Warm cold winter nights with a hearty stew

Piping hot dish incorporates the major food groups into a nutritious blend of savory tastes

We may have survived the deep freeze of the polar vortex, but the cold of winter hasn’t gone away for good.

And on days when the weather is cold, stew is an ideal meal.

The aroma of the hearty dish fills the house, tempting the senses and piquing hunger.

A piping hot bowl of simmered meats, seafood, hearty vegetables and herbs make stew perfect for lunch or dinner.

Add a loaf of crusty bread or a plate of fresh pasta or rice and you have a filling meal fit for family and friends.

Stews are fun to make. Fresh ingredients are chopped into bite-sized pieces, browned and added to rich, hearty broths, and then simmered for hours to create delicious meals.

The distinctions between stew, soup and casserole are subtle and not always easy to judge.

The ingredients of a stew are typically cut into larger pieces than those in a soup, and they retain more of their individual flavors.

A stew is thicker than a soup and has more sauce than a casserole.

A stew can be cooked on the stove or in the oven or slow cooker, while casseroles are almost always cooked in the oven and soups on the stovetop.

Stewing takes the toughest cuts of meat and makes them tender and juicy by using a slow, moist-heat method of cooking.

Cuts of meat with marbling and gelatinous connective tissue make moist, juicy stews, while lean meats can become dry.

Stews may be thickened by reduction, but more commonly this is done with flour.

Pieces of meat are coated with flour before searing, or by using a roux.

Other thickeners, such as cornstarch or arrowroot, may also be used.

Unlike many meals, stews get better over time, so don’t feel bad if you have leftovers.

The flavor improves as the stew has time to meld.

Following are a few recipes from bhg.com, thereciperebel.com, cookincanuck.com and allrecipes.com.


Short Rib Beef Stew

8 bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed, or 3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups 50%-lower sodium beef broth
1 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 16-ounce tube refrigerated cooked polenta, cut into 16 slices
1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 cup snipped fresh parsley

    Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook until browned, turning occasionally.
    Transfer to a six-quart slow cooker. Add broth, rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, garlic and thyme. Cover and cook on low for seven to eight hours or on high for 3-1/2 to four hours.
    Stir together flour and butter and whisk into meat mixture. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes, until thickened.
    Brush polenta with the remaining oil and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, until light brown and crisp.
    Stir parsley into stew. Top servings with polenta and, if desired, additional shaved Asiago cheese.

Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

12-1/2 pound pork loin, cut into 1-1/4 to 1-1/2-inch cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 3 stalks celery, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
1 10-ounce bottle apple-cranberry juice
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/4-inch cubes
1 to 2 tablespoons snipped fresh sage
Grated fresh nutmeg
Fresh sage leaves

    Sprinkle pork lightly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place flour in a large bowl, then add pork and toss to coat.
    In a five to six-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add half the pork and brown on all sides. Remove and repeat with one tablespoon oil and pork. Remove pork from pan.
    Add remaining oil to pan along with onion and celery and cook five to seven minutes, until tender. Stir in garlic. Sprinkle with any remaining flour and stir to coat. Slowly stir in broth, juice and 1 cup water. Return pork to pan, then add sweet potatoes and sage. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cook 20 to 25 minutes until potatoes and pork are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    Top with nutmeg and fresh sage leaves to serve.
    Makes six to eight servings.



Slow Cooker Tuscan Chicken Stew

6 to 8 boneless chicken thighs, fat removed, cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 small to medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
12 baby potatoes, whole or cut in half
1-3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste, optional
2 tablespoon white wine
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with side of knife
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sprig of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Chopped parsley, for garnish

    Place chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, wine, fennel seeds and salt in slow cooker. Cook on the lowest setting for four to six hours.
    Just before serving, combine corn starch with water and mix until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture, balsamic vinegar and rosemary. Taste and add additional salt if necessary. Bring heat to high, and cook 10 to 30 minutes, until slightly thickened.
    Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.


Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Chicken Stew

1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered if large
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
1 stalk celery chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup cream or milk
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Crusty bread, for serving

    Place potatoes, chicken, celery, onion, carrots, garlic, salt, parsley, thyme, pepper, and broth into a four to six-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for four hours, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender.
    Set slow cooker on high. Stir together cream and cornstarch and stir into slow cooker, along with Parmesan cheese. Cover and cook another 30 minutes, until thickened.
    Serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping (the best way!).
    The stew can be made on a stovetop. Simmer everything except cream, cornstarch and Parmesan in a large pot until potatoes are tender. Combine cream and cornstarch and stir into the pot with the Parmesan, continue cooking until thickened



Slow Cooker Low-Carb Mediterranean Beef Stew With Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 onion, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
2 pounds trimmed and diced chuck steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup beef stock
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 can black olives, cut in half or fourths
1/2 cup garlic cloves, cut into thin slices, optional
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon capers
Fresh ground black pepper

    Heat small amount of olive oil in heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, then add mushrooms and cook several minutes, until they start to brown. Place mushrooms in slow cooker.
    Add a little more oil to pan, then cook diced onions and cook five minutes, until they start to brown. Add onions to slow cooker.
    Add a little more oil, then brown diced beef for 10 to 15 minutes. Add beef to slow cooker.
    Add 1 cup beef stock to the pan and simmer a few minutes, until slightly reduced, scraping off the browned bits, then add  to slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes and juice, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, olives, garlic, rosemary, parsley, capers, and a little black pepper. Stir gently to combine, then cover and cook six to eight hours on low.
    Season to taste with salt and more fresh ground black pepper and serve hot.
    Makes six servings.

Cozido de grão
(Portuguese Stew With Lamb Meatballs)

For meatballs:
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of salt
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 egg
For stew:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces pork shoulder, sliced
6 ounces spicy sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
About 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1-1/2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
1-1/2 cups chopped Brussels sprouts
6 cups chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

    Mix lamb, breadcrumbs, cream, Worcestershire sauce, onion, salt, pepper and egg. Mix with hands until it comes together. Form meat into 14 medium-sized meatballs and place in a greased baking dish. Bake in a 400-degree oven about 20 minutes, until browned on the outside. Remove from heat.
    Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Liberally sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Add sausage and crumble with spatula. Cook until browned, then remove from heat. Add pork and cook in batches about 15 minutes, until meat is browned. Remove from heat and add to the bowl with the sausage.
    In the same Dutch oven, add garlic, onion, carrots, butternut squash, potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Add broth, chickpeas, paprika, bay leaves, chili powder, salt and pepper. Return meat to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and cook about 45 minutes, until meat and vegetables are tender. Add meatballs and cook another 10 minutes.
    Remove bay leaves and serve with crusty bread.
    Makes six servings.


Pumpkin and Pork Stew

2-1/4 pounds pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 small sugar pumpkin or butternut squash, seeded and peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes)
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

    In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Season pork generously with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides in batches and transfer to another dish.
    Place remaining olive oil into pot, heat, then saute onions about three minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and all the spices. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula and cook another minute.
    Add diced tomatoes with juices, apple cider vinegar, pumpkin and pork. Stir to combine. Add the chicken broth until it just covers the top of the ingredients in the pot, stir and bring to a boil.
    Add chopped sage and season with salt and pepper. Stir, cover and bake in a 325-degree oven for 2-1/2 to three hours, until the liquid has reduced and the pork is fall apart tender.
    Makes six servings.


Moroccan Beef Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup pitted prunes, chopped
1 cup fresh or dried apricots, chopped
2 cups baby spinach

    Pat beef cubes dry with a paper towel. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a resealable bag. Place half the beef in the bag, seal and toss until beef is coated.
    Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add floured beef and brown all sides for two to three minutes, then transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining beef. Transfer beef to plate and set aside.
    Reduce heat to medium and add onion and garlic to the pot. Cook three to five minutes, until tender. Stir in cumin, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf and cook another minute.
    Add 1/4 cup beef stock to pot and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Pour in remaining stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, return beef cubes to the pot, cover and cook 90 minutes.
    Stir in prunes and apricots and cook, covered, another 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook, uncovered, five minutes. Stir in remaining salt and pepper and serve.
    Makes four servings.



For fish:
1-1/2 pounds mahi mahi, cut into large chunks
8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 lime, juiced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1 tablespoon palm oil, melted
For stew:
2 tablespoons palm oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 onion, finely sliced
1 cups bell peppers, finely sliced
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup fish stock or vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh basil
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 to 2 cups jasmine rice

    Combine mahi mahi, shrimp, lime juice, garlic, ginger and palm oil in a large bowl. Toss to combine and let fish marinate 20 to 30 minutes. Drain fish and shrimp of excess liquid.
    Cook the rice according to the directions. Set aside.
    In a large, heavy Dutch oven, melt palm oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, onions and bell peppers and sauté four to five minutes, until fragrant and onions are softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.Reduce heat to medium and nestle mahi mahi and shrimp in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper, then add fish stock and coconut milk. It should just about cover the fish and shrimp.
    Bring stew to a simmer, cover and cook about 10 minutes, until the shrimp is cooked and the fish easily flakes apart. Taste and season with the juice of 1 lime, then add cilantro, basil and more salt, if desired. Serve stew over the jasmine rice.
    If you can’t palm oil, use vegetable oil and add a teaspoon or two of paprika to give the dish its red color.



Slow Cooker Venison Bourguignon

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into cubes
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1-1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 russet potatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped butternut squash
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
Fresh chopped herbs

    In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Liberally salt and pepper venison, then add meat to the pan in batches, being sure not to crowd the pan. Cook one to three minutes on each side, until browned. Repeat until all the meat has been browned.
    Reserving the juices in the pan, add the onions and garlic and cook about six minutes, until onions start to caramelize. Remove from heat. Transfer meat to slow cooker. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots, mushrooms, squash, potatoes, red wine, beef broth, tomato paste, parsley and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours, until vegetables are soft and the meat is tender.
    Serve topped with fresh herbs.
    Makes six servings.



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