Soups and Stews


Guess what – some cooking actually happened this weekend!  Actually it was Friday.  After sitting in the ER all day with a friend I had promised myself some tasty sushi as a reward.  By the end of the day, I’d changed my tune.  Even huddled under my fleece jacket (and I was wearing layers, no ER novice, I) I was freezing!  Sushi just didn’t sound good anymore.  Instead, I finally got around to making a stew.  That poor stew beef had been sitting in the fridge for 3 days, and was about to get shoved in the deep freezer.  I kept meaning to make stew, but then finding some reason not to.  Friday night, I made it happen. 

Now, usually if I make a beef stew it’s topped with pastry.  Since I did not have the energy to even contemplate GF pastry, I decided a straight stew would be great.  Filled with potatoes and carrots, it would be cozy, warming, and filling.  I used a similar spice blend as I do in my Meat and Potato Pie, and added some nice red wine for extra richness.  It came out wonderfully, even though I wasn’t patient enough to let it simmer quite as long as it should have for really melt-in-your-mouth stew beef.  You could also throw it in the crockpot first thing in the morning, and then add the potatoes in when you get home from work. 

Beef Stew

1 1/2 lbs stew beef (I buy the pre-cut stuff because I’m lazy and cheap, but I do cut it up into slightly smaller pieces and trim the fat)
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups beef broth (gluten-free, if necessary)
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped (I used baby carrots I had on hand, and just cut them in half or thirds)
2 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces

Cut the beef into bite-size pieces, season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Sear beef on all sides (you might need to do this in batches, it usually takes me at least 2 batches).  Set beef aside.  Add onion, saute until translucent.  Add garlic, saute for 1 or 2 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the garlic, as it will get bitter.  Add bay leaves and spices, stir until fragrant (it should smell heavenly at this point).  Pour in the red wine, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the beef to the pan, add the broth and carrots.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer.  Simmer, covered (if you want a really thick, gravy-like sauce you can simmer it uncovered – but keep in mind that it will reduce some when you add the potatoes) for at least an hour – the longer the better. 

Add in the potatoes, and return the stew to a boil.  Boil approximately 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.  Check the seasoning.  Adjust to taste.  Serve while still steaming, and watch people be happy.  This would be extra lovely with a nice crusty piece of bread for dipping.  I ate the final bowl of leftovers with a toasted slice of my very first gluten-free bread and it was quite yummy.

This chili is not gourmet in any way.  I don’t care.  It’s delicious, it’s easy, ridiculously quick to put together, and it’s even better the next day. Plus, as with any crockpot meal, it’s lovely to come home at the end of the day and smell a delicious dinner bubbling away.

Growing up, I didn’t realize there were other kinds of chili.  Since I grew up in Northern Michigan, I only ever saw northern-style chili: tomato based, thick and stewy in consistency.  In my hometown, there was an annual chili supper held just before the big Homecoming football game.  I rarely went to this chili supper, but when I did, I was always slightly disappointed, because it didn’t taste like my mom’s.  Later, when I went to college in Texas, I was shocked by what they called chili.  This broth-based concoction looked nothing like any bowl of chili I’d seen.  I suppose if I’d grown up eating southern-style chili, I’d be posting a very different recipe, although, my husband (growing up in Texas) never liked chili until he had my mom’s.  So, it might just be that good.

The name of the game here is speed and convenience.  So, if you really want big chunks of stew beef, you can do that…but it will require more prep (ideally searing in batches before adding to the crockpot).  Pretty much everything comes from a can or a packet, and I refuse to apologize for that, because it is extremely tasty chili.  In my opinion it should always be served with corn muffins and shredded cheddar cheese.  Also, this is a very mild chili, so I serve it with a bottle of hot sauce for people who like a little more kick.

Mom’s Chili

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 12 oz. can tomato paste
1 12 oz. can tomato soup
3 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained (I prefer light, but it doesn’t really matter)
1 packet Chili seasoning (My favorite is French’s Chili-O, which is getting hard to find)
1 bottle beer, optional (a lighter beer is preferable to a darker beer, because a dark beer can get bitter cooking all day)

Brown beef in a skillet.  Drain.  Combine beef and all other ingredients in the bowl of a large crockpot.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours.

Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream for topping, and corn muffins on the side.  Have a bottle of hot sauce on hand for those who like their chili spicy.

So, this recipe was an experiment that started with the leftovers from the Snowstorm meal.   Usually I make chicken potpie with the leftovers from a roast chicken dinner.  I buy relatively small chickens, so I usually have around 4 cups of chicken leftover, but all in small pieces.   For some reason, eating the leftover chicken in that form isn’t terribly exciting to me.  What is exciting is the opportunity to turn the leftover bits into a stew and top it with pie crust.  When I’m feeling lazy, or just not up to rolling pastry, I serve it over biscuits.

So, for this version, I had leftover braised kale, which for whatever reason, also didn’t sound appetizing reheated.  So, I made my regular chicken stew, but added in the leftover kale.  The result was incredibly tasty!  The only thing I would do differently is to add the kale in at the very end.  I simmered it all together for 20 minutes or so, and the result was a very green stew.  Not terrible, but not necessarily ideal either.  If you didn’t have leftover kale, you could cook fresh kale in boiling water first, and then stir it into the stew for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking.   The best thing about this is that it’s easily adjusted to what you have on hand.   Depending on how much leftover chicken you have, you can scale back on the amount of broth and veggies.  I’ve used all kinds of veggies in this, but the classics are always good: corn, peas, green beans, etc.  But the kale was so good that I definitely encourage you to try whatever you have on hand – you never know!

A note on gluten content.  This stew could easily be gluten-free.  I thickened mine with a light roux (in this case, about 2 teaspoons of oil and 4 tablespoons of flour).  Just thicken yours with corn starch instead (I haven’t experimented with GF All Purpose Baking mixes…anyone know if they work for a roux?), and you’ll have a great GF version of this stew.

I served it over biscuits, but the boy, at least, believes that the biscuits are unnecessary.  Do what you will.  I like sopping. 

Chicken and Kale Stew

2 teaspoons oil or butter
1 small onion, chopped
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon ground pepper
4 cups of cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked kale
salt, to taste (mine didn’t need salt because the kale and the cooked chicken were plenty salty)

Heat oil or melt butter in a medium dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add chopped onion, and cook until translucent.  Add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to remove all lumps.   Slowly add chicken broth, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  (this works best if the chicken stock is warm.  Since I keep mine in the freezer, I microwave it to defrost it, which results in a warmish stock).  Add bay leaves, bouillon cube, poultry seasoning, and pepper.  Add chicken and frozen vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes.  Check seasoning.  Add kale, simmer 5 more minutes.  Check seasoning again.  Serve immediately, alone or over biscuits.