Stews are excellent recipes to cook when the aim is to make good tasting, inexpensive dishes. You can make a stew go a long way with aromatic vegetables, beans, roots and beets without sacrificing taste or class at all. Some of the world’s most famous dishes are stews such as ratatouille, bourguignon and bouillabaisse to name just a few.
One of the benefits of stews that require meat is that the meat you‘ll want to use is the least expensive cuts with lots of connective tissue and marbleized fat. In fact, you‘ll want to avoid using high cost cuts like tenderloins and sirloins, they are simply not appropriate for stews.
There are a few simple things you can do to make your stews taste more professional. By professional I mean giving your recipes a more nuanced and layered taste, in other words it will be more delicious. Here are some of the things you can do:
1) Use some red or white wine in your stews.
2) Flash-brown your meat. You do this by heating oil to a high temperature, patting your meat dry and then frying it on each side for a couple of minutes without moving it around at all.
3) Use fresh, hearty herbs such as rosemary, sage, bay leaf and thyme.
4) Use real, homemade stock. Avoid using bouillon cubes!
5) Cook it for a long, rather than a short amount of time (this does not always apply to fish or vegetable stews).
6) Let the stew simmer, not boil. Boiling can destroy delicate flavors.
7) Use hearty, flavorful vegetables such as celery, carrots and onions.
8) Use meat with lots of connective tissue. As stated earlier these are usually the cuts that cost the least. Their disadvantages turn into advantages when used in stews and other dishes that cook for a longer amount of time.
Here’s a basic simple stew recipe that uses some of the recommendations from above, producing a delicious and plentiful stew.
400g / 14oz Beef Shank or Brisket
2 Table Spoons Butter
2 Celery Stalks
1 Garlic Clove
1 Green Pepper
1 Table Spoon Paprika
1 Table Spoon Fresh Thyme
1 Table Spoon Fresh Rosemary
1dl / 0.45 Cup Red Wine
1.5dl / 0.6 Cup Beef Stock
1 Can Tomatoes
1 Small Can Tomato Paste
1dl / 0.45 Cup Cream
You can very easily use pork as well with this recipe. If you don’t want to use meat at all I recommend trying beets or squash. Remember to season appropriately.
Begin by cutting up the meat into chunks and pat them dry. Put a table spoon of butter into a large pot on medium high and put the meat into the pot as soon as the butter stops foaming. Fry the meat on each side for around 2 minutes, don’t move it around much, we want it to caramelize (brown).
Remove the meat and add another table spoon of butter to the pot. Reduce the heat a bit and add cut up onions, carrots and celery. Fry until the vegetables start browning and the onions look translucent. Add crushed garlic, fresh chopped up thyme and rosemary along with the paprika and fry with the vegetables for a few moments.
Add the red wine and let it sizzle for a few moments. Then add the stock and the meat along with the can of tomatoes and the tomato paste. Let the stew gently simmer for 2 hours.
Once the stew has simmered for 2 hours mix in the cream. Season with salt and black pepper until you think the stew tastes just right.
If you want your stew to be thicker you can whisk in some corn or potato starch (around 1 – 2 tea spoons of starch) before adding the cream and let it simmer for a few moments. Remember to mix the starch with a bit of water or stock before adding it to the stew or else you might get lumps.
Serve with rice, mashed potatoes and a nice green salad. Bon appetit!
Learn more about meat cooking techniques in NammiNamm Recipes