More Stews and Soups
Stew is the quintessential comfort food. There is something about the rich sauce, tender meat, and flavor-infused vegetables that warms the soul and nourishes the body. The versatile, virtually one-pot meal works both for family nights and entertaining. Best of all, stews are simple to make; success just depends on following a few simple but important steps.
1. Use the Right Equipment
Although no fancy equipment is needed to make a good stew, it's great if you have a Dutch oven. These are heavy cast-iron or stainless steel pots with tight-fitting lids. Some of the best are cast-iron with an enameled coating. The enamel prevents any reaction that might occur between ingredients and metal that could give your stew an off flavor, and it keeps the cast iron from retaining the scent or flavor of stews past. Two other good-to-have tools: tongs work well for flipping the meat as it browns, and a flat-edged wooden spatula is good for deglazing.
2. Choose the Right Cuts of Meat
If cuts are too lean, the meat might end up tough in the stew.
For beef stew, purchase readily available beef stew meat. These chunks of beef come from tougher parts of the cow-the shoulder, leg, and butt-which are sometimes collectively referred to as "chuck." As they simmer over low heat, they become tender and offer great flavor to the stew.
For lamb stews, purchase a boned leg of lamb, trim it well, and cut into cubes. A friendly butcher might even do this for you. Or look for lamb stew meat, which is usually cut-up scraps from leg of lamb. Meat from the leg adds great flavor to any stew.
When searching for pork for stews, seek out pork shoulder, often called Boston butt pork roast, which is a fattier cut with a lot of flavor that needs to cook for a long time. Or choose lean pork tenderloin, which becomes tender in a shorter amount of time. Use a combination of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs for chicken stews. The breast meat has a pleasantly firm texture, while the thighs offer meaty richness similar to that of pork.
3. Sauté the Aromatics
Begin the cooking process by sautéing onions, garlic, leeks, or shallots until golden brown. The caramelized, browned surface on these aromatics infuses the stew with rich flavor and fragrance. Remove from the pan once browned.
4. Dredge in Flour
Dredging the meat-placing the pieces in a bowl of flour, tossing to coat, then shaking off the excess-results in a tasty crust. When the meat is seared, the flour coating cooks quickly, sealing juices inside the meat. It also makes an instant mini roux that sticks to the bottom of the pan-a roux being a flour-and-fat combo that thickens stews.