Simple Stews and Soups

Homemade Beef Stew 001The best thing about cold weather is how good stews and soups taste on a chilly day. Better yet, one-pot dinners are easy to make—clean-up is at a minimum, and most of the base ingredients are nonperishable items you can stash away in your pantry or freezer. And one soup pot can easily feed a family of four…twice! So whether you’re a fan of beef chili, vegetarian lentil soup, or classic French bouillabaisse, chances are you’ve already got the fixings for an hearty winter dinner. Use these basic building blocks to make tonight’s meal, or—if your cupboards are looking a little bare—take this handy list with you the next time you go grocery shopping.

Stews and soups are as simple as they are flavorful!

 

  • Start with alliums. Sauté onions, shallots, green onions, and/or garlic in a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat to get your stew started. Or cook them in rendered bacon grease, chicken schmaltz, or beef tallow—then you stew will have an extra-rich-tasting base. If you’re including stew meat, brown it along with the alliums.
  • Add your broth: chicken, seafood, beef, or vegetable. If you have bones to toss in, add those, too. (Oxtail is inexpensive and is a wonderful addition to stews and soups.) Just remember to remove the bones before serving your stew.
  • Making chili or another tomato-based stew? Add cooked diced tomatoes. (Look for tomatoes packaged in boxes or jars if you want to avoid cans.)
  • Add a velvety texture to your stew by stirring in cooked and mashed pumpkin, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes. (All of which are available in BPA-free cans.)
  • Fresh herbs are too delicate to stand up to more than a few minutes of simmering, but dried herbs are delicious in stews, and spices like ginger and turmeric are as flavorful as they are aromatic. Add herbs and spices with the broth to give them time to marry with the other ingredients.
  • Some whole grains take upwards of 30 minutes to cook, so if you’re including grains, add them now. Wild rice takes about 50 minutes and is a great option for stews—it won’t absorb so much of the broth the way brown rice will. Or add quinoa during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
  • Quick-cooking legumes like lentils need about 20 minutes to simmer. If you’re adding cooked beans to your stew, you can add them now, too.
  • Cured meats like chorizo and salami give stews an extra punch of flavor, and simmering them for about 20 minutes will also give cured meats a nicer texture.
  • Are you a fan of root veggies? Peel and cube potatoes, parsnips, celeriac, turnips, beets, or whatever root you like. Organic carrots can be scrubbed and sliced. Roots take about 10 minutes of simmering to become tooth-tender.
  • Got some frozen veggies? Now’s the time to use them! Frozen corn, okra, peas, pearl onions—you name it—are great additions to stews. Allow about 10 minutes of simmering time from freezer to pot.
  • Hearty greens like kale and collard are welcome additions to stews. Chop them coarsely and add them during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.
  • Looking for some tasty last touches? Stir in a freshly cracked egg a minute before taking the pot off of the heat—it will thicken the soup and impart a rich flavor. So will coconut milk, and unlike dairy milk, coconut milk won’t curdle. Or stir in peeled shrimp or cubed seafood during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Already-cooked chopped chicken is another nice touch.
  • And of course don’t forget those tableside garnishes, like chopped avocado and shredded cheese! Then everyone can customize their bowl.

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