"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Cold Weather Comfort Food – Beef Stew

    The cabbage stew was a hit, so much so I am faced with nothing left from the meal. That leaves me with a bit of a challenge as to what to make. Looking back at my posts, I’ve not done a real beef stew in several years, so I think I will revisit that and see how all the new techniques I’ve learned will affect the dish.

    So some comment elements of Stews :

    • A stew is a combination of solid ingredients that have been cooked (braised) in liquid.
    • The cooking liquid is usually thickened and served as a gravy
    • The sauce may be thickened by reduction or thickened with flour
    • Stews can include a combination of vegetables, meat, poultry, sausages and seafood.
    • Seasoning and flavorings may also be added.
    • Water, wine, stock, and beer are common stew-cooking liquids
    • Stews are typically cooked at a relatively low temperature (simmered)
    • Stewing is suitable for the less tender cuts of meat that have marbling and gelatinous connective tissue
    • Stews have less liquid than soups, are much thicker and require longer cooking over low heat.
    • Stews usually are thick enough to be served on a plate with the gravy as a sauce over the solid ingredients

    Hmmm.. Less tender cuts of meat, cooked slowly…. As I said prior in A Roast for All Seasons:

    Then moisture from the cooking liquid will accumulate between the fibers of the meat and as the roast is cooked through to an internal temperature of 200 degrees, the bonds between the protein and water actually rupture, and the meat will literally fall apart.

    So may be simmering is NOT the answer, I’ll assemble the stew and bake it in the oven. As for meat choice, I’ll use chuck steak, it is cheap, and it has LOADS of flavor, it just needs to be cooked properly. Maybe I’ll cube it up, marinate, toss in flour and sear. But I want I really good sear, so that means very high heat, and that means a wok!. (I’ll use some of the seasoned oil, from the chicken chop suey to add a bit of flavor as well)

    I have a number of veggies in the fridge and pantry so I’ll wak those up and add them as well. Carrots, potatoes, onions, shallots, celery, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, peas, corn, they all become part of the stew. (harder veggies go in first, softer veggies get added later).

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  • Cold Weather Comfort food – Cabbage Stew

    Ye Gads … 6 inches of snow yesterday, 6-8 overnight and another 4-6 today… Plus wind, plus rain… I have an almost uncontrollable urge to go back to bed and set my alarm clock for April.

    Everyone has a serious comfort food craving, and I’ve done so much beef / chicken, while it is still good, it is a good bit boring. Time for a new tact.

    Let’s look at colder climes, and how they eat. Take for an example someplace colder and with more snow. Say Russia, and lets look at a hearty meal from there.

    There is evidence that shchi was known in Rus long before 988 AD, when Christianity was accepted–so long before that shchi actually meant “liquid food” in the beginning, and only came to mean specifically “cabbage soup” when that vegetable was cultivated there.

    Shchi has been a favorite soup of characters as diverse as a 13th century Mongol khan, Ivan the Terrible, Nicholas II, his assassin Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Alexander Dumas liked it so much in the 19th century that he included it in his cookbook.

    When Russian soldiers marched into France in 1812, they were so desperate for the taste of fermented cabbage that they picked grape leaves and started pickling them so they could make shchi. Its associations, always, are with peasants, the earth, common soldiers, ordinariness. Thus when Russians call someone “a professor of sour shchi,” they mean he’s a fraud, because you can’t earn respect by making something so common.

    Russian cabbage stew can be made with meat or without it–with sauerkraut or with cabbage or with both. This particular recipe contains meat–but can be vegetarian if you leave out the bacon / sausage and use water or vegetable stock instead of beef stock–but it is unusually rich and hearty, full of flavor and textures, as I will use both sauerkraut and cabbage.

    Serve hot as a meal to 6-8 people, with lots of dark rye bread and butter on hand.

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  • Pantry Tweaks – Salt

    It’s been cold and miserable, I’ve been pressed for time. Much like any number of other people.

    Usually when people get pressed for time, the first thing to go is cooking time. They reach for canned stocks rather than making their own, or they reach for canned soups to mix with canned items to generate casseroles. This in and of itself is not as bad as chucking the entire idea and ordering in take out or even worse going to the local fast “food” joint on the way home.

    (Do Note: I call it fast “food” because you really can not prove to me it is food.) Also do not get me wrong, I’m known to ring up the local pizza place or Chinese food shop for delivery, and I do have my semi-annual fast burger and fries, which usually manages to be such a wretched experience, it takes six months for me to forget it and try again…

    What I want to focus on is the quick meal at home, and how to generate better tasting meals, that are better for you, in about the same time, for about the same cost.

    Stock

    I know I keep harping on make you own, and I do tend to keep a good bit on hand, but the reality is I run out, and usually do not have time to make more. To prevent this from being a disaster, I keep some canned stock / both in the pantry. The real key here is when you shop. Look at the label on the can / box, and look for the sodium content.. I picked up a 14 oz can of chicken broth, and it contained 2400 mg of sodium, (This is the suggested adult daily intake), with a little looking I found a 32 oz box of chicken broth with 430 mg of sodium. The price difference after adjusting for size was $0.15 , (Yes, fifteen cents.)

    Soups

    Say I want cream of mushroom soup to make a chicken, rice and soup dish. Let’s look at the recipe as listed on the label …

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  • Cold Weather Comfort Food – Faux Pho

    GAK! My mountain top lair had 12″ of errant ice cream, this A.M. and was without power for 12 hours, and now it is possible for up 17″ of snow, in the city! GAK!! TWICE!!!

    As spoken prior:

    BAH!!!! More wet and cold crap… BAH!!! I am SOO tired of this.. The weather is playing me like a fiddle, one or two days of sun and I let my guard down, now a week of crap weather…. I want to crawl into bed and hibernate.

    Between the cold, the damp and the lack of sunlight, I want comfort food, rich stews, hearty cibatta, and sumptuous deserts.

    This is going to call for some serious hearty food. Beef, in a rich broth, with veggies, and noodles, and more beef and more veggies, and spices, and peppers, and even more peppers. Ja, that’s the ticket, a STEAMING HOT super beef broth, full of gelatin, and lots of Asian Trinity, (Ginger, Garlic and Chili’s), all kinds of rich meatiness from the beef and from mushrooms, maybe some bok choy.

    Take some rice noodles cooked on the side, and put them in a bowl, add our hot broth and veggies, and add garnishes, say red pepper strips, bean sprouts, scallions, chili’s, and some basil. We have a beef and noodle soup similar to Pho.

    Phở is served in a bowl with white rice noodles in beef broth, with thin cuts of beef. In this case I’ll use chuck steak, and I’ll pressure cook the beef, with veggies to extract the gelatin, and generate my stock, which I will cook with additional veggies for my soup. I’ll save the cooked meat and add back into the soup at the table.

    These dishes are typically served with lots of greens, herbs, vegetables and various other accompaniments such as dipping sauces, hot and spicy pastes, and flavor enhancements such as a squeeze of lime or lemon. The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, coriander, Thai basil. fresh Thai chili peppers, lemon or lime wedges, bean sprouts, and cilantro.

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  • Cold Weather Comfort Food – Cherry Dump Cake

    As I have stated prior :

    BAH!!!! More wet and cold crap… BAH!!! I am SOO tired of this.. The weather is playing me like a fiddle, one or two days of sun and I let my guard down, now a week of crap weather…. I want to crawl into bed and hibernate.

    Between the cold, the damp and the lack of sunlight, I want comfort food, rich stews, hearty cibatta, and sumptuous deserts.

    I did the hearty stew yesterday, I was out in the cold all day going from place to place, and had a great dinner of Sashimi, but I want something to go with my last coffee. I want sweet, I want easy, I want tasty…. Maybe a cake, but I don’t want to bother getting out the mixer and cleaning up.. Maybe a dump cake.

    If you are wondering, a dump cake is where dump all the ingredients in a pan, and bake. No mixing, no measuring, no thinking, just pure pleasure at the result. Since it is February, and just after “Washington’s Birthday”, maybe a cherry dump cake…

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  • Cold Weather Comfort Food – Multi Stew

    BAH!!!! More wet and cold crap… BAH!!! I am SOO tired of this.. The weather is playing me like a fiddle, one or two days of sun and I let my guard down, now a week of crap weather…. I want to crawl into bed and hibernate.

    Between the cold, the damp and the lack of sunlight, I want comfort food, rich stews, hearty cibatta, and sumptuous deserts.

    Maybe a multi-meat style stew to use some of the odds and ends of meat, and veggies. Slow cooked to generate a rich meat gravy with tender veggies to serve over noddles, rice, baked potato, or bread.

    Add a side salad, maybe a dab of sour cream, and a cold beer, and I am ready to brave the elements…. (tomorrow morning, that is)

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