It’s just a pot of stew, right?
Not so fast.
That pot of vegetables and meat that slowly simmers in a savory stock transforms itself into a masterpiece of humble beginnings and epic ends.
It is imbued with pomp and personality. It is comprised of creativity and resourcefulness. And it is reflective of the composer’s emotions and experience, virtue and values.
Yes, a stew is more than a stew
A stew is an often a magical and sometimes imaginative concoction of ingredients that bond harmoniously. Yet, a stew is always stalwart even in the presence of the most delicate ingredients. And no two are ever alike because each individual pot is a personification of the moment and the marrow in which it is made.
A pot of stew is like bushel of love in a bowl. Pare that bowl of stew with a generous portion of homemade corn bread or a hearty artisan roll, and you may just fall in love or get someone to fall in love with you. It’s shamefully clear, I love waxing stewfully about stews. With all that said, lets get down to simmering business.
Tips for making your stew anew
With the fall of the year upon us, chances are you will be making a pot of stew or two or three before the daffodils bloom in spring.
In making a stew, there are no rules – let your imagination be your guide. However, from my years of stew making, I’d like to share a few “stew tips” with you.
- Get to first base. The first step in making any stew is to create a base packed with flavor. I like starting out with a combination of ingredients like onions, garlic, shallots, celery and bell pepper sautéed in some kind of oil or fat like butter, olive oil, or Grapeseed oil. Sometimes I infuse extra richness by adding a little sesame oil or lard.
- Stock it up. Whether you use chicken, beef, vegetable or seafood stock, elevate the favor by adding a little wine, beer, pumpkin puree, vegetable juice, clam juice or even fruit juice to your taste. I often deglaze my sauté pan with wine (white or red) or beer (craft or flavored). Sometimes I pour a little directly in the stock as well. I recently made a tomato based Italian stew and added a little orange juice; it was a great flavor enhancer.
- Use a few unusual suspects. We know the usual suspect when it comes to making stews, but try a few unusual suspects like yams, white sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas, roasted beets to mention a few. When the usual and unusual suspects cozy up in a simmering pot, they give your stew an amazing “one off” depth of richness that is surprisingly good.
- No naked proteins. Now that I have your attention, the point here is to always season then brown proteins like beef, pork, chicken and lamb in oil or fat before adding them to your pot. If you are making an all root vegetable stew, the same rule applies. Color equals flavor and the more color you get on the meat, the more flavorful your stew will be. When you brown that seasoned protein, you sear that seasoning right into the flesh. For a quick seafood stew, I browned shrimp and rockfish at high heat in a little Grapeseed oil before I added them to the stew. The color and flavor was awesome.
- Get fresh with herbs. Using fresh herbs gives your stew a freshness and brightness that dried herbs don’t deliver. Sure you have to use more of them, but it is so worth the effort. Some herbs are great for simmer and some are good for finishing. Try finishing your chicken stew with a little fresh mint or simmer a little fresh tarragon in your next beef stew.
Easy Turkey Tenderloin Stew
click on arrow below to view video
1 ½ – 2 pounds turkey tenderloin
1 pound baby Yukon potatoes cut in 1 inch pieces
2 medium white sweet potatoes cut in 1 inch pieces
2 medium zucchini cut in 1 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves chopped garlic
½ cup white wine
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
7 cups chicken stock
1 ~ 15 ounce can fire roasted corn
Red pepper flakes
- Cut your turkey tenderloin into chucks and generously season them with salt and pepper.
- Lightly coat the chunks in flour.
- Add a few tablespoon of Grapeseed oil to a skillet and heat. Add turkey tenderloin chunks and brown until almost done. Remove from heat and add to a stock pot.
- Add a little more Grapeseed oil to that same skillet if needed, heat to medium and sauté your onions and garlic about a minute then deglaze the pan with white wine and add to stock pot.
- To stock pot add cut white sweet potatoes, Yukon potatoes and zucchini , sliced carrots, fresh thyme leaves, 2 teaspoons of salt, ¼ teaspoon black and red pepper flakes, and canned corn.
- Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 1 hour. Serve with corn bread or dinner rolls.
Tip: For added thickness, place 1 cup of stew stock and 2 tablespoons of corn starch in a blender. Place your hand on top of the blender lid to prevent it from dislodging. Mix well. Stir the thickened mixture into stew.