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Posts Tagged ‘stew’

I hear Italy has the best tomatoes in the world.

As far as fresh tomatoes, nothing can beat one you pick off your own vine that has been nurtured for weeks.  The taste of sweet success, in nightshade form.

Those Italians have San Marzano tomatoes, they grow and can them.  I bought a large can of those imported tomatoes out of curiosity.  Are these really any better?  Well for a true scientific endeavour, I would have to prepare the exact same recipe using two types of tomatoes, forgein and domestic.  Did I have time for this experiment?  No.  I did prepare the San Marzano tomatoes in a lamb stew inspired by my late great aunt Viola.  My aunt sent me three of Granny’s old cookbooks aftering locating the shoe box housing them.  She sent me the books because you’re the family’s most passionate cook, she wrote in her card accompanying the books.  I cried.  I was elated and touched all at once.  In one of the books, a church group cook book, my Granny’s sister authored a few recipes.  One recipe was a tomato and meat stew, I had just picked up some lamb on a whim so that would be the meat, the tomatoes would be the handsome San Marzano.

Since this type of tomato is so prized and therefore more expensive, be careful to read the label on the can and check for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo, there are immitations out there.  True San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano (Campania) region of Italy.  You can buy the seeds and try growing your own, but I doubt they will be the same unless you live near a volcano.  If I find the seeds, I’ll give it a go.  Italy is on the must-see/visit/taste list.

San Marzano Lamb Stew

  • about 1lb of lamb
  • 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 head garlic, roasted in foil until soft and fragrant
  • herb de Provence
  • 2 white or gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • handful green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • parsley (garnish)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the tomatoes in their sauce over medium-low heat.  In corporate the roasted garlic, salt and pepper.  Break the whole pieces of tomatoes apart as they cook.

Season the lamb with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence.  Brown in a Dutch oven on the stove.  Remove and sauté the onion in the fat.  Return the meat to the pan and fill in the gaps with the potatoes and green beans.  Add the tomatoes and cover.  Transfer to a 350ºF oven for 30 – 45 minutes.

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Rabbit (Part 2)

Out of the three-pound box of rabbit pieces, I saved about a third to try a second recipe.  The first was my experiment with home-made loquat jam.  This attempt would be a stew.

Mom told me a story about coming home from school one day and could not find her rabbit.  Grandma had taken it but brushed Mom off.  A few days later, the rabbit was dinner.  Grandma didn’t reveal the rabbit story to Mom until a lifetime later.  So with the story came my question: how did Grandma make her rabbit? A simple stew with onion and carrots (how fitting) from the garden.  They always had a huge garden, as most rural folks did.  The only thing missing was an occasional rabbit or chicken.  Grandma baked her bread to fill in the gaps.

I took to my rabbit and giblets in the usual way I would prepare a beef stew.  Dredge.  Brown.  Simmer.

Grandma’s Rabbit Stew

  • rabbit giblets, roughly cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound rabbit, cubed or otherwise small portions
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into thick rounds
  • 1 box vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 – 2 cups water
  •  olive or vegetable oil as needed
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of cool water

First I browned and rendered the giblets to get some tasty brown bits in the bottom of the soup pot.  Remove the cooked giblets (they were reserved for Pepper as a treats).

Combine the flour, allspice, salt and black pepper on a plate and lightly coat each piece of rabbit.  Brown the dredged meat in small batches in the fat left in the soup pot, add more oil if needed.

Once all the meat is browned, add more oil if needed and then the onion.  You want the onions to brown and sweat to release their flavour to the stew.

When the onions are soft and brown, add the carrots, the meat, the vegetable stock and enough water to just cover the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and add the cornstarch/water slurry.  Stir while it comes to a bubble.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Chef Note: I realized too late that I screwed up the base of the stew!  I should have made a roux with the onions when they were nearly ready to go.  A flour and butter roux is simply equal amounts of flour and butter that is cooked first before adding liquids.  Bad midnitechef, bad!  The recipe I wrote above is how I made it, in the thick of things, kids running around, phone ringing, dog barking.  I was highly distracted!

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It’s a rare thing these days, buying stock in a box or can.  Before the holidays arrive full of turkey, chicken, and family members visiting I spend time to prepare and freeze stock.

Stock will keep in sealed containers in the freezer for about 6 months.  Make sure to label anything you freeze for later use.  Portions that are easier to manage are a good idea.  Most of my containers hold 2 pints (about 4 cups), I use this as soup and stew base.  Smaller containers, even freezer bags, work well for gravy.  Sometimes when you roast drier types or cuts of meat, there’s not a heck of a lot liquid left in the pan.  That’s where a bit of stock can extend or replace the pan drippings when making gravy.

To make your stock you need any of the following vegetables, spices and herbs:

  • celery
  • leek
  • onion
  • carrots
  • bay leaves
  • black peppercorns
  • cardamom pods
  • cumin seeds
  • caraway seeds
  • dill
  • fennel
  • rosemary
  • thyme

Then, if you want meat you can collect chicken, turkey or pork bones and freeze them in freezer ziptop bags until you have enough to make stock.  When I buy whole chickens, I save the neck, wings, and legs.  Either roasted or raw, freeze the extra bits for your stock.  Bone marrow helps add richness to the stock.  Beef can be used too, we just don’t have many beef bones leftover at my house!

Salt, should you add any at all, should be minimal.  The stock is a component for something else, the destination might already contain salt so you don’t want to end up with sea water soup.

Ready?  Throw the chunks of veggies, palm full of seasonings, the optional meat components into the biggest pot you own.  Add water until everything is covered.  Bring to a boil slowly, then reduce to low heat for an hour or longer.  The longer you simmer the stock, the more concentrated it will be due to evaporation.

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Since finding cassoulet in my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking I’ve been trying to devise similar recipes which would lessen the time and cost of preparing such a cozy dish.

This rendition was the result of less than 10$ of ingredients and a couple of hours of stewing in the oven. Us working folk normally don’t have an abundance of time to devote to cooking, but stretching what you have in the pantry at this time of the month (and year) is inevitable and necessary. Weekends are the typical days where my craft can be let loose in the afternoon to bring a leisurely made meal to the family table by supper time. This dish could equally be made in a crock pot, on low while you’re away at work or running errands. I trusted a slow oven for this hearty and thrifty meal.

The measurements are not exact, for you can use more or less depending on what you have.  Go easy with the herbes de Provence, or it will taste like you mistakenly added your flower bed to the stew.

  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin and visible fat removed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can white beans (Northern Beans or Navy Beans), rinsed
  • pinch or two of herbes de Provence (see note above)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (you can omit if gluten is a problem!)
  • 2 – 3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferably, or low sodium purchased
  • salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.

In a Dutch oven or equivalent roasting pan, render the bacon.  Slowly fry the bacon to release the fat and remove any crisp pieces as you go.  Use the bacon fat to brown the chicken thighs on each side, you don’t have to worry about cooking the chicken at this point, that will happen in the oven.  What you want is a bit of color on the chicken to add flavour!

Remove the chicken as it browns, split the chicken in two batches if the pan will be too crowded.  Crowds make for sweaty birds, not browned caramelized ones.

Once the chicken is out, check the pan for fat levels, add a few dots of olive oil if the pan looks dry.  Immediately toss in the onion and carrot, tossing them around to coat with the oil or bacon fat.   Sauté until the onions start to look tanned, as if they just came back from a sandy beach off the coast of nobodycares. 

Add salt and pepper, the herbs, (flour) and the garlic.  Stir until the garlic and herbs become fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Then add the stock and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add the beans and crispy bacon pieces.  Nestle the chicken thighs into the pot, the liquid should come half way up the meat.

Cover the pot and place in the oven.  Turn down the oven to 300ºF and leave it alone.  After 2 hours you will enjoy a rich broth with dark chicken meat falling off the bones! 

Serve alone, with cooked pearled barley (yum, this was what I made), with rice, or a slice of fresh bread (also what I had with the stew!).

This stew disappeared before I had a chance to do my photo shoot.  You’ll have to imagine this one 🙂

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