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Stew on this

We all, I am sure, know how to make stew. Mirepoix coarsely cut, potatoes diced, beef or chicken diced 1" dredged and browned, homemade stock, garlic and bay leaf, some peas in at the end. Cook low and slow.
Makes a damned good tasting stew, but is same old, same old.
What is your secret ingredient, spice or herb that brings it up to something different/interesting?
I won't tell anyone. It will be just between us.

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  1. A friend recently gave me her old family recipe for PA Dutch chicken-corn soup. It called for a pinch or two of saffron threads. I loved the soup, and have now been using it in chicken stew (potatoes, carrots, celery, pearl onions ). I love saffron, and not for the floral note many posters here on CH have mentioned, but for its medicinal taste (to me anyway). It can be very strong, so I back off for company but use a heavier hand for us.

    1. I add a bouquet garni (rosemary, parsley, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, maybe sage) and some red wine to the liquid. Sometimes I fry bacon first, reserve the bacon, brown the meat in the bacon grease, then chop up the bacon and add at the last minute. Sometimes I peel pearl onions and brown them in butter, then simmer them in stock separately, then throw them in at the end.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Niki in Dayton

        Bacon's a great base - then add tomato paste, red wine, port, balsamic.

        1. re: katecm

          Ah, yes....forgot to mention I use tomato paste and red wine.The wine I use to deglaze after browning.

          1. re: margshep

            Throw in that port and balsamic, then, and sweeten it up. Also, serve it with either a gremolata or a lemon and horseradish creme fraiche. It breathes new life into it and adds a lot of freshness.

            1. re: katecm

              Definitely wine and tomato paste. Balsamic is good too, although I often use cider vinegar. Also worcestorshire sauce and fish sauce. I always add a little fish sauce to beef stews, and sometimes it replaces the salt altogether.

              Also, experiment with different roots. I started using celery root instead of potatoes when I found them at my farmer's market one year. Yum!

      2. Try making a pork stew....Omit the Peas and Carrots...Include Sweet Potato, and Turnip Roots....Careful not to over cook....

        Then there is Lamb..........

        1. Venison, onion, tomato and tamarind are great together!

          1. I make beef stew the way my mom did. She always added a generous few shakes of worcestshire to the braising liquid.

            1. Parsnips, turnips and sweet potatoes instead of old reliable...this goes for beef, pork, lamb, moose and venison stews as well. BTW, I am not sure about the peas...they are so tiny next to the cut of the other ingredients...

              1. Suet dumplings - absolutely essential to beef stew.

                Stew is traditional, not to be messed with - beef, onion, leek, carrot, swede, maybe turnip and/or celeriac, thyme , parsley, good stock (from a bottle usually), good shake of Worcestershire sauce, pepper. Long cook. Dumplings go in for last 20 minutes.


                1. If I'm preparing a American-style tomato-based stew, I usually like to add some heat with Sriracha, smoked paprika, harissa and/or warmth with allspice, cinnamon, cumin and/or nutmeg, particularly when stewing red meat. I typically don't make American-style stews, though.
                  Afritada - chicken stewed with potatoes, peas and red pepper in a vinegar-tomato broth
                  Caldereta - goat or beef stewed with potatoes, peas and red pepper in a sauce thickened with mashed liver
                  Mechado - larded beef or brisket stewed with potatoes in a peppery tomato broth

                  1. Other than ones mentioned above, sometimes I'll use beer instead of wine. Coffee sometimes. Different root vegetables. Use pork butt and add green chiles. Roasted tomatoes. Capers, olives, raisins (or other dried fruit but some people don't like added sweetness).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chowser

                      You stole several of my suggestions, chowser. :-) Beer, roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen), and raisins were all suggestions I was going to make (dried apricots as well in a lamb tagine-type of stew). Depends on what the meat base is. A Guinness Beef Stew is wonderful in the wintertime.

                      Curry powder is good as well (not in the Guinness beef stew, tho). Maybe this list of types of stews with additional links can help the OP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stew#Lis...

                    2. A sauerbraten approach is a change-up for beef, veal, lamb, or pork. A standard sauerbraten marinates a beef pot roast for several days, and uses crushed gingersnaps to thicken the gravy, but if you look up the marinade ingredients you can add some or all of them to the vegetables and seared meat, and the gingersnaps at the end.

                      1. I literally like to throw in whatever i have laying around into my stew. Makes things interesting and you never know what you're gonna get! Right now I have a pot of beef stew bubbling away with...

                        Chuck and short rib meat.
                        Onion, celery, carrot and a head of garlic. Plus a little anchovy.
                        Couple of tomatoes that were about to go bad.
                        Soy sauce, dijon mustard, red wine.
                        Thyme, bay leaf.

                        I hope it turns out good! Sure smells great. :)

                        Oh, and everything was cooked/browned in rendered chicken fat! lol

                        1. In beef stew, I brown my meat in bacon fat. I add a tbsp of tomato paste, a splash of red wine, Worchestershire, and at the end, a large pinch of cinnamon. I also use red potatoes b/c they don't fall apart.

                          1. After browning the meat, and simmering, add beef stock if available (otherwise, water to cover and simmer). I throw in allspice, clove (wow - makes the house smell great), paprika, garlic, bay leaf, seasoning salt, fresh rosemary, brown sugar and some diced tomatoes. Simmer til meat is "almost tender". Add baby carrots, corn, green beans, celery, onion, peas, diced potatoes. If too runny for you, add a little slurry to thicken. Has it's own sweet/savory taste. I know - a Mirepoix is usually done first, but I like the flavors added at the end as I love their fresh flavor. Just my take :-)

                            1. Family background is Hungarian, so it's not just stew - it's goulash.

                              1) Cut up a 7 bone pot roast or other chuck meat with bones. Brown the meat and bones, use the bones in the braise, they add an incomporable taste that meat cubes alone don't impart.
                              2) Brown meat and onions REALLY, REALLY well - this is your flavor base
                              3) Use homemade beef stock or a really good one, not that crap granules
                              4) a good hearty red wine is essential, cabernet or pinot noir, something worth drinking
                              5) flavor profile - lots of garlic, 2 T Hungarian paprika - 1 reg and 1 hot (Szeged), rosemary, salt & pepper. I don't care for the taste of bay leaf, but if you like it, put that in as well.
                              6) canned tomatoes are optional
                              7) for a different base, try serving over soft polenta!

                              Also make chicken paprikash (stew), if you are interested.

                              1. Juice of an orange and a handful of olives
                                and/or smoked paprika.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: waver

                                  i avoid 7 bone steak for anything but i was given an organic one. that was great, much superior even in this lowest end cut.

                                  i have a big pot of stew, but reheating a couple portions while also doing dumplings makes a mess with bottom scorched. so i thought i'd just put in oven and top with biscuits. that did not work, uncooked dough. the stew has to be at least simmering before topping to work. stew didn't stick, though