When winter rolls around, I am struck by a biological instinct to braise, and that most often results in big hunks of fork-tender pot roast or short ribs whoring it up with multiple potatoes. But why do vegetables so often just get chucked into a skillet and pushed around apathetically?
Fibrous vegetables (fennel, artichokes, escarole, endive, leeks, cabbage, bok choy, onions) make just as good braising subjects, and they are increasingly seen on menus around town. To braise is to cook slowly (barely simmering) in a little liquid, in a covered pot. It can be done on the stove or in the oven, as long as the temperature stays low. Otherwise, the liquid will boil and the veggies will mush and disintegrate.
The other crucial detail is the liquid. It provides the basis of a built-in sauce (my pot roast’s justification for all that potato canoodling. Oh, that reminds me: Noodles work just as well). The liquid should be something that will impart flavor to the vegetables. This could be wine, tomato puree, or any kind of stock. And it can be embellished by adding ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, or just about anything.