I THINK I got the soup/stew bug today when that early morning chill just wouldn’t let go. It was just about lunch time and I decided it was a good day for a little heat and spice so making a great 20 minute hot and sour soup seemed pretty logical.
There’s always seems to be once a year when the new fall chill in the air leaves me thinking it’s a great time to start thinking about recipes for soups and stews. A big bowl of warmth is just the thing sometimes to take away the frost without losing any of the flavour.
Creating a pot of delicious soup or stew is actually one of my favourite things to do. It requires very little effort and takes me back to culinary basics.
At this time of year it’s hard to not think about all the amazing wild bounty that we in Northwestern Ontario get to partake in. Partridge, grouse, deer and moose are all in season and it’s quite easy to be inspired by it.
Getting to combine a little wild with a little old school stew in a bowl is just one of the perks of being a chef and getting to create great eats for a living.
To me soups and stews are all about layering flavours. You just start at the bottom and work your way up adding ingredients and flavour elements as you go. When I start many of my recipes for soups and stews I have a tendency to go back to a classic mire poix.
This is simply a mix of finely diced carrot, celery and most importantly onion. It becomes the flavour base for your creation.
Seasoning is extremely important in making a masterpiece in your kitchen as well. I like to season in subtle amounts all the way through the cooking process.
Sometimes using the same spice or seasoning four or five times during the process tasting as I go. I am also a fan of the old school sachet.
The most common of these is called a bouquet garni and is typically parsley, thyme and bay leaves wrapped in cheesecloth and tied so that you can simmer it in your soup or stew and remove it easily. When I make sachets, especially for stews I often add other things like slightly crushed garlic cloves or peppercorns and flavours like sage.
The next most important factor in creating fantastic flavours has definitely got to be a great liquid. Whether that be a meat, poultry of vegetable stock, vegetable juices, beer, wine or liquor you want to be sure that what you are adding has flavour. Water of course is a necessity but wherever possible you want to be adding things that deliver tastitude.
When I am adding meat to a stew creation I brown it in a separate pan with a lot of surface area. I make sure the meat isn’t cramped or muddled and has lots of room to move.
You want to achieve a little caramelization especially with heartier cuts of meat and if you don’t give it a little space you’re sure to end up with plain grey chunks of meat that haven’t reached their flavour potential. You also want to be sure to deglaze the pan to make use of all the flavour you can get.
Make use of these easy tips the next time you’re in for creating your own pot of warmth and you’ll be well on your way to smashmouth soups and stews too. Here’s a Wild Game Stew recipe to get you started.
Chef House’s Deer Stew With Chianti and Currant Jelly
2-3 lbs deer shoulder, cut into large cubes
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 cups turnips or rutabaga, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
olive oil and butter, for frying
6 tbsp flour
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
2 cups of Chianti
2 cups of beef stock
2 thyme sprigs
1 small bunch of parsley
6 cracked peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Heat oven to 350F
Saute the vegetables in a little oil and butter in a Dutch oven/casserole dish until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Remove vegetables and set aside.
Put the venison into a plastic bag with seasoned flour and shake to coat. Add a little more oil and butter to the pan, then sauté the deer over med high heat, stirring occasionally until well browned.
Don’t crowd the pan — cook in batches if necessary. Set aside with the vegetables.
Make a sachet by filling a bit of cheesecloth with the thyme, parsley, garlic bay leaf and peppercorns. Tie it off with butchers twine and set it aside.
Add the redcurrant jelly and wine to the pan to deglaze scraping up all the bits that have stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Pour in the stock, then add the sachet along with the meat and vegetables. Season again and bring to the boil.
Cover and transfer to the oven for about one and half hour or until tender. Remove from the oven and check the seasoning. Remove the sachet and serve hot.
Richard Moorey (aka Chef House) can be reached with email to firstname.lastname@example.org, through his website at www.evot.ca, or on his Facebook group Evolution of Tastitude. You can follow him on Twitter @House_74.