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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