Saturday, February 18

Winter Stews


Outside, away from the warmth of the fire, beyond the steam covered widows, our valley was blanketed with a solid meter deep of snow for over a week (we've just thawed out!) We were prepared with plenty of wood and enough provisions to feed most of the village just in case… Yet Ashley was terrified that we would starve. This wa a perfect time to have something rich, hardy, and stewy on the stove fitting the weather outside ideally.

Most cultures have a staple version of stewed meat and vegetables. These are versatile comfort foods that take advantage of tougher cuts of meat, seasonal vegetables, and typical seasonings cooked slowly to tenderize and bring all the flavors together.

The same simple ingredients with slight variations produce totally different versions of the same dish. Add a bit of cinnamon, cardamon, and coriander and take the dish to North Africa. Rosemary, Juniper white wine and olives brings me back to Italy. Lets’ go to Greece by incorporating instead a squeeze of lemon, dill, and parsley- Its really that simple.
Stewed recipes here in Italy are referred to generally as ‘In Umido’ or that are cooked and served in a sauce usually of their own juices.


Some useful tips for stewed dishes:
1.  Bones! They have marrow and will provide the richness for your stew. If you like a more hands on experience, use meaty bones and serve them. If the bones are not your thing, use boneless stew meat along with stew bones during cooking and then remove the bones before service.

2. Stock. Use good quality or better yet make it yourself!

3. Beware of too many sweet vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash etc. are sweet veggies and can overpower everything! Keep this in mind when composing your stew. Love the parsnips and rutabagas; perhaps leave out the carrots…..

4. Grandma was correct in that stews always taste better the next day! Make it over the weekend for dinner during the week.

Here is one of my favorites Sepzzatino di Vitello:

Spezzatino
Stewed Veal

1 lb/500 gr of beef for stew (or a mix of both beef & pork)
1 carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
handful of olives
2-3 spoonfuls of capers, drained
1/2 glass of white wine
salt & pepper
flour for dusting
olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
aromatics/herbs - thyme, sage, rosemary
stock, enough to cover the meat
optional: mushrooms

Dredge meat in flour.
In a heavy bottomed pot on medium/high heat, brown meat on all sides.
Remove meat from the pan.
Reduce heat to low, add in vegetables, season with salt & pepper and sweat for 10 minutes.
Add meat back to the pot (as well as the optional mushrooms) with your aromatics.
Deglaze with white wine and lemon juice.
Cover meat with stock.
Toss in capers & olives.
Simmer very slowly for 1.5 - 2 hours until meat is very tender.
Check your seasoning.
Serve over polenta or boiled potatoes.

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