stew

Nakji Jeongol (낙지전골) is a Korean octopus stew that deserves a bit of primer, since the world of Korean soups and stews can be pretty intimidating. In Korea, most meals are accompanied with some form of soup, categorized into two main categories: soups like guk or tang, and stews like jjigae or jeongol.

Soups are typically thin, simple, and simmered for extended periods. In general, guk are meatless, and a little watery; last year I posted a recipe for the popular Gul Guk (Oyster Soup). Tang are, you guess it, made with meat (a favorite of mine, Gamjatang, is made with pork neck and potatoes – it appears in my first cookbook, The Ancestral Table).

Stews are more ornate, adorned with fresh vegetables, and served in large, family-style dishes. Jjigae are typically made with a single defining ingredient; Kimchi Jjigae and Sundubu Jjigae, the latter made with curdled tofu, are the most popular. Jeongol contain a variety of ingredients, and are a little more elaborate; historically, jeongol were served for members of the royal court, while jjigae were for commoners.

Today’s Nakji Jeongol has a fair amount of add-ins, but the basic recipe is very simple: marinate the octopus, prepare the soup base, throw it all together. There is no single set of add-ins, so feel free to throw in whatever you have available to you (for example, I used cilantro because the more traditional herb, perilla, is hard to find where I live). Frozen packages of pre-cleaned octopus can be found in most Asian markets, or you can get some fresh (and likely cleaned, but here’s a quick video if needed) from your local fishmonger.

One fairly uncommon ingredient in the soup base is doenjang, which is the Korean version of miso paste; if you’re not able to find it locally, it is sold online, or red miso paste will work in a pinch. If you’re curious as to my thoughts on fermented soy, here is something I wrote earlier this year (spoiler alert: I think fermented soy is fine).

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Gumbo is a stew of Louisiana origin, dating back as far as the 18th century. As with Jambalaya, there are two popular versions of gumbo, Creole and Cajun; generally, the former includes tomatoes, while the latter omits them. It can be made with all sorts of meats, from chicken, to rabbit, to nutria, to oysters; today, we’re going to make one with shrimp and andouille sausage.

There are several ways to prepare gumbo, many of them influenced by how you thicken the stew. Most methods today include a French-inspired flour roux, while others use okra or filé powder (ground sassafras leaves) – or combination – as a thickener. I’ve found that mochiko (sweet rice flour) makes the best gluten-free roux for gumbo, with plain white rice flour coming in second – but on their own, they’re not quite enough to thicken the gumbo to what I’d like (I tried simply adding more flour, but it overtook the dish’s texture and flavor). In the end, a combination of rice flour roux and okra worked best, as the roux dampened okra’s sliminess, and adding a bit of optional gumbo filé powder at the end gave the stew a perfect earthiness, befitting a warm Southern kitchen.

Gumbo is often characterized by its dark roux, made by stirring the roux over an open flame for up to an hour, right until it’s at the threshold of being burnt. I’ve found that a rice flour roux tends to burn too quickly when compared to a traditional wheat flour roux, so my solution is pretty simple: roast the flour in the oven to a golden brown before turning it into a roux. This also gives you some time to multitask, and simmer up a quick shellfish broth using shrimp shells and clam juice, while the flour browns.

The origin of the word “gumbo” is a bit of a mystery. It’s commonly thought that it is either derived from the Choctaw word for filé powder (kombo), since the spice came from similar Native stews from the region, or the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) – as the vegetable was introduced to the area via the West African slave trade. Regardless of its origin, gumbo is a perfect example of the cultural melting pot that eventually came to exemplify Louisiana cuisine, with its French, Native, and African influences.

Finally, I would like to note that this isn’t a weeknight-friendly meal (unless, of course, you have a weeknight off, or you’re unemployed). But that’s the beauty of gumbo – when you spend a couple hours pouring yourself into a cooking project, a bit of your soul joins the dish.

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First of all, sorry about that title. Just like the elusive free lunch, there is no such thing as an “Instant Stew”. You see, I recently asked my Facebook followers what dish they’d like to see me develop, and I received several requests for pressure cooker and stew recipes. We use (and love) an electric pressure cooker called an Instant Pot, so that’s what I used for this recipe (and hence the name).

At its heart, this dish is similar to many of my other stew recipes, but with a new approach. When it comes to simple weeknight recipes, many folks like the idea of crockpot stews (wherein you leave the ingredients to slow-cook while away at work). But I’ve found that more often than not, the vegetables become too mushy and tired after a long simmer. This is where a pressure cooker really shines, as it shaves a multi-hour recipe into just over an hour, making it a potential weeknight option with superior texture.

If you want to make this dish without any fancy (awesome) gadgetry, I’ve also included stovetop instructions below.

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Recently, I’ve been thinking about living a simpler life. The idea started when I visited Mickey Trescott’s new home in the Willamette Valley over the summer, but it really solidified when we moved all of our things from Maryland to Florida last month – over 14,000 lbs worth of belongings. As we started unpacking boxes, I couldn’t help but think that I just didn’t need so much stuff. The worst part about it? We’re still unpacking.

So for the holidays this year, we’re trying to not buy any objects for each other. Instead, we’re gifting experiences. So this week’s recipe is going to be a little different from your usual Tuesday post; I’m going to walk you through how to make gifts to hand out to people that aren’t stuff. A couple years back I made a few gallons of my barbecue sauce and gave it away as gifts. While I had a lot of fun with that idea, I wanted to do something more immediate and useful – wouldn’t it be better to just gift someone a fully-cooked delicious meal? And thus my idea of Stew for You (or Two) was born. The concept is simple: make a large batch of delicious stew, vacuum-seal it, and give it away as gifts.

I’m particularly in love with my Beef à la Mode recipe from earlier this year, yet I’m sure that its 3.5-hour cook time deters readers from making it often enough. Instead, imagine reheating a vacuum-sealed homemade meal directly in gently simmering water, offering an unbeatable experience in just 20-30 minutes. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, a resealable mylar bag or Wrap ‘n Boil bag would work well, or even something like this IndieGoGo project would be great.

So read on for the stew recipe and sealing instructions, plus other gift suggestions. Let’s make Stew for You (or Two) go viral.

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Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew first developed in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Originally made by Italian fisherman who had settled in the region, it was crafted directly on fishing boats using rudimentary cooking tools before making its way into local restaurants and beyond. Much like the French Bouillabaisse or the Eastern European Brudet, Cioppino is made with a variety of seafood, depending on whatever is on hand. Also, apparently I’m obsessed with tomato-based seafood stews, because this is my third such recipe in the past year.

The origin of this dish’s name is the subject of some debate. The most likely answer is that it comes from the word ciuppin, which means “chopped” in the Ligurian dialect spoken in Genoa, Italy’s largest seaport, from where many immigrants in the San Francisco area originated. The idea is that fishermen chopped up a bunch of fish for the stew. There’s also a seafood stew from Genoa called Ciuppin, so there’s that, too. But a more compelling origin is that the name comes from Italian-Americans asking their fellow fishermen to “chip in” some seafood for a communal feast, and their broken English formed the word we know today as Cioppino.

No matter its etymology, this is a quick and versatile dish to make for any weeknight or weekend, allowing you to maximize your flavors based on whatever seafood is on sale at your local market. For us, king crab was (somewhat) affordable the other day, so that’s what we used to spice up our dinner. Just stick with the underlying foundation of the recipe and you can’t go wrong.

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Let me tell you a quick story. I first visited Singapore about 10 years ago, flying solo to the city-state for a work trip. I loved this tiny country from the very start, most especially their melting pot of cultures and languages (the country has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil). I also happened to be visiting during Chinese New Year, and the whole downtown area was filled with celebrations and fireworks – quite a welcoming sight for this young and starry-eyed traveler.

My first morning in the city I awoke starving (and a little hungover), and decided to scout out some local restaurants for a late breakfast. I quickly learned an important lesson: during the daytime, Singapore basically shuts down for Chinese New Year. After miles of walking, I finally found a shopping center that was open, and headed for the first restaurant I could find, a small, cramped Filipino restaurant.

The menu was written in Tagalog, and I was too hungry and grumpy (and a little overwhelmed) to ask for an English menu, so I just worked my way through the list of dishes on my own. I settled on Kare Kare, mostly because it sounded like “curry”, and based on its description I figured the word karne meant meat (I was right). Meat curry sounded like a perfect fit for my empty stomach. I couldn’t translate the rest of the dish’s description but I figured I was good to go.

The dish that arrived held little similarity to curry, and was more like a thick, mild stew that tasted like peanuts. I also found little in the way of meat in the dish, mostly attached to weird-looking bones (oxtails) or some strange looking chewy substance (tripe). But you know what? It was delicious, and I ate every bit of it, even if I had no idea what it was.

I’m pretty sure that this meal is what started drawing me towards adventurous eating, and so I wanted to share the recipe for the dish with you this week. As you might have figured out, Kare Kare is a Philippine oxtail stew, often served with tripe and pig or cow feet. There’s a bit of variation to this dish, but it is typically includes eggplant, green beans, and Chinese cabbage. The name Kare Kare may have been introduced by Indian immigrants who settled to the east of Manila, while others believe that the dish came from the Pampanga region to the northwest of the Philippine capitol city.

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Beef à la Mode (Boeuf à la Mode) is the French variation of traditional pot roast. What sets it apart from an American-style pot roast is that it uses red or white wine (and sometimes tomato), while the original American pot roasts were made with just water. Traditional Beef à la Mode employs a technique called larding, where a special needle is used to thread long strips of pork fat through a tough cut of beef to add fat and flavor. While that sounds pretty awesome, I didn’t think it was fair to buy a needle just for one dish; so instead I did what many modern chefs do today, and cooked some bacon with the roast. I’ve seen some old Beef à la Mode recipes call for a cow foot to be added to the pot to help thicken and gelatinize the braising liquid; personally, I just used some gelatinous homemade beef stock instead.

I made a couple other slight modifications to this dish. Instead of celery, I used celery root, which imparts a similar flavor but is much heartier and more satisfying to eat (I bet it’s more nutritious, too). Secondly, I garnished the dish with some fresh chopped parsley and thinly sliced lemon zest to add a bit of brightness to the dish. The modifications definitely worked; my wife said this was the best pot roast I’ve ever made.

And yes, “à la Mode” means more than just “topped with ice cream”; it roughly translates to “in the style/modern”, meaning that when the French first started braising beef in wine it was in style. In that same sense, when Americans first started putting ice cream on pies (around the 1890s) it was considered stylish, so we adopted the French phrase. If you went to France and asked someone to bring you some “Tarte (Pie) à la Mode”, you’d probably just get funny looks. Read Full Article

Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provençal (Southeast France) stew, typically made with fish and shellfish. Although it was originally made with rockfish, today it’s also made with all sorts of different seafood. For this recipe in particular, I decided to go with lobster and mussels; I like the idea of pairing two foods that are at opposite ends of the price spectrum (lobster = rare & elegant, mussels = common & unglamorous). This dish is paired with my lobster stock recipe, so be sure to check that out since you’ll need some stock. Putting this dish together – stock and all – is actually a fairly quick experience: in about 90 minutes you’ll have a recipe that will have your dinner guests swooning.

Don’t let the assumed costs of buying lobster deter you. If available in your area, live lobsters are surprising affordable when compared to the going rate at a seafood restaurant. And really, sometimes you can’t put a price tag on eating a rich, classic meal in the comfort of your own home.

Also, don’t forget that I’m hosting a giveaway this week; click here for a chance to win two live 1.5 lb lobsters from lobster.com ($65 value)! The giveaway is limited to continental US residents and ends midnight, Saturday, Feb 8th, 2014. Good luck!

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Brudet is a fish stew from Croatia, similar to an Italian Brodetto or Greek Bourdeto. All three are based on the Venetian word brodeto (“broth”). The recipes for each dish are similar; in fact, if you ever find yourself traveling along the Adriatic coast and see a similarly-named dish on a restaurant menu, you can probably bet it’s going to be a delicious fish stew cooked in a tomato base.

While there is a lot of variation to this dish, I like the Croatian version because it is an easy and unassuming approach to making soup. Marinate some fish for a while, then throw everything together at the proper time; it’s a true one-pot dish. Traditionally this dish is made with a mixture of fishes, to include eel, rockling, or coral trout; since they’re hard to come by, I think any firm white fish should be okay. I used cod. Adding shrimp and mussels also gives the stew a more rich and satisfying flavor.

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Some long-term readers may remember that I posted a Beef Bourguignon recipe about this time last year. While it tasted great, I wasn’t happy with some of the steps in the recipe, and I was really unhappy with the pictures. So this past weekend I put my thinking cap on and tackled the dish from scratch, without consulting my old recipe at all. I’m happy to report that I made some pretty big improvements to my old recipe and cut out a couple unnecessary steps along the way. To avoid confusion, I’ve now happily removed my old, obsolete recipe.

Beef Bourguignon is a dish that originates from the Burgundy region of Eastern France. It’s widely accepted that this dish started as a peasant’s recipe, possibly as far back as the Middle Ages, as a way to slow-cook tough cuts of meat. However, it’s not mentioned in cookbooks until the early 20th century, when it was refined into the staple haute cuisine dish it’s generally regarded as today. Most people associate this dish with Julia Child, as her recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a timeless classic.

This dish is fairly true to the authentic recipes available today, and not terribly unlike Julia’s original recipe. Generally, this dish is cooked with bacon since lean/tough meats were typically used and adding bacon gave this dish some rich fattiness. I’ve also found that fattier cuts turn out really good as well. My personal touches include dusting the beef pieces in rice flour before browning (Julia browned the beef alone, then added flour and roasted the beef for a little while in the oven, turning the beef once halfway through – quite an involved step!). I also decided to keep the pot on the stovetop instead of transferring it to the oven; to me, this better mimics the open-fire method of cooking that birthed this dish, and it doesn’t alienate home chefs that don’t have a dutch oven yet. If you’re rice-free, never fear – while the addition of rice flour helps thicken the sauce and adds a little body to the broth, it’s not a show stopper.

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