Root Veggies make a great tasting stew

Root Veggie and Venison Stew (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

It’s mid-winter. Frigid. Blustery. We crave warm, nourishing comfort foods. And stew fits the bill. Slow-cooked, delicious, nutritious and hearty, it will raise everyone’s spirits.

Delicious broth-based stews combine meat or beans with vegetables and grains or potatoes for an easy, complete, satisfying main dish. Such ethnic dishes as Hungarian Goulash, African Groundnut Stew, Irish Sausage Stew, Irish Coddle, Brunswick stew, Beef Stroganoff, Pasta e Fagiole, Boeuf Bourguignonne and Jewish Cholent are examples of stews from various cuisines.

Stews are healthy because they’re chuck full of virtuous veggies, lean protein, and scrumptious seasonings. And root vegetables – carrots, onions, leeks, parsnips, turnips, celeriac, potatoes – are perfect in any stew. In Europe, one can buy a combination of these ‘soup roots’ at any grocer. Different countries have slightly different versions, depending on what is popular and what grows well in that climate. Root vegetables add incredible flavor, color and texture to your stew.

Stews are inexpensive to make. Long cooking means you can use cheaper, tougher cuts of meat. Tough, lean cuts are full of collagen connective tissue which breaks down during the long, slow cooking process. The end result is tasty, fork-tender meat. Good cuts for stew include neck, shoulder roasts, breast roasts, and shanks.

They’re easy to prepare ahead on the stove, or if you will be out all day, in a slow cooker. Long, slow cooking allows the flavors of the various ingredients to blend. And there is infinite variety! There are as many stew recipes as there are cooks that make it. Beef, pork, lamb, chicken or sausage can make a stew, or try a vegetarian version with beans or lentils. Fish Stew flavored with garlic, basil and parsley has a Mediterranean flavor. A Moroccan vegetarian stew is made with garbanzo beans, winter squash, potatoes, tomatoes, olives and cinnamon. For a taste of Greece, make a hearty Lamb Stew with lamb and green beans flavored with parsley, marjoram, mint and basil. Filipino Oxtail Stew combines oxtails with eggplant and green beans in a peanut sauce.

Do family members have varying schedules? Are out of town guests coming for carnival activities? Warm, filling stews can be made in advance and are easily reheated when you come in from the cold, allowing you to relax with your guests rather than busying yourself in the kitchen.

No matter what ingredients you use, stews make a hearty meal for a winter night after a day of outdoor activities. Add a tossed salad and crusty bread or dinner rolls, and you’re ready to eat.

Root Veggie and Venison Stew

Ingredients:

1 large onion

4 oz. mushrooms

2 carrots

2 cloves garlic

2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 2/2 pounds venison stew meat (or beef stew meat)

1 /4 to 1/2 large celeriac

2 to 3 potatoes (depend on size)

2 turnips

2 beets

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon each thyme, oregano basil and paprika

2 cups broth or water

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Peel and dice onion. Clean and slice mushrooms. Peel and mince garlic. Slice carrot. Add a little oil to the bottom or a large stew pot. Add onion, mushrooms, carrot and garlic. Sprinkle with salt, cover, and cook over low heat 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While these are cooking, scrub, peel and chop remaining vegetables.

Add the venison to the pot and brown well, stirring to brown all sides. Then add the cut-up root vegetables. Pour in the sine, seasonings, and broth or water. Stir. Cover and simmer 30 to 60 minutes until everything is cooked through.

Option: Make in slow cooker; cook on low 7 to 10 hours.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Serves 4 to 6.

White Bean and Vegetable Stew

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, minced

2 medium carrots, sliced

1 medium stalk celery, sliced

8 ounces Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried cannellini or other white beans, rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth or water

1 teaspoons salt

2 medium potatoes (about 1/2 pound), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 beet, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces

3 to 4 cups chopped kale or other winter greens (about 8 ounces)

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

Directions:

Be sure to soak beans the night before. Or, place in a pot with water, bring to a boil, cook 2 to 3 minutes, cover, remove from heat and wait 1 hour or longer.

In Dutch oven or stew pot with tight-fitting lid, heat oil. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Sprinkle with salt. Cover, and cook on low heat about minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook 5 – 10 minutes longer.

Add beans, herbs, wine, and broth. Cook about 30 minutes.

Prepare root vegetables and kale. Add and cook 30 minutes longer, or until tender.

Stir in tomatoes and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (reserve the rest for garnish). Cook 5 minutes, until cheese melts and soup is hot.

Serve with fresh bread and a salad. Garnish with additional shredded cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Author

Yvona Fast.

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