A hearty stew can brighten the dreariest of days.
A good stew is warm and filling, and it is nutritious to the body and satisfying to the soul.
If you are in a hurry, there are a few shortcuts you can take. Just remember shortcuts also affect quality.
You can lean on the grocery deli for precooked meats, that way the cooking time is reduced dramatically. Frozen vegetables can be substituted for fresh.
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Make it from scratch if you can, but if time or your budget dictate otherwise, do the best you can.
Classic Beef Stew
Perhaps the best example of this dish is classic French Boeuf Bourguignon, made popular in this country by Julia Child.
2 cups cubed beef (Chuck, Chuck Shoulder, Chuck Roast, Chuck-Eye Roast, Top Chuck)
3 chopped onions
2-3 tablespoons flour
2 cups thick chopped carrots
1 cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper
Olive oil as needed
Optional 1 cup thin sliced mushrooms
Place the cubed beef in a large bowl and season aggressively with salt and pepper. Add oil to a heavy bottom 3-4 inch deep pot. Heat almost to smoking and brown the beef, in small batches, taking your time to get it right. Remove the beef and set aside. Add the onions, season again, reduce the heat to medium and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the flour, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, cook for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and beef, cover with water by 1/3, bring to a boil, reduce to a slow simmer and cook for 2 hours. If you are using the mushrooms, add 20 minutes before the stew is done. Taste and re-season as needed. Serve with crusty bread or rice.
2 cups cubed yellow squash
1 small chopped onion
1 large can whole tomatoes
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, Italian Seasoning
Add olive oil to a sauté pan, turn heat to medium, add the onion, season to your taste and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the whole tomatoes and the squash, taste and re-season as necessary. Simmer until the squash is tender. Add at least 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve with crusty dark bread.
Shrimp Sausage Stew
This may not seem like a stew to some people, but it is hearty enough to be included in the category. To me, there is something magical about the combination or shrimp and sausage.
1 pound large, shell off shrimp
1 cup thick chopped sausage
2/3 cup chopped onion
1 large green bell pepper cut into large but bite size chunks
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 cup tomato sauce (more if you want it more soup like)
1 cup rice
2 cups chicken stock
Salt, pepper, 1 pinch oregano
Sauté the sausage in olive oil until well-browned, remove and set aside. Add the shrimp, over high heat, and toss for 2 minutes, remove and set aside. Add the onions and bell pepper, season to your taste and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the tomato sauce and sausage and simmer for 20 minutes. Combine rice and stock and simmer, lid on, for 20 minutes. Combine everything, toss well. Taste and re-season as necessary.