Brr. A cold and damp upcoming weekend. Not too motivating for working outside, but it’s that time of year when a frost is right around the corner so we can’t be too particular about the weather for harvesting. The good news is the rain and increasing winds will keep that frost from happening the next few nights, so I’ll try to remember that as I shiver at the Farmers’ Market today. We’ll have some 4 foot hoops available for sale for those who want to protect some plants for a few weeks beyond the inevitable first freeze.
And then picture yourself coming in from that wind-driven drizzle to a nice pot of soup or stew. The air will be warm from the oven, slightly damp from steam, and redolent with the smells of cooking vegetables and fresh herbs. Ahhh.
And that’s my segue into why you should brave the chill and come to Market today: beef or lamb for the base. Potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, leeks, cabbage, summer squash, and peppers to mix in. Crusty bread to dip. And the knowledge that you’re both eating fresh, healthy, local food and helping support our local economy to warm your heart and nourish your spirit as the food warms and nourishes the body.
I’ll be making my very simple, standard stew, using whatever meat cubes I pick up at Market today (I’ve also stockpiled some in the freezer). Beef, lamb, and pork all work equally well.
I brown 1-2 pounds of cubes in my big ol’ cast iron Dutch oven with some oil. When they’re done, I remove the meat and add a couple of large onions, some carrots, and a few leeks (if I have them, which I will today—yay!) with a little more oil and cook them for about 5 minutes. Next, I add back the meat along with a couple of potatoes and some broth I make from the carcass any time I roast a chicken and keep in the freezer. Canned stock works as well of course. Bring to a boil, cover, and stick the pot in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the meat and veggies are tender.
When I bring it out of the oven, I add about a cup of frozen peas I put by in the spring. This is the main reason I grow shell peas. In the spring, I’ll eat my pea pods and sugar snap peas fresh (less work), but to me a stew is incomplete without those little green balls. They cook gently while I prepare the next step.
Make a roux by melting a tablespoon of butter and adding a tablespoon of flour, stirring over medium heat until it’s smooth. Stir that into the juices to make a rich gravy. (Here I should say that my original recipe says to take out all the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and add the broth to the pan you melted the butter in, simmering it for 2 minutes until thick. I shove the meat and veggies to one side in the pan and stir in the roux until it’s incorporated, then stir the whole stew gently. I’m all about minimal fuss when cooking!)
Finally, I add the herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Parsley either fresh from the late garden or frozen (it freezes remarkably well, which is why I grow curly parsley, since it seems to chop up better in the food processor prior to freezing), chives, and thyme, either fresh or dried.
Serve with Gemelli bread and enjoy!