For a memorable pot of stove-top or oven-baked stew, this is your recipe. It is a much-tested concept recipe that 'just works', whatever the choices for meat and vegetables. It's also a rare stew recipe that tastes good straight out of the pot (no melding required) and needs just an hour of cooking, either on the stove or in the oven.
Once upon a time, I was a bad cook. With the arrogance of inexperience, I believed that instinct should guide my hands to add the right bits of this and the perfect spots of that. But nothing turned out and for good reason, I lost all confidence.
A wise cook nudged gently. “Just at first,” she counseled, “follow a recipe. Then switch it around.” Her advice worked and sure enough, slowly but surely, I learned to cook.
Still, even after all these years, there’s a special spot in my recipe box for ‘teaching’ recipes that are more launching pad than destination, more guideline than prescription, ones where concept trumps inexperience.
Enter Winter Stew, a concept recipe of high confidence, beef stew one week, the tastiest venison stew the next, chicken and then lamb. Last winter I recruited recipe testers to experiment with its endless variations, playing with different combinations of meat, vegetables, herbs, cooking liquids and sweeteners. Each reported excellent results, concluding, “Great stew recipe.” The last note read, “Writing about stew made me hungry! New batch simmering on the stove!” That, good cooks, is a recommendation.
Time to table: 90 minutes
Makes 4 cups
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion or large shallot, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dry)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dry)
- 1 pound meat, beef, pork, lamb, chicken thighs (not breasts, too dry), elk or venison, cut in bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup Marsala wine (or dry sherry, red or white wine, or fruit juice)
- 1 pound vegetables (see TIPS)
- 1/4 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes or dried apricots, golden raisins
- 1 – 2 cups broth or water (just enough to cover)
Heat oil on medium in a Dutch oven. Add onion, garlic and herbs; cook til onions begin to brown. Add meat and let brown, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes; midway, sprinkle with flour and salt, stir in and continue cooking. Add remaining ingredients. Complete cooking on the stove-top, in the oven or in a tagine.
STOVE-TOP Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cover and cook for an hour or until meat and vegetables are cooked. Serve over noodles, brown rice, wild rice, mashed potatoes or hominy.
OVEN Cook in a 350F oven for an hour. A thick gravy will form.
TAGINE (as pictured) Cook in a 350F oven for an hour. The cooking liquid will remain quite liquid but once out of the oven, could be thickened on the stove if desired.
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