Thursday, October 2, 2014

Staples of Fall

There were lots and lots of turnips in the box this week.  Fall is the season for root veggies:  turnips, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, onions, lots of goodness.  These are the components of good, hearty fall meals.

Lots of people wonder what to do with turnips.  Honestly, use them in anything where you'd use potatoes or carrots.  Turnips are related to horseradish, and they'll add some of that sharp, in-the-nose quality, albeit in much milder form.  Turnips contain a fair amount of sugar, too, which you can caramelize.  Let's make a simple stew.

Photo via Epicurious
Veggie Stew
Pick whichever root veggies you'd like.  Some of those turnips, for example.  Peel and cut into bite-sized chunks.  Add some aromatics too, like onions, celery, and/or fennel.  Again, chop into bite size pieces.  It doesn't matter how much of what ingredient.  Use more of the ones you like more.

Here's my Stew Secret.  Put a pan (or a wok, if you have one) over high heat, and let the pan pre-heat for a minute or two.  Put in some high smoke point oil, such as grape seed or peanut, and let it warm up for a few seconds. Toss the veggies in and stir continuously just until they've got some brown on them, but not black.  The brown is caramelized sugars.  Good stuff. Turn the heat to low, sprinkle on some flour (a tablespoon or two), then stir well for maybe a minute.  Put the veggies into a pot or slow cooker.  

Add some flavorful liquid. This could be wine, stock, or a robust beer.  My favorite stews use a good Belgian beer.  (Even if you don't like to drink them, those beers take on a different character in a stew.) Optionally, you can put in some herbs (bay, thyme, etc.).  Let it cook low and slooooooow all day.  Salt & pepper only after its done.  Now, how easy was that?

Photo via Food & Wine
Variations on a Theme
That's a vegetable stew, and it's heartier than you think.  Of course you can add meat of any kind, especially the cheaper cuts, which benefits from lots of low heat cooking.  Just like the veggies, cut into bite-size pieces, brown, add a little flour, and in the pot.

Here are some good recipes I've used, but you'll see that they're all variations on this theme.  Many stew recipes will only list carrots, but adding in other root vegetables can't be a bad thing!  Tomato paste enriches and sets apart this classic Bistro stew.  And, speaking of flavorful liquids, how about some cognac in your beef stew?  Fall is football season, and stews are great for watching the game.  Our family's absolute favorite stew, though, has to be this southwest-inspired one.  Here's another southwestern stew, this time a bit spicier.

Happy fall!

No comments:

Post a Comment