When it comes to cooking and planning meals, all those soups, stew and other comfort foods that were too hot to handle over the summer months begin to make their way back onto the cook’s menu.
We checked in with Kelly Sears, executive chef at Marcel’s Culinary Experience to find out what cooks should be stocking in their pantry this time of year. Sears offered a number of tips and even included a recipe.
“Served at the beginning of a meal, for lunch, as the main course, or taken to friends with no time to cook, homemade soups and stews highlight the fall culinary season,” she said.
Those soups and stew now feature some of the best the season has to offer including: squash, pumpkin, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, celery root, kale, turnips and leeks. All pack soups and stews with fresh flavor, she said.
Stock vs. Broth
The key to great soup is great stock, Sears said. The difference between stock and broth is slight but noticeable. Simmering vegetables and meat for a couple of hours makes broth. Simmering vegetables with roasted bones of meat or fish for a much longer period of time (4-8 hours) makes stock. Stock has more body than broth due to collagen extracted from the bones. Both can be alternated for recipes.
Prepackaged Stew Meat?
When cooking stew the cut of meat is important, Sears said. When possible, avoid anything labeled “stew meat.” Typically, that is the scraps trimmed from a variety of cuts and a package of stew meat can vary in quality. Instead, she says to cut a large roast into smaller chunks.
Because meat is simmered for a long period of time, usually 2 hours, it’s best to use a cut that’s rather tough, Sears said. Chuck roast, pork shoulder, chicken thighs and legs are great stew options. The long cooking process will make the tight meat fibers tender.
Food to Stock; Tools for Cooking
A well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and appropriate cookware will help ease meal planning and preparation, she said. To build, season, and complement flavorful soups and stews, here’s a recommended list of pantry staples, basics, and cookware.
Pantry Basics: Staples (standard kitchen supplies)
Beans, canned: black, red kidney, white
Broth/Stock, canned: beef, vegetable, chicken
Chocolate: unsweetened squares, semisweet chips, cocoa powder
Flour: All purpose, whole wheat
Oils: Olive, Canola, Grapeseed
Onions: red and yellow
Pasta, dried: spaghetti, linguini, angel hair, fettuccine, penne, noodles
Rice: long-grain, wild, basmati, Arborio
Sugar: granulated, confectioner's, light and/or dark brown
Tomatoes: canned whole, crushed, chopped, puree, sauce, fresh
Pantry Basics: Refrigerator and Freezer Foods
Cheese: parmesan, gruyere
Fruits; apples, pears
Essential Cookware for Soups and Stews
Large Stock Pot (8-10 quarts): Soup, Pasta, or Stock – plenty of room for big batches and holds enough water for 2 pounds of pasta.
Dutch Oven (5-6 quart): Stovetop to Oven – this pot has a thick bottom and sides with a snug tight fitting lid that traps in moisture and flavor. Can brown meat or vegetables stovetop and can also go in the oven for even cooking and braising. Perfect for slow and low cooking.
Fall’s First Beef Stew
6 bacon strips
2 pounds lean beef, cubed
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Flour for dredging
2-3 T. Butter
1 onion, chopped
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 t. ground cloves
½ t. thyme
½ t. marjoram
2 bay leaves
1 c. red wine or dark beer
2 c. beef stock
1 (14 ½ oz.) can stewed tomatoes
2 c. carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 c. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
In a Dutch oven, stove top, slowly cook the bacon.
Remove the strips & drain. Season the beef with salt and pepper.
Brown the beef in small batches in the bacon fat, adding a little more butter if the pan becomes dry. Do not cook through.
Remove the beef and pan juices and set aside.
Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and sauté the onion until translucent; add the garlic.
Add two tablespoons of flour and cook for two to three minutes to cook the flour taste out.
Return the beef and the juices to the pan.
Season with the cloves, thyme, marjoram, and bay leaves.
Add the wine or beer, beef stock, and tomatoes (if needed, add more wine, broth, or water to cover). Bring the mixture to a boil, stir, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Add the carrots and potatoes, cover and cook for 1½ hours.
Upcoming cooking programs at Marcel's Culinary Experience:
- The Best of Indian Summer, Oct. 9
- Fresh for Fall, Oct. 16
- Fall Soups and Stews, Oct. 23
- Fall Vegetables, Oct. 24
- The Root of it all, Oct. 25
- Napa Valley Harvest Wine Pairing, Nov. 2
- Soup in the Fast Lane, Dec. 12
Have an idea for this column? Share it with Local Editor Mary Ann Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.