Red-eye is one of those things that the folks in the South, particularly, can’t (or don’t) do without for very long. Me? I can usually get by ok without that good ol’ red-eye gravy, but I can tell you this: if you’ve ever had really good red-eye gravy, then eventually you’ll be back for more. It has that magnetic pull to it that you just can’t stay away from it forever. All that’s to say that it was that bacon/coffee mixture that prompted me to start looking for a great stew that could use those same flavors.
So first of all, if you’re not from the South, you probably have no idea what red-eye gravy is. In a nutshell, it’s a pork fat gravy (usually from ham, bacon or sausage) that’s made with very strong coffee. I’ve seen it used a lot of ways, but mostly it’s just served with the ham itself, and it’s great that way. But this time around, I had some beef shoulder, some veggies and I wanted to see if I could make a shoulder stew with coffee that would have some of the great red-eye taste.
That’s pretty much how it came to be, and while it may not be necessary, I made this in a slow cooker, so in the end, it really took very little effort and the taste was extremely good (though I may mess with the spices a bit more next time around). And yes, the coffee definitely comes through.by
Carbonade Flamande is one of those wonderful dishes that’s traditional to a country or place, and for which you can find a ton of recipes floating around the internet. Nearly all of the recipes have made some tweaks to ingredients and procedures. Most of the changes were clearly made to modernize or streamline the recipes, so I went in search of someone who could help me sort it all out and at least give me a sense of what the “traditional” version might look like.
Through a mutual friend, I connected up with a native of Beveran, a small town near Antwerp, who was generous enough to pass along (and translate) a recipe he found that closely resembles the way his family prepares carbonade flamande, and make a few notes to note where it differed from what he remembered. So at the end of the day, I have no idea whether this recipe is either traditional or even authentic — or even if any version can be authentic. It is something you might well find in a home or maybe a café in the region around Antwerp. And it’s delicious.by
It seems there is a movement afoot among very good restaurants to use as much of an animal as possible in creating new dishes. Some of these dishes go by euphemistic names that disguise what you’re actually eating, others are pretty up-front about it. Either way, I’m a fan of these dishes, if for no other reason than they reduce food waste and in that same spirit, harken back to a time and place where not wasting food was a matter of survival. This pork-neck stew was created in just that spirit.
When I was a child, I lived in a part of my small town that was predominantly African-American families. My neighbor was a lovely woman whose family came from the deep South by way of Kansas City (where I suspect pork necks were easy to come by and cheap). Her house sat on a big double lot, so that there was a large grassy area separating our house from hers. She gave my grandfather permission to plant a garden there, adjacent to her own garden. When my grandmother would make something special, she would often make extra to send over to Mrs. Wilson. And when Mrs. Wilson cooked up one of her Southern dishes, she would send that our way. That was my first introduction to pork-neck stew.by
If you hang around Discovery Cooking much, you’ll know I’m a big fan of local farmers and ethical farming practices, whether we’re talking about the way livestock is treated or the way workers are treated. Whenever I can, I buy what these farms produce. In some cases, if I can’t get their product, I’ll do without. I’m lucky in that there are plenty of family owned traditional farms near enough that I’m usually no more than a visit to a farm market away from good ingredients.
I say all this because invariably, when I post a recipe like this veal and artichoke stew, I’ll hear from several people who refuse to entertain the idea of veal because of the way calves are treated. I understand the concern. But I know that not only are these awful practices unnecessary, but free-range grass-fed veal tastes better and cooks better than the mass-produced veal from factory farms. The veal used here came from Valentine Farms in nearby West Virginia.by
The Basque region of Northwestern Spain and Southwestern France is a place that has given a lot to the world of food. Dominated by the Pyrenees Mountains and the Bay of Biscay, its geography has produced a cuisine that is the stuff of fishermen, farmers and shepherds. It’s simple, but with many subtle flavors. It also considered by many to be the birthplace of modernist cuisine or molecular gastronomy, which seems to have grown in part, at least, from the Basque tradition of pintxos (pronounced pinch-ohs), the small plates that in Spain and other places are called tapas. This lamb stew falls into the category of simple, hearty everyday food.by
Cassoulet in France is like chili in the U.S. Many places claim to be the original home of this magnificent dish and each and every place that prides itself on originating the dish proclaims its version as the one and only true cassoulet. And like chili here, cassoulet probably didn’t have a creator in the form of a cook or chef who dreamed up the recipe and made it famous. Instead, cassoulet was most likely a name given to a one-pot meal made by hard-working farmers and field workers, who used what they typically had on hand on a cold winter day and cooked it in a way that required little attention. My guess is it was made for hundreds of years before it even had a name.
Whatever the origin, cassoulet is part stew, part casserole. It’s a combination of several meats and white beans in a flavorful stock that’s cooked for hours in the oven at a low to moderate temperature, that emerges from the cooking with a crispy crust that ranges from dark brown to black. Typically it includes poultry — often in the form of duck confit — along with lamb or mutton, pork belly or salt pork, and pork sausage. Since few of us are likely to have duck confit on hand (and buying it is a bit pricey), this recipe uses chicken leg quarters and duck fat, which is a pretty good alternative I picked up recently from a similar recipe at Serious Eats. As for the sausage, used a mildly seasoned pork sausage like those the English call bangers.by
This week saw the arrival of the first snowfall of 2015, so it seems appropriate to offer up a good winter stew recipe, and this veal stew is one of my favorites. It began life as a recipe in one of Marcella Hazan’s famed cookbooks, and since I can’t resist tinkering, has now evolved into something a bit more elaborate than the original. It’s loaded up with winter vegetables and includes my own homemade veal stock. (If you’re not into making your own stock, Kitchen Basics makes a pretty good veal stock you can find at a decent grocery.)
Stews are great one-pot family meals that usually don’t require a lot of work and can sit and simmer while you engage in other things like snow shoveling. That said, it is possible to overcook them, especially when using vegetables like carrots and parsnips. For that reason, I generally simmer the stew as long as I care to, then add the vegetables about a half hour to 45 minutes before serving, leaving them well cooked but still a bit toothy. I add a mix of sliced green and kalamata olives just before serving and use lemon juice, salt and pepper at the very end to adjust the seasoning, because with either homemade or commercially prepared stock, you can’t really know how the stock will affect the balance until it’s cooked for awhile. Sometimes I need to add salt, sometimes not. The lemon juice really brightens this dish, as will a dash of white wine vinegar.by