Nothing Warms Body and Soul Like a Robust Stew

In the last six months alone, I've celebrated and cooked for two New Year events, Sukkot, Thanksgiving and Chanukah. A little rest for the "kitchen weary" is now in order.

I'm ready for one-pot, easy-to- prepare food, and, to me, nothing is more satisfying than a well-crafted, warming, savory stew. I have wonderful, comforting memories associated with stews, but I often overlook the advantages and delights of these dishes when planning for company, thinking them too mundane to serve at dinner parties.

These are some of my favorite stews, designed to correct that misapprehension. They are all lush and glamorous enough for guests, yet retain the essential soul and body nourishment that memories are made of. They require only simple service and accompaniments.

I recommend serving them in shallow soup plates with steamed new potatoes, noodles or rice. A freshly dressed salad, good crusty bread and seasonal fruits complete the meal.

Southwestern Chicken Stew


2 Tbsps. olive oil
12 chicken thighs, skinned if desired
salt and pepper
1 cup dry white wine
11/2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
6 large carrots, peeled, quartered and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 package (10 oz.) frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

Heat oil in a large skillet.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, and sauté until golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.

Drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from skillet.

Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Cook until wine is reduced by half, add stock and cumin, and bring to a boil.

Add chicken, cover and simmer about 10 minutes.

Add carrots and corn; cook another 10 minutes.

Stir in the chopped coriander.

Serves 6.

Persian Lamb Stew With Mint, Parsley and Dried Fruit


1 cup dried apricots cut into strips
1 cup pitted dried cherries or cranberries
11/2 cups water
3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
2 cups chopped parsley
2 cups chicken stock or water
3 lbs. lamb stew meat, cut into 11/4-inch chunks
extra parsley for garnish

Place dried fruit in medium bowl and cover with water. Soak for 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large pan.

Cook onion until soft, about 5 minutes, and then stir in the turmeric, chives, mint and parsley.

Cook over a medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant.

Add the stock, bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add the fruit, the soaking water and the lamb.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook about 2 hours, or until lamb is tender.

Taste for salt and pepper, and serve sprinkled with parsley.

Serves 6 to 8.

Sicilian Fish Stew


3 Tbsps. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red-pepper flakes
6 anchovies, drained and mashed
2 cans (28 oz. each) imported Italian tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cups fish stock
2 lbs. assorted white fish (such as snapper, sea bass or halibut), roughly cut into 11/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Horseradish-Aioli Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsps. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. strong mustard
2 Tbsps. capers, rinsed and drained
16 slices baguette, toasted (optional)

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil over a medium-high heat.

Cook the onion, garlic and fennel until soft, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, oregano, red pepper and anchovies; cook another minute.

Add the tomatoes and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes. Mixture should thicken and reduce by one-fourth.

Meanwhile, make the aioli by combining all ingredients until well-blended.

Add the fish to the tomato mixture; simmer for 5 minutes.

Taste for salt and pepper, and stir in parsley.

Serve with the horseradish aioli, either stirred directly into each portion of soup, or spread on toasts and floated on soup.

Serves 8 to 10.

Beef Stew With Zinfandel and Winter Root


< 2 Tbsps. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
3 cups Zinfandel
3 lbs. beef stew, cut into 11/2-inch cubes
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
salt and pepper
3 Tbsps. flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsps. chopped parsley

In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, thyme and Zinfandel. Marinate the beef in this mixture for about 3 hours, turning every so often.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the celery root, parsnips and carrot over a low heat for 10 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove the meat from marinade to skillet and brown on all sides. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and flour, and cook for another 2 minutes.

Pour in the marinade and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and water to cover, if necessary.

Cover and simmer for about 2 hours, or until meat is tender.

Skim the fat from the sauce, and taste for salt and pepper.

Serve over noodles, garnished with parsley.

Serves 8.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer.


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