Monday, October 13, 2008

Variation on Mom's Stew

My mom makes a great slivered beef stew. It's on old recipe from the cookbook her mom gave her when she married my dad, and it was old then, so I'm guessing it's a 50s housewife sort of recipe. I was craving it last night, but all we had was chicken, so I used that.

Slice the chicken into narrow strips*. Dredge about half of them in flour.

Brown them in olive oil or butter in the soup pot so all the flavor stays in one place; remove them to clear way for the veggies. They don't have to be cooked through because they'll finish in the soup, but make sure they're browned. The flour will come off, and that's fine; it helps to thicken the soup into a stew later.

Add a little more oil and cook the onions (one or two, roughly chopped) while you chop the veggies: three or four potatoes; two carrots or a handful of baby carrots; a handful of broccoli; a green pepper; a handful of fresh mushrooms.**

Throw all the veggies in when the onions have started to caramelize. Throw the chicken and their juices back in.

Add chicken broth. I used more of the leftover broth from last week, about 20 oz, and topped it off with water-- the pot should be about three quarters full, a goodly portion of stew. Add in a few bay leaves (I usually do one for each person eating it) and more salt and pepper.

Boil it for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the hard veggies are all soft enough that you need a spoon to eat them. If it doesn't thicken up on it's own, make a slurry of flour and cornstarch and the hot broth, and make sure it's smooth before you add it back to the pot so it doesn't make a clumpy stew. Cook a bit longer to give it a chance to thicken, then serve with biscuits.

What're the chances of me not using garlic? I know, it's crazy, but my mom was never much of a garlic-cooker, being nowhere near Italian, and this is her recipe, so no garlic. It makes a savory, lovely stew that's good for several days.

* This would also be good with bone-in chicken or turkey. Just cook them longer.
** Peas would be good here. Maybe beans. Really, just use whatever veggies you have. It's a fall and winter recipe, so it does best with sturdy, stewable veggies-- tubers, roots, cabbage, broccolis, that sort of thing-- but any will do. If you use a lot of softer ones, cook for less time, or pre-cook the hard ones a bit before adding so the soft ones dont' become mush.

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