Winter is the season of braised meat. The secret of braising is pretty simple: use the cheap cuts with a lot of connective tissue and do not trim anything off of them. So ask your butcher please not to trim off anything at all. You can still cut it off on your plate, but if you braise meat long enough, the connective tissue will just disappear. Meat cooks a lot faster than the connective tissues, but if you braise your meat at low temperature for a long long time, the connective tissues are going to melt into the meat and turn the meat moist and soft. That is also the secret of all braised dishes and why they need so much time. I like to prepare them overnight in the oven. This way I don’t have to worry about any burnt parts and if I wake up during the night, I turn the meat around and go back to sleep. And I wake up in the morning with a wonderful scent of braised meat all over my flat.
My most favorite parts for braising are the cheeks and the knuckles (in Germany they are called “Haxen”) of beef, lamb, veal or pork, because they contain a lot of connective tissue. Knuckles are a very rustic dish when served on their bone. For a more refined plating I removed the bones from the braised knuckles and cut the meat into portions. Removing the bones should always be done while the meat is still hot and soft. Portioning is much easier when the meat is cold and the gelatin and fat hardened the meat. Glazing the meat during reheating in the sauce is also a step you don’t want to miss, because spooning the sauce from time to time over the meat creates a layer of very rich flavors. For the sauce I switched yet again the red wine to quince, which added the required acidity and also enriched the sauce with its unique flavor.
As garnish I used a wide range of colorful winter vegetables. While the yellow carrot, orange pumpkin, red beet and green Brussels sprouts taste just like what they are, I flavored the nashi pear with rooibos tea caramel and the parsley root puree with fresh cinnamon. All accompaniments paired great and also worked well with the braised lamb and the quince flavored sauce.