Hearty Stews, Heavy on the Vegetables

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There is an extreme version of just about every stew you can name — beef stew, Irish stew, curry, cassoulet, bouillabaisse — in which vegetables are used, if at all, as “aromatics.” You may start by sweating a little bit of onion, carrot, celery, maybe garlic, with a bay leaf and a thyme sprig, and then you proceed to brown your main ingredient, usually chunks of meat, and add some liquid.

It’s difficult to believe that this tradition goes back much before the ’50s, because so few people had access to the two pounds or more of meat that it takes to make a stew containing little else. From Henry IV to Herbert Hoover, the promise was made that every Sunday, there would be a chicken “in every pot.” No one ever said “a half-pound of meat per person per day,” which is about what we eat.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Beef Stew (with or without Guinness)

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By Alaina Sullivan

This week I made Mark’s Beef Stew from How to Cook Everything, with a modest addition in honor of St. Patrick’s day: Guinness. Ireland’s famous black stout – “thinned” slightly with beef stock – makes the broth robust and dark, its mysteriously roasted flavor rippling throughout. All of the ingredients take to the Guinness in their own way – the meat gets deeply flavorful and tender, the carrots become malty and sweet, and the potatoes soak it up like sponges. You’ll be pouring your perfect pints right into the pot.

Beef Stew

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 1 ½ to 2 hours, largely unattended

2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, lightly crushed, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 to 2 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck or round, trimmed of surface fat and cut into 1- to 1 ½-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into eighths

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, water, wine, or a combination, or more as needed*

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

4 medium to large waxy or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Heat a large pot with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes; add the oil and the crushed garlic clove; cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then remove and discard the garlic. Add the meat to the skillet a few minutes at a time, turning to brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Do not crowd or the cubes will not brown properly; cook in batches if necessary. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper as it cooks.

2. When the meat is brown, remove it with a slotted spoon. Pour or spoon off most of the fat and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onions. Cook, stirring until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, and meat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.

3. Uncover the pot; the mixture should be wet (if not, add a little more liquid). Add the potatoes and carrots, turn the heat up for a minute or so to bring the liquid back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover again. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes, until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (At this point, you may remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and refrigerate them and the stock separately. Skim the fat from the stock before combining it with the meat and vegetables, reheating, and proceeding with the recipe from this point.)

4. Add the minced garlic and the peas; if you’re pleased with the stew’s consistency, continue to cook, covered, over low heat. If it’s too soupy, remve the cover and raise the heat to high. In either case, cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the peas have heated through and the garlic has flavored the stew. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Beef and Guinness Stew. In Step 2, omit the flour. Use 2 cups Guinness and 1- to 1 ½-cups beef broth for the liquid (add more beer, broth or water as needed during the cooking process).

Posted in Recipes

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

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By Alaina Sullivan

Lima beans are notoriously unloved, but they’re starchy, buttery, and delicious. In this stew, half of the beans are pureed into a luxuriously creamy base, while the other half (left whole) are suspended in the thick broth. For some freshness, arugula is stirred in at the end, wilting as it folds into the broth. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

Cook a package of frozen lima beans in a cup of water with some salt, butter, and minced garlic. When the beans are tender, puree half of them with most of the cooking liquid in a food processor until smooth; add some cream, half-and-half, or broth to thin. Return the pureed bean mixture to the pan with the whole beans and season with salt and pepper.* Add a bunch of tender greens and continue cooking until the greens are wilted. Add more liquid if necessary and serve, with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil and crusty bread.

 *Alternatively, I presoaked 1 lb of dried lima beans and added half of them to a pot of chopped yellow onion and minced garlic (sautéing in olive oil). For the liquid I added 1 cup of water and 2 cups vegetable stock, seasoning the soup with 2 Tbsp fresh thyme and 2 sprigs rosemary. When the beans were tender I pureed the entire mixture with a hand blender and then folded in the reserved whole beans; adding splashes of stock as needed.

Posted in American, Recipes

Risotto as Sauce

By Edward Schneider

Last year some time, Jackie and I had the most wonderful risotto assembly at our friend Angela Hartnett’s London restaurant Murano: a layer of shredded braised oxtail, sauce and all, topped with a delicate leek risotto. Cottage pie meets Milan, with the creamy risotto acting simultaneously as a second sauce and as an integral element of the dish. (With a bit of imagination, you can see an antecedent in the custom of serving osso buco with saffron-scented risotto.)

I thought of this a while ago, when we were just starting to get tired of the leftovers of a braised pork butt we’d been pecking away at for several days. Also in the refrigerator I had some cooked peppers – sweet red peppers and a poblano – julienned and slowly melted in olive oil until the flavor intensified. As I reheated the pork yet again, I used a half cup of this pepper mixture to start a risotto: not the typical elegant kind, but something gutsier – a kind of in-your-face risotto that is becoming a habit in our house. This one was flavored only with that pepper “sofrito,” white wine and chicken stock, with plenty of black pepper. Continue reading

Posted in Italian

Do It in the Oven

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By Pam Anderson

[A post that rings especially true to me – I gave my slow-cooker to my father-in-law, and while I do have a pressure cooker, it gets pulled out about once a year. – mb]

I like pressure cookers and slow cookers just fine, but I’ve never developed a cooking style that included them. Unlike my coffee maker, they weren’t beloved enough to warrant precious counter space. And since they’re bulky, I couldn’t justify the coveted kitchen cabinet space, home to my much more frequently used pots and pans, food processor, blender, toaster and mixers.

And although I’d occasionally go through a phase and drag one or the other of them out for a brief time, my slow and pressure cookers usually end up on a garage shelf with the waffle iron, ice cream freezer, fondue pot, and espresso machine. Continue reading

Posted in American, Recipes