Down to Basics: Stew & Co.

January 28, 2013 § 11 Comments

stew gremolata vegetables

Ever since eating salad while admitting it was stew weather, I haven’t been able to shake stew off.  Stew has been following me, or more accurately I have been following stew, chasing it into every manner of manifestation in my kitchen and out onto the table, beef, pork, lamb, venison, chicken, simple, spiced, something in between.  It’s been stew all of this last week.

Or, if not stew itself, a member of the stew family.  That is, tagines, curries, chilis, and so on.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, all of those are really stew masquerading as something exotic.  And, of course, to those who grew up eating these others as their comfort food, stew is the exotic one.

lamb tagine

And so, because once you can make a stew you can make all of its spicier cousins, let us go over some basics of stew construction, plus variations on how to transform your warming pot of meat and vegetables into a tagine, curry, or chili.

Stew is basically slow cooked pieces of meat (or it can be beans or another protein source) with vegetables in liquid of some sort.  It’s thicker – less soupy – than soup, and the pieces of meat are smaller than the one (or several) large pieces in a braise.  The steps in making stew are approximately these:

Start by cutting a couple pounds of a tough cut of meat into 2-inch cubes (stew beef, lamb, or even pork tend to work well; you can also stew chicken thighs,  but they’ll take a bit less time in the final cooking process) and sprinkle them with salt.  If you wish you can also toss them in some flour, which will help thicken the stew, but which is by no means absolutely necessary.  Follow this by browning all your meat bits in butter or oil in a large heavy pan.  Do this in batches so as not to crowd the pieces of meat because if they’re crowded they’ll steam rather than browning.  Once nice and brown on all sides, transfer the meat to a plate. « Read the rest of this entry »

Holy Mole Chicken and Squash Chili

February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

Ok guys, I’ve got to come clean.  I’m a hater.  Okay, well not really a hater, though I’m worried I’ll come across as such (Hmm, I don’t think “hater” and “as such” are frequently used together in a sentence like that.  Also, I sound like a ding dong when I try to say something like hater.  But I’ve gone and done it, so let’s put it past us, alright?).  I just don’t really get American sports, and I’m afraid I really don’t get the Superbowl.  (I can’t even remember if it’s one word or two.)  Up until college, I kind of thought the Superbowl happened once every four years, like World Cup Soccer (that is, football to the rest of the world) or the Olympics.

The Olympics!  Now there’s exciting sports to watch!  Particularly the winter Olympics.  See, by virtue of how I was raised, I find Nordic skiing, biathlon, long-distance speed skating, and the like, to be the most thrilling displays of athletic prowess.  Oh my gosh.  I lose my words.  I think about the men’s Nordic skiing relay in ’94 and ’98, the EPIC battle between Norway and Italy, Norway losing (gasp) on their home turf in Lillehammer by 4/10ths of a second, then avenging their loss in Nagano, with a dramatic sprint finish by Thomas Alsgaard, beating the Italians by 2/10ths of a second.

Phew!  Heavens.  My heart races and I find myself squeezing the life out of the nearest chair arm just thinking about it.  I have to catch my breath for a second.

Okay, now tell me that that’s not more exciting than the Superbowl.

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Florence, and welcome home chili

October 18, 2011 § 13 Comments

We’re ensconced back in Boston now, back amidst the crowded three-home Victorian buildings, the fall leaves grown burnished golden and sparse, and a distinct lack of cappuccinos everywhere you turn.  All it took was a 30 hour day, the heavily-accented services of AirFrance (who, by the way, offer Champagne as an aperitif, for free, in coach.  I think I need to fly with them more often, though Charles DeGaule is a catastrophe of an airport), and a wonderful and generous friend to pick us up at the airport.  Air travel still amazes me.

We slept hard and woke up early yesterday morning with piles of work and places to be already tapping us persistently on the shoulders.  But, it’s nice to be home.

However, I feel as if I would be remiss in my duty of being that random person who overshares about her life, and what she eats, if I didn’t at least tell you a little bit about our visit to Florence.  Florence, is a wondrous and inspiring place to visit because it has the best gelato in all of Italy.  Oh, and a little thing called the Renaissance started there.

Like many of the great old cities, Florence has an energetic, and slightly incongruous feeling, way of weaving together ancient history with hustley bustley, cell phone pervaded modern living.  People don’t necessarily live differently there because there are still buildings that are from the middle ages or statues and paintings that were the first to, oh say, rediscover perspective (I’m in awe every time I think about that.  Have been since European history with Mr. Jensen in the 11th grade).

And yet, having some of the very deepest foundations of the way we live now visible to you on every street corner must make some difference.

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Enchiladas de Pollo, or “that Mexican lasagne”

January 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

Sometimes as a result of my general lack of planning in procuring groceries, followed by a lack of meal planning until suppertime is near at hand, I find myself stuck in kind of an improvisatory cooking rut.  It looks a little something like this.  Emily’s One-pot Wonders: chop and sautee meat remove from pan (or open can of legumes); chop and sautee onions and garlic until soft, add random chopped vegetables and cook until beginning to be tender; add a blend of Italian spices or Moroccan spices or Latin American spices or Indian spices or just salt and pepper; add back meat; throw in a can of tomatoes; simmer; eat.  All things considered it’s not bad at all (sometimes it’s even downright tasty!).  But, after doing this for a certain period of time, I find it does start to get old.  At that point, Emily-with-slightly-higher-expectations has to take rather-lazy-Emily by the shoulders and give her a good shake, and say something like, “you are a lazy ass!  I think, at least I hope, you can handle getting 2 pots dirty.  Try making something that requires at least a teensy weensy bit of foresight, for heaven sakes!”

And, usually I listen.  This enchilada recipe is one of my most recent forays back into the world of cooking what might actually deserve the term a dish. It’s a recipe I originally got from a couple of friends back in college.  It was so ooey-gooey-cheesy delicious, it quickly became a frequent guest at our dinner table and generally led to fights over who got to have the leftovers for lunch.  I stopped making it because it somehow in my mind transformed into one of those recipes that just has too many steps that you don’t want to bother with – which is strange because it doesn’t!  I think maybe the problem was I remembered the way the original recipe called for you to dip each individual tortilla into the sauce and shake it off before filling it, which led to catastrophic messes in the kitchen.  But, this step is totally unnecessary if you just coat the bottom of the pan with sauce and then pour the rest over the top. « Read the rest of this entry »

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