Directly from my notes of Skills 3 class – Day 31 at The Culinary Institute Of America:
Braise: A cooking method in which the main item – usually meat, is seared in fat, then simmered in a stock or other liquid (approximately 2/3rds of the way) , then cooked slowly in a covered pot. The cooking liquid is then reduced and used as a base for a sauce.
Stew: A cooking method almost exactly a braising. However, smaller pieces of meat are used which allow for shorter cooking times. Stewed items may also be blanched instead of seared, to give the finished product a pale color. (such as blanquette or fricassee)
The key thing to remember here, is that they both use “combination cooking” which means they use dry heat and moist heat to cook the item and you cook them LOW and SLOW. This allows you to use inexpensive cuts of meat and really breakdown the tough connective tissue. Another important tip, is that when a recipe says “cook until fork tender” – it literally means: tender to the touch of a fork (not a knife) A knife will pierce most anything, but the true test of doneness is with the blunt edges of a fork.
This beef and barley stew is so “stick to your ribs” good! It’s a very classic preparation and the result is so worth it.
It freezes well too! If you make it, please take a photo and tag me on social media!