Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Papa's "Stewp"

"This is a ‘pot and a pan and a board’ recipe that urges you to enjoy the assembly of your favorite ingredients. Plan to make enough for several days and alter, if you choose, when you re-serve it. By making it thick, you can decide later if it will be stew or soup. Another large potato two days later might be all that is needed for the extra guest, or to take the edge off those peppers that got hotter since it was first made.

It is not a ‘light’ meal. I try not to go there, but you may.
Use a large cutting board so you can feed directly into the cooking utensils as well as have a little space in the wings while the other ingredients wait their turns. Cut in large chunks so you don’t get bored, and can experience individual things as you eat. Skewed cuts add character.

The Pot needs to hold everything in the end, and yet go in the refrigerator.
It is necessary to boil the dry beans or peas, but I prefer to do most of the veggies in it since the pan will be busy enough. I like about a cup of black beans and limas, but kidney, pink, split and chick peas, lentils and a host of others all work. The issue is often more about the texture or color. A closed fist of black beans make quite a visual impact to a gallon of soup. Variety packages of dry beans are both tasty and esthetic, but don’t necessarily cook at equal rates.
Boil enough water for all vegetables and add beans; cook till they begin to soften. Pre-soaking or pressure-cooking are better, but I don’t.
Chunk up two medium sized potatoes and add when you estimate potatoes and beans will both be cooked. If in doubt, cook beans a bit longer.
Select a whole onion and peel, disk slice, and cut up only the rings that need it. If necessary to prevent tears, slice under the tap.
Add garlic, leeks, chives, or scallions.
Cut up celery, with leaves, and add, but I always salt and eat the heart immediately as an entitlement of the cook.
Add dill, fresh or dried, bay leaf, parsley or cilantro.
Hot peppers you don’t trust can benefit from the uniformity of pot-boiling.
If you are using broccoli, be careful not to over-cook. Alternatively, stir-fry later.
Although I think carrots attractive, they have, in my opinion, a nasty flavor when cooked. Likewise tomatoes, with which it is an issue of gagiferous texture that I have yet to transcend. I mention it to make the point that this is about you and yours, not me, so add carrots and tomatoes if you must. Over fifty years ago I was forced to eat borscht with gross things in it and the trauma prevails. The nature of this recipe is joyful and precludes overpowering the will of children, I hope.
Pre-cooked items that only need heating are the final addition. (What did your garden produce?) Often I add whole kernel corn, and both ripe and green olives. Save the olive brine until last to adjust salinity.

The Pan needs to be covered, with good temperature control. Heat to the same temperature you would do eggs, then ‘glug’ olive or other oil around in it, liberally enough to be slightly standing at the beginning, but just enough not to stick when finished. Select about a pound of lean meat, steak or wild game. Trim fat. Cut in strips about an inch wide, roll in the oil, and fry. Alternately, fry about a third of a package of bacon cut in squares and use for pan grease. Remove bacon as soon as finished and set aside until later. Cut about six inches of ring bologna or prepared sausage such as kielbasa and disk about as thick as the pinky of the smallest person eating, and brown.

Season with wise abandon. Shake directly on meat, or pour small mounds into your palm to prevent surprises. I often select from cumin, oregano, marjoram, sage, garlic, adobo, a Creole mix, basil (dry or fresh), black pepper, cayenne, ( if I didn’t chop up something too hot in the pot earlier ), and more. The important thing is to accent with a few at a time to be able to learn and then repeat favorites. To get acquainted, sniff them and call them by name at the same time. Avoid MSG.

My South Indian friends would be adding curry, fresh chopped mint, cardamom, coriander, two types of cayenne, and et ceteras the western ear probably has not heard of. They also taught me that no recipe uses ½ an onion!

Keep a close eye on the steak or other meat, turning and removing at your exact preferred doneness. Add a little water if you care to, but keep your face back. Move to the cutting board and cut into bite sized pieces, and promote to the pot. This prevents overdoing the meat like sautéing little pieces would. Add a large handful of large pineapple chunks and slightly brown. If they brown too much, they will also absorb broth, so place them up on the meat, add some pineapple liqueur, and perhaps a bit of lime juice. Coarsely cut a ½ pound of mushrooms and stir fry. Add all Pan to Pot, and swizzle a cup or two of water or soup stock back into the pan, and cook a moment to absorb the seasonings and make cleaning easier. To adjust liquid and salt, consider that potatoes will thicken it and salinity increases overnight as it perks from any salted prepared food. Stir deeply.

I usually eat it on a plate with a fork. This is handier at potlucks, where there may not be bowls and spoons. You might also want to serve it on cheese or put cheese on it, or give it a few glumps of plain yoghurt, especially if it has curry in it. Likewise, sour cream or cottage cheese are married to cumin and hot peppers. Consider what you do or don’t like about it for development sake."

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