Monday, February 4, 2013

This Month's Topic: Stew

Just a reminder that my blog has moved to

This is the last double-posted entry.  This blog will be closed soon.

Seeing that we're still in winter, I figure that stews would be a natural progression.  Plus, if you've been making soups at all, stews are pretty much the same in both ingredients and protocols.

  • Throw stuff in pot
  • Cook long time

There are some differences, though.  In meat-based stews:

  • More meat, less water
  • More vegetables, cut into larger chunks
  • Replace noodles with other starches (potatoes, quinoa, rice)
  • Starches as a side (i.e., pour stew on said starch)
  • Thickening agents (roux, corn starch)

I'll spend a little time, not much, on meat-based stews.  I'll probably spend more time on vegetarian stews, which will employ more vegetables, starches, and in particular, lentils.  I'll also dive into some tips to add flavor, as well as some grocery tips.

Stews can be done on the stovetop, in the oven (in a dutch oven), and in a slow cooker.  I'm generalizing here (surprised?), but it seems to me that times for each go something like this:

  • Stovetop: 2-3 hours
  • Oven:  2-3 hours
  • Crockpot:  5 hours on high, 8 on low
  • Pressure Cooker:  ask your grandma.

To brown, or not to brown?

In the meat-based stews and recipes I've found, they vary.  Some say just throw the meat in the pot, others say to brown the meat first, and others say to coat the meat in flour and then brown.  The verdict?  I don't know.  I think this boils down (pun intended) to the amount of time you have.  On one hand, browning on the stovetop or dutch oven might help the meat cook faster.  On the other, time is your friend here.  The longer you cook meat (at a low temperature, that is), the more tender the meat will be.  Some will argue flavor.  In other words, if you brown the meat, you will add flavor to the stew.  I might argue that this is overrated.  There's plenty going on here, with the liquid, vegetables, and spices, that I would think the benefit is minimal to moderate.  Regardless, if you do brown the meat, it is imperative that you deglaze the pot with liquid (water, stock, wine) and scrape (read: this is not for a nonstick pan) the bits off (that stuff is where the flavor is located; it's called fond.  Who went to cooking school?  Not this guy!), making sure this liquid gets to be part of the party (i.e., if you brown the meat in a pan and put it in a slow cooker, make sure this liquid gets added).

Next week, some stuff on roux, and my one and only meat stew recipe (with adaptations, of course).

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