Hey there and welcome to another installment of the Meal Plan. This week has been an exhausting one here at Hawley Crescent; we’ve had a number of events to cater for, including a wedding and a couple of other wedding related affairs.  Needless to say weève been hopping and could use a little rest to recharge the bateries. In light of this, we’re going to talk about a simple to make food that, in keeping with our themes of this month, has all sorts of recipes that encourage experimentation. And today that food is stew.

A stew is any kind of food item that’s comprised of solid food ingredients cooked in liquid, then served in the resulting gravy. On the surface they resemble soup, but the stew generally has less liquid than a soup, and requires a longer cooking time. Sometimes stews are so thick you can even serve them overtop other dishes as a solid-ingredient sauce, or eat it on its own with a fork.

Stews are one of the oldest kinds of foods in existence, so it’s natural that many recipes have been created in its long lifespan. The most common ingredients are meat and vegetables, particularly ones that require longer cooking times that result in more tender foods. To use beef as an example, you’ll want a well marbled cut of meat with a lot of connective tissues, such as a chuck roast or a brisket. But you don’t have to limit yourself to beef or pork; nearly all kinds of sea foods can find their way into a stew with little to no hassle. As for vegetables, your best choices are thick ones who’ll become soft and tender once the cooking is done, like potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, beats, beans, and radishes. Finally, most people like to use water to cook their stews, but I like to consider different liquids that can add flavour to the finished product. Among the best options include beer, wine, or various stocks.

No matter which meat you decide to use, be sure to get a good sear on the meat before adding the braising liquid and subsequently the remaining ingredients.  This is the key to making a good stew.  The seared meat will add flavour and ensure that the meat doesn’t toughen up or break down too much during the stewing process.  Also, add your vegetables later in the stewing process to ensure that they keep their texture and don’t simply turn to mush.  There’s nothing worse than a mushy stew.  Check out this great little instructional video from BonAppetit on browning:

Because of its simplicity and the fact thatrecipes are customizable, stew has found its way into ancient cultures all over the world, each one taking some of their native flair into the equation. In light of this, today’s recipe, from allrecipes.com, hails from Hungary.

Porkolt

Pork Porkolt (Hungarian Stew)

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/190100/porkolt-hungarian-stew-made-with-pork/

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • ¼ cup Hungarian paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 5 pounds boneless pork chops, trimmed
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2/3 cup beef broth
  • 2 cups reduced fat sour cream
  • 2 (6 ounces) packaged wide egg noodles

Instructions

  • Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve the drippings.
  • Add the onions to the bacon and cook together until the onion is translucent. Remove skillet from heat and stir the paprika, garlic powder, and pepper into the bacon mixture. Transfer the mixture into a large stockpot.
  • Heat a small amount of the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet again over medium-high heat. Cook the pork chops in batches in the hot drippings until evenly browned on both sides. Use additional bacon drippings for each batch as needed.
  • Remove the pork chops to a cutting board and blot excess fat off the surface of the chops with a paper towel; cut into bite-sized cubes and stir into the bacon mixture.
  • Heat a small amount of the bacon drippings in the skillet; cook and stir the bell pepper in the hot drippings until softened and fragrant; drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Stir the cooked pepper into the bacon mixture.
  • Pour the tomatoes with liquid and beef broth into a stockpot and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the stew begins to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 90 minutes. Stir the sour cream into the stew just before serving.
  • Bring a pot with lightly-salted water and bring to a rolling boil; add the egg noodles to the water and return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 5 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink. Ladle the stew over the drained noodles to serve.
  • Makes 14 servings.

 

I hope that you’ll give this recipe a try.  Fall / Winter is stew season – I’d love to get feedback from our readers regarding some of their favourite stew recipes, tips, tricks and special ingredients used by you.  Who knows, perhapse we can concoct ourselves one killer hybrid-stew based on your feedback.  Until next week, keep on cooking!!!