These innovative stews can break the chill of autumn

November 22, 2011

It’s that time of season when a warm stew can break the cold of autumn with its comforting aroma and tasty ingredients, but this year I decided to do away with traditional and go with innovative recipes.

At our house we love ham and beans so when I saw a recipe for a ham and bean stew, I knew this was a no-brainer.

Although the recipe called for cannellini beans and savoy cabbage, you can substitute Great Northern beans and Napa cabbage. It goes beyond traditional ham and beans with the addition of a carrot, celery, potatoes, a parsnip and the cabbage.

What sold me on this stew recipe is because it’s served with toasted, hearty peasant bread placed on top, sprinkled with Gruyère cheese and then broiled in the oven. It’s such a nice presentation and such a wonderful, warm stew and bread combo!

Peasant bread is any European-type bread sometimes made with whole wheat flour or rye and sometimes with coarse ground grains. If you have trouble finding this style of bread, thickly sliced French bread will do, although it won’t be as hearty.

I did find Gruyère cheese locally, but have used mozzarella as a substitute. Online food forums suggested substituting Swiss cheese if Gruyère can’t be found. It’s your call — you can add your favorite cheese or change it up each time you make the recipe.

I enjoy Indian and Greek foods and when I read a recipe for Moroccan lamb stew, it reminded me of ingredients used in these cuisines. The lamb meat is coated with a mixture of cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper and browned in hot olive oil.

Chopped onions, minced garlic and ginger are added  and sautéed, filling the house with earthy aromas, and then stewed for 1 1/2 hours.

The recipe calls for blood oranges, which I couldn’t find locally, so I used regular navel oranges. After the meat, spices and vegetables stewed for the allotted time, grated orange peel, chopped oranges and honey is added. The final product is served on a bed of couscous.

If you’ve never tried couscous, a small pasta granule, you’ll find the boxes at the local grocers easy to prepare. You bring water, olive oil and salt to a boil, remove it from the heat, pour in the couscous, cover, let sit for five minutes and Voila! It’s ready to eat. Simple.

We enjoyed the lamb stew and found the cinnamon and allspice just right and not overpowering, although next time I may add more ginger.

I’ve also included recipes for an Irish beef stew and a chicken stew with dumplings we plan to try this season. As with the ham and bean and lamb stew I thought the ingredients sounded interesting and they are a get-away from the traditional beef stew to which most people are accustomed to. But, of course, that’s just my opinion.




Moroccan lamb stew

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3 1/2 pounds (round-bone) lamb shoulder chops, well trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces or 2-pounds lamb stew meat

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 1/3 cups water

2 large blood oranges (you can substitute regular oranges)

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon honey

Mix salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice in medium bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add lamb to pot and sauté until brown on all sides, about four minutes per batch. Return all lamb to pot. Add onion, garlic and ginger to pot and sauté five minutes. Add 1 1/3-cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until lamb is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about one hour and 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate peel from oranges and reserve. Cut all remaining peel and white pith from oranges and discard. Coarsely chop oranges. Add oranges and grated peel to lamb. Cover and simmer until lamb is very tender, about 20 minutes longer. Stir in parsley and honey. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves: Four

Source: Bon Appetit magazine.


White bean and ham stew


4 meaty smoked ham hocks (about 3 1/2 pounds)

1/2 pound dried cannellini beans (I used Great Northern) (1 1/4-cups)

3 quarts water

2 medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large parsnip, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2-pound savoy cabbage, cut into 2-inch pieces

Salt and fresh ground pepper

8 slices thickly cut peasant bread, lightly toasted

2 cups Gruyère or Comté cheese

In a large pot, combine the smoked ham hocks with the beans and water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour. Add the potatoes, leek, celery, carrot, parsnip, cabbage and 1/2-teaspoon of salt. Cover the stew and simmer over low heat for one hour.

Transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Simmer the stew uncovered over medium heat until thickened and the beans and vegetables are very tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, discard the skin and bones from the hocks and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Add the meat to the stew as it simmers. Season the stew with pepper.

Preheat the broiler. Ladle the hot stew into eight heat-proof bowls and place bowls on a large cookie sheet. Cover each bowl with a toast slice and spread cheese on top. Broil 4 inches from heat, rotating the bowls as necessary, until cheese is lightly browned, about three minutes. Serve right away.

Stew can be refrigerated for up to three days. Reheat thoroughly, adding a little stock or water if necessary, before topping and broiling.

Serves: Eight

Source: Food and Wine Magazine.

Irish Beef Stew

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/4 pounds well-marbled chuck beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (NOT extra-lean)

6 large garlic cloves, minced

6 cups beef stock or canned beef broth

1 cup of Guinness beer

1 cup of fine red wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Lightly salt the beef pieces. Working in batches if necessary, add the beef (do not crowd the pan, or the meat will steam and not brown) and cook, without stirring, until nicely browned on one side, then use tongs to turn the pieces over. Continue to cook in this manner until all sides are browned, about five minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally.

While the meat and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside until the beef stew in step one has simmered for one hour.

Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Transfer stew to serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (Can be prepared up to two days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)

Yield: Serves four to six.



Chicken Stew with Dumplings


Stew ingredients

2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs or legs

5 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 pound new potatoes, quartered

3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 celery ribs, sliced

1 medium onion, cut into eighths

1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas

Dumpling ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Place chicken and water in a five-quart Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium heat for one to 1-1/2 hours or until chicken is tender. Skim fat. Remove chicken from broth; allow to cool.

Debone chicken and cut into chunks; return to broth. Add the next nine ingredients. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk and parsley. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into simmering stew.

Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Cover and cook for eight to 10 minutes or until the dumplings are tender.

Serves: Eight