Braising Questions

Braised pot roast
Braised pot roast Wikimedia Commons

I'm getting married soon, which means registering for gifts, which means much rejoicing in the kitchen. Last week, a set of Le Creuset enameled cast-iron cookware arrived on my doorstep. I have been reading and hearing great things about this stuff for years now—how evenly it distributes heat, how it lasts forever, how nice it looks, etc.—so I jumped for joy when I opened that box. (Or at least, I tried to jump. That stuff is heavy!)

The set includes four things, two of which I can figure out how to use pretty easily (a grill pan and a casserole dish). But then there's also a Dutch oven, and, more perplexing, a braising pan. I have plans to try Mark Bittman's no-knead bread in the Dutch oven someday soon, and I imagine that sort of pot might also be good for soups and stews.

But a braiser? I've honestly never seen one before, never mind used one. My fiance had the same reaction: Wow! What an awesome gift! Um...what is this thing?

After a bit of research, I think I see why. Braising pans are mostly intended for meat, and we don't cook meat, other than occasionally grilling some fish. (We'll also eat chicken sometimes in restaurants, but neither of us really knows what to do with it in the kitchen. Maybe this is our cue to learn.)

And so I turn to my wise readers: I'm sure you must have some tips or recipes to share. Can I braise vegetables, or even tofu or tempeh? What do you do with your braiser?

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