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Cozy up with 3 hearty stew recipes as winter weather sets in

Short ribs stew with carrots, leeks and red wine. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Short ribs stew with carrots, leeks and red wine. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Let’s begin with a little terminology: A stew is not a soup. A stew is not a casserole. And yet a stew can be a bit like a soup and a casserole. Let me explain; Both soups and stews rely on vegetables, meat, poultry or fish, and they are generally cooked in some sort of stock or liquid. But stews tend to be thicker, using larger chunks of meat, vegetable or poultry and less stock. The thicker it becomes, the more stew-like it is. And, unlike a casserole, stews are generally made in soup pots.

Whatever you call them, these three stews offer comfort as the weather shifts in much of the country. As the temperature drops, we find ourselves craving heartier, warming food. Stews are the perfect answer. And like soup, they almost always benefit from being made a day ahead of time and letting the flavors settle and emerge overnight.

These stews borrow from three distinctly different parts of the world. To begin, there’s an Indian-inspired vegetarian stew that focuses on cauliflower, coconut milk and spices. The stew is topped with spicy, crunchy roasted chickpeas. Next, a Mexican-inspired chicken and chili stew served with quick pickled red onions and warm tortillas. And finally, a hearty French dish of short ribs braised in red wine with carrots, leeks and rosemary.

Indian-spiced cauliflower stew with coconut milk and a spiced chickpea topping

Indian-spiced cauliflower stew with coconut milk and a spiced chickpea topping. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

This is a thoroughly satisfying vegetarian stew that can be served over white or brown rice. The stew comes together in less than 30 minutes and the crunchy spiced chickpea topping adds another 10 minutes. It’s one of the few stews that is best served within a few hours of preparation.

Serves 2 to 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, cut into very thin slices
  • 1 medium yellow or red onion, chopped
  • 2 scallions, white and green sections, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Dash of chili flakes or hot pepper sauce, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, like a jalapeno or serrano, cored, seeded, and chopped; you can leave the seeds in if you prefer a spicy stew
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cored and separated into florets
  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, or parsley (for those who are cilantro averse)


Instructions

  1. In a medium casserole, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic, half the chopped and sliced ginger, onion, and half of the scallions, and cook, stirring for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the turmeric, cumin and ground ginger and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
  3. Stir in the chile flakes (or hot pepper sauce), salt, pepper, and fresh chile pepper and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the cauliflower florets and the remaining fresh ginger; stir well to coat the cauliflower in all the spices. Season again with salt and pepper.
  5. Raise the heat to high and add the coconut milk and ½ cup cold water. Stir everything together and bring to a gentle boil; reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.
  6. Taste for seasoning adding more salt, pepper, and/or chile pepper.
  7. Serve hot sprinkled with the remaining scallions and top with the roasted chickpeas.

Roasted spiced chickpeas

These chickpea make a great snack as well as a delicious, crunchy topping for the cauliflower stew.

Makes 1 cup.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chickpeas, from a 13.4 ounce can or box, drained, rinsed, and drained again
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sprinkle chili flakes, optional


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place the chickpeas on a clean tea towel or paper towel and remove any moisture.
  3. Place the chickpeas on a cookie sheet or baking tray and toss with the oil, spices, salt and pepper. Spread them out in one single layer. Bake on the middle shelf for around 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and almost bursting through the skin. Remove and cool.
  4. The chickpeas can be made 24 hours ahead of time. Cover in a tightly sealed container and store at room temperature.

Short ribs stew with carrots, leeks and red wine

Short ribs stew with carrots, leeks and red wine. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Short ribs have so much flavor to give, but you need to coax it out with slow, steady cooking and really good aromatics. Here, short ribs are gently browned and then cooked with carrots, onion, garlic, leeks and rosemary, all slowly simmered in red wine. I like to serve this short rib stew with mashed potatoes or mashed celery root, rice or egg noodles. There’s a lot of delicious juice at the end that you’ll want to sop up, so a warm crusty bread would also be in order.

This stew really benefits from sitting overnight. Short ribs can be quite fatty and if you refrigerate the stew for at least 3 to 4 hours, or preferably overnight, the fat will rise to the surface and be easy to spoon off. Then you simply reheat the stew on the stovetop just before serving.

Serves 2 to 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds short ribs, ask your butcher to cut them in half
  • About ½ cup flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and green section cut in half lengthwise, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces; dark green tops discarded
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, or 1 ½ teaspoons dried and crumbled
  • 3 cups red wine, preferably dry
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup fresh chopped parsley, preferably Italian


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Place the flour, salt and pepper on a large plate and coat the ribs on all sides. Keep the flour.
  3. In a large casserole dish, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the ribs in the hot oil for about 5 minutes, flipping them from side to side to brown all over. Remove to paper towels to drain off any excess oil.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic, onion, leeks, carrots, and half the rosemary. Cook, stirring for about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in 1 ½ tablespoon of the reserved flour and stir to coat all the vegetables.
  5. Raise the heat to high and add the wine; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the bay leaf, the browned ribs, salt, pepper, and the remaining rosemary.
  6. Cover and place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Roast for 1 hour, turn off the heat and leave the stew in the oven for another hour. Remove from the oven and taste for seasoning adding more salt and pepper as needed.
  7. If you’ve planned ahead, let the stew come to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight. After 3 to 4 hours in the refrigerator, you’ll be able to spoon off the layer of fat that has formed on top, leaving only the smallest amount (it will add flavor). Reheat the stew over medium-low heat until bubbling and warm. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot.

Mexican-style chicken stew with chilis, tortillas, pickled onions and lime

Mexican-style chicken stew with chilis, tortillas, pickled onions and lime. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

The flavors in this stew are so complex it tastes like it’s been simmering all day. But the fact is, this stew can be put together in less than an hour. Chicken thighs and/or breasts are browned and mixed with sautéed onion, garlic, cumin, and ancho chilis. A jar of salsa (mild or hot) is poured on top and the whole dish comes together with very little effort. The toppings are just as interesting as the stew: warm corn or flour tortillas, pickled red onions (heat vinegar, salt, sugar and water and pour on top of thin onion slices and 30 minutes later, you’ve got pickles), radish slices, sour cream or crema, and lime wedges. The stew is ideal for a weeknight or can be a celebratory weekend meal as well. The stew can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time.

Serves 2 to 4.

Ingredients

The chicken and chili stew:

  • 1 large or 2 medium dried ancho chilis
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large or 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Dash chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½ pounds skin on chicken thighs
  • 1 ½ cups salsa, mild, medium or spicy, salsa verde or red salsa
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped with stems, or parsley (for those who are cilantro averse)


Pickled red onion:

  • 1 medium red onion
  • ⅓ cup cider vinegar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher or canning salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Grinding black pepper


Other garnishes:

  • 4 to 6 corn or flour tortillas
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Sour cream or crema
  • Pumpkin seeds or pepitas
  • Hot pepper sauces


Instructions

  1. Prepare the ancho chili: In a dry skillet, toast the chili over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing it from side to side. The skin should soften and slightly puff up. Place in a bowl and pour hot (almost boiling) water on top; soak for 15 minutes. Remove from the water and cut off the stem, slice down the middle and remove seeds. Cut the chili into small pieces and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium casserole dish, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chili flakes and oregano and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the chopped chilis and cook for another 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion/chili mixture to a plate.
  3. Add the additional tablespoon of oil to the casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and season well with salt and pepper. Brown on one side for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until brown, and gently flip the chicken over, season and brown another 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon the onion/chili mixture on top of the chicken, add the salsa, water and half the cilantro and bring to a gentle boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, cover the casserole and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through and the sauce has thickened somewhat.
  5. Meanwhile, make the pickles: In a small saucepan heat the vinegar, water, salt, sugar and pepper over high heat. Bring to a boil. Place the onion slices in a small non-reactive bowl and pour the hot vinegar mixture on top. Let cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. The onions need at least 30 minutes to pickle but will keep for almost a week.
  6. Place the tortillas in a clean tea towel and warm in a 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
  7. Serve the hot stew with all the garnishes and the hot tortillas.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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