Saturday, March 3, 2012

stews and my whole30

Stew is one of my favorite dishes. I like to cook it and eat it. I like to think about it. Though I've certainly made lots of vegetable stews, I like the moist, tender, flavorful meat best of all. In years past, potatoes were always a component of my stews. These days I don't use them and don't miss them. I think the almond flour used in the cooking adds a starchy feeling, and I don't miss potatoes in the least.

Stews are easy, versatile, they make the house smell great, and they can be SO forgiving. While doing this round of the Whole30, I'm keeping stew or ingredients that can quickly become a stew in the fridge. I have two distinctly different approaches to stew and use one or the other depending on which ingredients I have handy. One starts with cooked meats and vegetables, while the other starts in the raw state. Both are easy.

This week for quick lunches, I've been simply pulling roast and veggies from the refrigerator, cutting them into large bite size pieces, and combining them in my cool little warming Crock Pot, which I then take to work and plug in at my desk.

Stew Re-purposed from a Roast

This method is so easy it doesn't really warrant a recipe. When I cook a pot roast, which for me usually means grass-fed chuck roast because I love the flavor and texture, I add extra carrots, celery, and onions. Often, but not always, I'll throw in turnips, cauliflower, or parsnips. I don't use potatoes. I also usually throw in a handful of almond flour, quite unceremoniously, to slightly thicken the cooking liquid. This is an ideal combination for me to use later in impromptu stews.
baby veggies are a nice addition
Stew for Stew's Sake

The other method is almost as easy and a little more fun. The directions work for boneless beef, chicken, oxtails, short ribs, turkey thighs---any meat that can handle or benefit from long, slow, moist  cooking.
turkey hindquarter ready to become stew
Start by browning your meat of choice. Though we're looking at turkey here, this method works well with all sort of meats. I often brown turkey, oxtails, lamb shanks, and other large cuts under the broiler, watching it very closely as it browns. Boneless and smaller pieces, I brown on the stove top in coconut oil or rendered fat, often with a sprinkling of sea salt, ground pepper, and almond flour. Whether you've used the broiler method or the stove top method, the next step is the same. Slowly brown chopped onions in the fat rendered from browning your meat until well-caramelized but not burned. This adds a real richness to your stew. Next add garlic and cook for about 30 to 60 seconds, just to ever so slightly brown. I use dried granulated garlic in a lot of my cooking, but for a roast or stew that's going to cook for an extended period of time, I like whole or sliced cloves of fresh garlic. To slice or not to slice the garlic is totally a personal choice. Lazy cook that I am, my usual practice is probably pretty obvious.
start with chopped onions, then brown in coconut oil or beef or chicken fat
As soon as you begin to smell the garlic, remove the pan from the heat.

I'm a big fan of a slow cooker for stews, but I sometimes use a heavy French or Dutch oven, like Le Creuset, on the stove top when I'll be at home for a few hours. The advantage to the slow cooker is that you can leave and come back to perfect stew. The stove top advantage is that you can play with it all day. Given the option and the free time, I want to touch and taste and stir. I'm also likely to decide to add a bit of thyme from the garden or a little tomato because it looks good as the stew simmers over the course of a few hours.

Whichever method you choose, layer your browned vegetables with 1" to 3" pieces of carrots, celery,
tomatoes are optional, go with your mood
turnips, parsnips, cauliflower---the veggies you personally like in a stew. Put the meat on the top if it's a large piece like the turkey above, or stir it in if you've used smaller chunks. Top with sprigs of fresh parsley, about 2 ounces of almond flour, a tablespoon salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. Finally, add 1/2 to 1 cup broth or water.

Simmer, covered, for several hours. Meat should be tender and vegetables cooked through but still intact. Taste, adjust seasonings if needed. You may also remove the lid to allow the liquid to continue thickening, if desired.
If you're using a large piece of meat, you'll, of course, cut that into pieces a little larger than bite size after simmering. You'll notice very few quantities list here. This is really more of a template than a recipe. Thyme is a great addition with almost any meat. Half a lemon is nice simmered with lamb, if that's your meat of choice. The possibilities are (almost) endless.

Stews in general are better the second day or third. If you can, refrigerate overnight and reheat to serve. You can remove any fat that has solidified on the surface, especially if you're not using grass-fed beef or lamb.

One thing that makes the Whole30 so much easier is having good food, food you love and don't tire of quickly, on hand and ready to go. The great thing about both this stew and its primary ingredients is that they're easy to keep on hand, fresh or frozen. We have two versions in the fridge much of the time during cooler weather.

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