Saturday, January 19, 2008

Winter Stew, with Polenta

Here‘s my answer to the classic beef stew, the kind that's marketed in commercials with lumberjacks and NFL players. This shames those cans, with the added bonus that it uses fresh ingredients and doesn't smell like cat food. Enjoy this hearty stew over some hot polenta on a cold winter‘s night.

Winter Stew with Polenta
2 tbsp. canola oil
½ lb. Roast Seitan (a recipe which I haven't posted yet...patience, grasshopper)
1 lb. russet potatoes
2 ribs celery
2 medium carrots, diced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup water, vegetable broth, or vegetarian “beef” broth
1 large onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

1. In a large soup pot, heat oil on medium high heat. Add chunks of roast seitan and saute for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. The idea is to brown them a little bit.

2. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes, until they start to turn translucent. Add garlic and celery, and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.

3. When the garlic just starts to brown, add carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, broth, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low. Cover and simmer for up to an hour. Check the stew every 10-15 minutes, stirring in case anything is starting to burn. Add enough liquid so that there is always at least an inch of broth in the pot, to avoid burning. Excessive liquid will result in more of a soup.

4. When the potatoes and carrots are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork, remove the bay leaf and add the green peas. Heat for another 10 minutes - the peas go in last so they don’t overcook and lose their bright green color and crisp taste.

5. Remove from heat, let stand 10 minutes to cool a bit, and serve stew over polenta, rice, or on it’s own.

It’s stew, which almost by definition includes whatever ingredients you have on hand. I find that soups and stews are great places to use up vegetables that aren’t exactly in their prime, but a waste to throw away. Trust your instincts. Also, this tastes great a day or two later, after everything sort of melts together.

No comments: