studded culinary weekend hosted by Eric Ripert at the Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman. It was there, sipping a piña colada by the sprawling seaside pool, that the former James Beard winner dropped a seriously good tip for nailing an extremely flavorful braise every time.
Izard revealed that in her kitchens, braising liquids are always kept after use and recycled for a future braise, sauce, or any recipe that demands deep flavor. “With each braise, the liquid just gets better and better as flavors cook down and concentrate,” she told me, “ and that stuff is just way too good to waste.” Izard guesses that some of the braising liquids used in her restaurants have literally been going for years now.
If you’re doing this at home for your next braise—and you absolutely should—there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Izard mentioned that her kitchen staff uses (and re-uses) the braising liquids so frequently that they can just be stored in the fridge without spoiling. But if you’re not running a high-volume kitchen, you might not need it quite as often and it’s probably best to freeze the liquid in a plastic Tupperware or pyrex container until you do.
Marquette Castings 6-Quart Dutch Oven, $89.95 on Amazon
Braise everything in this handsome enameled Dutch oven.
Since there will always be less liquid after braising than when you started, keep in mind you may need to bolster your recycled braising liquid the next time with a little extra broth, stock, or wine, depending on how much is called for in the recipe. But all that rich flavor will still absolutely shine through.
This liquid gold isn’t just for braising either. You can pump up a sauce or drop some braising liquid into a risotto, stew, or soup for an extra flavor punch. In those cases, you probably won’t need quite as much, so consider freezing the braising liquid in ice cube trays and then place the frozen cubes of braising liquid in a storage bag. This way you’ll have major flavor on-hand and in whatever amount you need. Your future food will thank you.
Covered silicone ice tray, $11.99 on Amazon
Store your frozen recycled braising liquid in these handy trays.
One other helpful tip is to always label the braising liquid clearly and with the most prominent flavors (garlic, wine, spices, etc) if you can remember to. Not all braises are the same, of course, and you’ll want to know the flavor profile to ensure it works with whatever you’re making next.
Stephanie Izard’s Braised Pork Shanks
Ready to try a new braise? Don’t forget to save the leftover braising liquid when you’re done. See Izard’s recipe for brined and braised pork shanks with coconut milk and dijon mustard, served at her popular Chicago restaurant The Girl & The Goat.
Stephanie Izard’s Braised Pork Shanks
- FOR THE BRINE:
- ½ tablespoon black peppercorn
- ½ tablespoon fennel seed
- ½ tablespoon mustard seed
- ½ tablespoon coriander seed
- ½ tablespoon red chili flake
- 4 quarts water
- 1½ cups salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 apples, quartered
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 sprig tarragon
- 1 small piece ginger, smashed
- 4 pork shanks (about 1½lb each)
- 4 quarts ice
- FOR THE BRAISE:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and choppe
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 bulb fennel, quartered and sliced
- 5 dried shitake mushrooms
- ¼ cup coconut milk plus an additional ½ cup
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 dried Thai chilies
- 8 cups chicken stock
- For brining the pork shanks:
- In a small dry skillet set over medium heat, toast spices while stirring constantly until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- In a large stockpot combine water, salt, sugar, toasted spices, and aromatics and bring to a boil.
- Once the brine begins to boil remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Place the pork shanks and ice in a large pot or storage container.
- Pour cooled brine over and cover.
- Refrigerate for 12 hours.
- For braising the pork shanks:
- Preheat the oven to 300°.
- Remove pork shanks from the brine.
- Rinse under cold water, removing any of the spices and aromatics.
- Pat dry with paper towels and allow them to air-dry for an additional 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a roasting pan set over two burners, heat the olive oil.
- Sweat the carrot, onion, and fennel over medium-low heat until they begin to release liquid and soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add dried shitakes, ¼ cup coconut milk, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, Thai chilies and chicken stock.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to a steady simmer.
- Nestle shanks into the simmering liquid, adding more stock and coconut milk if necessary.
- Wrap the pan with foil and roast in the oven until tender, 3 ½ – 4 hours.
- When the shanks are tender, remove the pan from the oven and cool to room temperature.
- Remove shanks from braising liquid and strain, disregarding the solids.
- Either place the shanks and liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Place the shanks on a sheet tray or roasting dish and cook until the skin is crispy about 30 minutes.(if using shanks that have been refrigerated, allow them to come to room temperature.).
- Meanwhile, return the liquid to a medium saucepan and bring to a steady boil.
- Reduce the liquid by half.
- Add coconut milk and butter to reach desired consistency and season with salt.
- Remove the shanks from the oven and place on a serving platter. drizzle the shanks with the sauce and serve, passing more sauce at the table.
- Note: for added texture and flavor, toss in some sautéed mushrooms to the finished sauce.
Header image courtesy of Getty Images.