Braising is a busy cook's best friend since it doesn't require much hands-on time or fancy equipment. A heavy Dutch-oven with a tight-fitting lid is all you need to make hearty, delicious dishes that will give everyone the impression that you spent much more time creating than you really did.
Another plus -- braising recipes generally call for inexpensive cuts of meat, which appeals to everyone during these financially trying times.
The term braise has its roots in the old French word, brese, meaning "ember," and the Germanic bhreu, roughly translated as "boil" or "bubble," and dates back to when cooks took advantage of the dying coals in their fireplaces by tucking a covered pot filled with meat and vegetables into the coals.
The most significant difference between braising and stewing is the size of the pieces of meat, fish, or poultry. Braised meats are generally prepared with larger cuts of meat that are cooked partially covered in liquid. Stews require the pieces of meat to be cut into 1-to-3-inch pieces (depending on the recipe) and are cooking entirely submerged in the cooking liquid. Both are cooked for long periods of time over low heat.
To practice your braising skills, try making the Pork Shoulder Braised in Hard Cider.