On a day like yesterday, when the morning trees are glazed lacy with ice, I think stew. Esme and I set about putting this together yesterday morning before her nap. While we were gathering ingredients, I couldn't decide between Irish, Italian, or or Moroccan style--so I chanced it and used elements of all--ginger, cumin, cinnamon, fennel, carrots. It worked. Now I'm going to share it with you.
The directions are pretty detailed. If you cook a lot, ignore the instructive tone and just do your thing. If you don't cook a lot, this might help you make it more easily.
Slow meat stew for a cold day
2-3 pounds meat, cubed into large chunks. I used two kinds: veal, and some lean lamb
1 sweet onion
1.5 cups of potatoes, cubed. (About 6 medium-sized)
1 bulb of fennel, chopped into 1-inch chunks
1.5 cups roughly chopped carrots
1 cup of kale, chopped (I used 8 or 9 leaves)
1 cup of peas
1 can of chopped tomatoes, or 1 cup of fresh tomatoes, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 inch square of fresh ginger, chopped finely
28 oz of chicken broth (2 cans)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablesppons salt
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Cooking utensils: A covered dutch oven (or any big, oven-proof pot with a lid), a frying pan (not nonstick!)
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Get all your stuff "mise en place" or put in it place, waiting for you to use it. It will go together much faster this way, even (or especially) with a toddler helping!
2. Cut up all vegetables, starting with the potatoes. Set the potatoes aside in a bowl and cover them with lemon juice. This keeps them from turning brown, and gives your stew the acid that it will need to deepen the flavor.
3. Cut the meat, and let it sit out for 15 minutes, salted and peppered lightly.
4. Heat the olive oil, then saute the onions until they are translucent and slightly browned. Take off the heat, and dump the onions and oil into the dutch oven.
5. Sear the meat in the same hot frying pan, without adding more oil. A nonstick pan doesn't work so well for browning, so stick with a regular old stainless pan. Keeping the heat on high, brown all sides of the meat by turning the pieces as they cook. You only want to cook the outside of the meat, so stay with the pan and do this fast. It will only take about 3 minutes for each batch.
6. When the meat is browned,dump it out into the dutch oven, on top of the onions. Set the hot pan back onto the burner--don't wash it yet!
7. Deglaze the frying pan. This is basically just pouring the wine into the hot frying pan, and using the wine to scrape the bits of lamb and veal off the pan. Your stew will have much better flavor because of this little detail. When your pan is deglazed, pour it into the dutch oven.
8. Pour the chicken broth into the dutch oven.
9. Add the rest of the vegetables to the dutch oven. Stir it up.
10. Add the seasonings and stir again. By the way, I don't really use a measuring spoon when I do these; I eyeball it. My eyes are pretty accurate, but regardless, you should adjust the amounts as you see fit. Make sure you taste it halfway through to see if it's on track. Don't taste immediately--that meat isn't cooked yet!
11. Put it into the oven for at least 1.5 hours. I cooked mine for 3 hours, and it was exactly right.
I wish this were a smello-blog, so you could experience the amazing scent of this stew, steaming hot from the oven. I guess you'll have to make it for yourself to find out!
Now if you have read this far, and are wondering why a person who is on a "reduction plan" would make such a lovely, rich stew....well, the word for the year is ENJOY, right? And to my delight, an 8 oz portion is just enough to fill one medium bowl, and my happy tummy.
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