(Note: The final essay assignment for Culinary Foundations I class at the California Culinary Academy was to describe either the soups at a local restaurant or one of the seven techniques of French cooking. I focused on le braiser. This is my essay.)
To analyze poetry is to demystify it by removing the romance and the magic. The same applies to the romance and the magic of the culinary art. For at its best, it is poetry.
If that is so, the epic poem of Les Cuissons Francaise is braiser, or braising.
Braising is the Beowulf, the Odyssey, the Bhagavata Purana of the culinary techniques because of what it does for an average -- or worse -- piece of meat or poultry. The deep, complex flavors it coaxes from every ingredient are nonpareil in all other techniques.
Additionally, it demonstrates the height of skillfulness in the chef because of its very complexity. The slow, deliberate, low-temperature approach requires the chef’s full concentration, patience and timing. It also requires a bold, visceral, artistic knowledge that extends well beyond simply following the recipe or the directions.
"This technique separates the chefs from the cooks," California Culinary Academy Chef Instructor John Meidinger says.
He may just as well say that braising separates the epic poets from the writers of rhyme.
Braising brings a tender, submissive romance to the toughest piece of beef. And it uses the toughness itself to create a magical potion of sauce, elevated to untold heights of flavor in the skillful hands of the chef poet.
Just as Beowulf himself was attended to by “the ring-adorned queen, of excellent heart, (who) bore the mead-cup … ”, the poetic chef brings the romance and the magic of le braiser to the table as the finest offering of Le Cuisson Francaise.