Next to soup, stew is a comfort dish in the cold of winter and rainy days. Best served steaming hot in a bowl, the stew is a long, slow simmered dish that nourishes both soul and stomach. Mothers and grandmothers make it as a main dish for lunch or dinner, their stews sometimes never needing a written recipe for it’s filed away in their culinary memories and produced out of ingredients on hand. A pot of stew simmering away and enveloping the kitchen with its savory, meaty vapors makes the home a delicious place to come home to.
A stew is “a dish of meat and vegetables cooked slowly in liquid in a closed dish or pan,” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary. Cooks since the ancient times have been making various kinds of stew. In “A History of Stew” in the Food Reference website, various recipes had been published in old cookbooks—from the Roman Apicius’ cookery book to the French chef Taillevent and Herodotus. The making of cooking pots eased the making of stews.
To the French, the stew is called ragout derived from the word ragoûter, which means "to revive the taste,” as described by its Wikipedia entry. Stews vary according to the meat used and its accompanying ingredients. Examples listed by the Food Reference website include the paprika-inflected Hungarian goulash, the coq au vin, beef stroganoff, and Boeuf Bourguignonne, the stew that chef and author Julia Child popularized in her book and show.
The elements of stew involve the meat, vegetables and cooking liquid. Some of the meat cuts used in stewing includes round steak, chuck, chuck roast, bottom round roast, top round, pot roast and those labelled “stew meat.” You can buy the meats already pre-cut into cubes or you can do the slicing yourself.
Stewing is also suitable for the least tender cuts of meat that become tender and juicy with the slow moist heat method. Usually, stew recipes call for dredging the meat in flour and browning it in a skillet before it’s cooked in the pot with the vegetables, spices, and the cooking liquid of choice—water, wine, stock or broth.
Aside from beef, chicken and fish may also be used in making stews. Stew recipes on the site include beef stew with peas, catfish stew, chicken peanut butter stew, classic lamb stew, pork stew with squash and Mexican chicken stew.
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