Combination cooking utilizes both dry and moist cooking processes. The method begins with a dry cooking method and ends with the addition of some kind of liquid that transfers heat to finish the cooking. Beginning with dry cooking means that the combination method adds some caramelization and/or Maillard browning to the products being cooked.
Traditionally, the items to be braised are first seared. Searing is the dry portion of the cooking method. When working with fruits and vegetables, searing the food product allows for the formation of a caramelized crust. This crust will add to the depth of flavor in the end product. After the product has been seared it is placed in a pan with some liquid. This is the moist heat cooking method. Not a lot of liquid is added, just enough to cover about one-third of the product. The mixture is then covered and placed in an oven with low heat until it is completely cooked. The liquid is used as the base of the sauce. Items such as beets, fennel, carrots, pears, apples, and pineapple all acquire deep, luxurious flavors when braised with a bit of liquid. Some examples of flavor pairings include beets and carrots with fresh orange juice, fennel with a dry white wine, pears with bourbon and a touch of maple syrup, apples with fresh apple cider, or pineapple with Malibu rum. The flavor combinations in all of these dishes are deep and full bodied. The resulting liquid, along with the pan fond, or drippings can be made into an accompanying sauce.
Stewing differs from braising in a number of ways. First, the products being stewed are cut into small pieces. Next, they are completely covered with a liquid, unlike the smaller quantity of liquid used in the braising method. The mixture then remains on the stovetop and continues to cook uncovered. In the case of stewing, the liquid becomes part of the dish. No additional sauce is required. Both braising and stewing are used with tougher items that both require and can withstand a long cooking time.
In some respects, a compote is a type of stew. The fruit is in small pieces and a liquid is added as the fruit is cooked. In this case the fruit’s natural pectin will thicken the “stew,” which is most often used as a sauce for plated desserts. Fresh raspberries cooked with red wine and a bit of orange juice and honey served over a lemon buttermilk ice cream is an example of a combination cooking method being incorporated into a plated dessert.