November 3, 2010 1:19:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Fall is a wonderful time to break out the stew recipes. Brrrr nights and blustery days call for comfort foods to fill the tummy and warm the heart. Most of us enjoy a traditional hearty beef stew, but variations are endless, as some of today's recipes illustrate. From a gingery Thai-inspired Cornish hen stew with lemongrass, to all-veggie, or even stew made with peanut butter, these ideas can open the door to culinary adventure.
Many stews are suited to crock pots and cook themselves, simmering in their own natural juices while you're away at work. They can be the prize at the end of a long day at the office -- or even make a great tailgate treat as November game day temperatures drop.
The stew-making tips from ehow.com and other sources below can hopefully help you on your way to, ahem, a stew-pendous meal.
Tips in the kitchen
Stewing can make something good out of foods that don't do too well with other cooking methods. Tougher cuts make the best stew meat because slow-cooking tenderizes them. (Long stewing will actually make tender cuts tougher, says ehow.com). Look for "stew meat" in the store; it's usually the least expensive. If using beef, cubed chuck makes the best stew, the site recommends.
Fresh ingredients are best, but some canned or frozen vegetables work well, such as peas, green beans and corn. Stews are a good way to use leftovers and can be easily frozen and reheated (with the exception of fish).
Season meat with salt and pepper before adding it into the pan or cooker. And don't forget to add a few tablespoons of oil to your saucepan or stockpot, so meat won't stick.
Beware that herbs will have a more intense flavor if added at the end of the long cooking process.
Watching the clock
Poultry stews take about an hour to cook; lamb and veal stews take about 90 minutes, says ehow.com. Beef stews take up to three hours or more. Check for doneness by removing a piece of meat and tasting it.
Stews made with only vegetables might need only 20 to 35 minutes to cook. Check them constantly because, unlike meat stew, it's easy to overcook vegetable stew.
Potatoes are indispensable in most stews: The trick is to add them after the stew has simmered for a while so they don't overcook and disintegrate. Add potatoes cut in large-ish cubes when there's about 40 minutes of cooking time remaining.
To get a thicker stew, make a roux by heating 2 tablespoons of oil and 4 tablespoons of flour together, stirring constantly until the mixture turns light brown. Whisk this into the stew, just before the end of the cooking time and simmer for about 15 minutes. Repeat if necessary.
The old adage that some things get better with age applies, at least in part. Savory stews and soups often taste better if made a day or two in advance and reheated just before serving, says homecooking.about.com.
Wine can make a great addition to stews and soups, suggests Food & Wine magazine. When using wine or alcohol, use less salt, as the wine tends to intensify saltiness. Wine should be added at a ratio of no more than 1/4 cup of wine to 1 quart of stew or soup. Beer is also a good addition. A good rule of thumb is 1 cup of beer to 3 cups of soup/stew.
Ready to cook? Fill the kitchen with tantalizing aromas with these recipes you can serve with crusty French bread or, in the case of the Cornish hen stew, steamed rice. Settling in with a hot bowl of filling stew can help any family warm up to a brisk, autumn night.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
One large red bell pepper, sliced
One celery rib, sliced
1 tablespoon oil
3 2/3 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Three medium potatoes, unpeeled thin-skinned, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups winter squash, cubed, about 1 inch (butternut, acorn, any type winter squash will work)
One medium zucchini, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms, halved
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
CORNISH HEN STEW WITH LEMONGRASS AND CHILIES
1 tablespoon dried green peppercorns
Two 1 1/2-pound Cornish hens
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Five dried red chilies
Four medium shallots, smashed and peeled
Three large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger or galangal, thinly sliced
Two lemongrass stalks (tender inner white bulb only, cut into 3-inch strips and smashed)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 quart water
Two large kohlrabi or turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
Two scallions, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Makes four 2-cup servings
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 pound lean boned leg of lamb or lean boned chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrot
Three garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 cups cubed baking potato
1 cup chopped peeled rutabaga
1 cup chopped peeled turnip
1/2 teaspoon salt
Seven (10 1/2-ounce) cans low-salt chicken broth or 8 cups homemade chicken stock
Two bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.