Weekly Winner:  Bridging the Seasons with a Comforting Stew

It has been unseasonably cool here the last few days and almost immediately I began thinking of “fall food”.  Those dishes that bridge the gap from end of summer to beginning of autumn without heating up the house too much and while still taking advantage of all the great summer produce.  And, to be honest, I’m just starting to tire of salads, grain bowls and the like.  I wanted comfort. And while I’m certain there are a few scorching days left for us here in Chicago this summer, I thoroughly enjoyed cozying up to a bowl of something warm with the windows open and a cool, autumnal breeze blowing through the house.

Curried Lentil-and-Vegetable Stew is the perfect “gap” meal.  The fresh tomato and zucchini still taste like summer and the curry, lentils and yogurt make it a substantial meal.   I will be making this dish long after summer and well into football season! The recipe comes Cooking Light and its one of those dishes that while it tastes extravagant, you know it’s incredibly healthy.

Curried Lentil-and-Vegetable Stew

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups chopped zucchini

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped, seeded tomato

2 Tbsp curry powder

2 Tbsp ketchup

2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 (17.6-oz) pkg. steamed cooked lentils (about 2-1/2 cups)

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp plain whole-milk yogurt (I used more)

Procedure:

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic; cook 3 minutes. Add tomato, curry powder, and ketchup; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Combine stock and flour in a small bowl. Add stock mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Stir in salt and lentils; cook 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in lime juice. Divide lentil mixture among 4 bowls; top evenly with yogurt.
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Weekly Winner – What a Crock! (Pot Stew, that is)

I’ve been on a bit of a stew craze lately.  Must be the change in the weather.  The leaves start changing and I crave hearty soups, stews and chilis.  But while I’ve already made known my general indifference towards beef stews (with the exception of my Kerala Style Beef Stew https://donnasquickqi.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/weekly-winner-a-spectacular-stew/) I have always loved chicken soups and stews.  And this is one of the coziest ones around.  As an added bonus, it is made in the crock pot (I know, I know, they’re known as “slow cookers” now, excuse me!) so that you can build the anticipation with the wonderful smells that start filling your house hours before dinner.

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Stout Stew comes from Eating Well Magazine and it has been in my arsenal for quite a while.  And I don’t see it going anywhere soon.  It truly is a stew to savor.  The only variation I made to the recipe this time was that instead of Guinness, I used my new favorite beer, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.  Yum!

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Stout Stew

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 pieces bacon, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups Guinness beer or other stout (14-ounce can)
  • 1 pound whole baby carrots or large carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 8-ounce package cremini or button mushrooms, halved if large
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed

Preparation

  1. Combine 6 tablespoons flour with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken thighs in the mixture to coat completely; transfer to a plate.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until well browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side; transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Reduce heat to medium and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and chicken thighs. Arrange the chicken in an even layer in the slow cooker.
  3. Add bacon to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup flour over the bacon and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes more. Add stout and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from      the bottom of the pan. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Add carrots, mushrooms, onion, garlic and thyme, spreading in an even layer over the chicken. Pour broth over the top.
  4. Cover and cook until the chicken is falling-apart tender, 4 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low.
  5. Stir in peas, cover and cook until the peas are heated through, 5 to 10 minutes more. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Weekly Winner – A Spectacular Stew

I’m usually relatively indifferent about beef stews.  To me, they all tend to wind up tasting the same.  Not bad mind you, just similar.  There might be a few different spices or herbs.  Some might be beer-based, some wine-based but basically, it is stewed beef with vegetables.   Satisfying, but not exceptional.  Until now.

When I cut this recipe out of Bon Appetit magazine, I had no idea what Kerala-style meant.  I’m still not really sure I know, but what I do know is that this recipe is definitely a winner.  It is a mild-curry flavored beef stew that, thanks to the coconut milk actually winds up tasting a little creamy.  It is fragrant, cozy and spectacular.  It quite possibly will replace most of my beef stew recipes.

Kerala-Style Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 ½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 1″ pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 serrano chiles, seeded, chopped
  • 1 1×1-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • ½ pound small carrots, scrubbed or peeled, halved lengthwise
  • ½ pound baby red-skinned potatoes (about 1-1/2″-diameter), halved, or quartered if large
  • ¼ pound frozen, thawed pearl onions, halved
  • 2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • Cilantro sprigs (which I did not use – hate the stuff)

Preparation

Heat  1 1/2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Season beef with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches and adding remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil between batches, add beef and sear, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer beef to a plate.

Stir in garlic, chiles, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add 1 tsp. pepper and turmeric; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth and reserved beef; bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 45 minutes.

Add carrots, potatoes, and onions. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 15–20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk.

Divide among bowls. Garnish with cilantro (or not, in my case)