Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome to Florida in the fall!

A lot of people will say that we have no real season changes here - just moving from really hot to less hot - but that's not true.  Most years.

This year brings a very definite turn in seasons, and true to subtropical climates, it's very rapid. 

With it comes the standard round of illnesses - colds, coughs, sinus infections... Autumn Agues.

Oh, woe... what to do with sicky babies and sickie kids?

Well, do what I do - kick 'em outside to play the snot away, and then bring them back in and feed them well.

It is now well-known that it is not the weather itself that causes illness, but rather the effects of the body's adaptation to changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure that wreak havoc on all systems, including our immune system.

One of the best ways to assist the body in fighting back and retaining its strength during these adaptations is to feed it well.  This is particularly important for children, since their immunities are still forming and their metabolisms are lightening fast.

A very simple, tasty, nutritious meal is a thick stew, or pottage.  I like to make pottage with meat, but vegetarians and vegans shouldn't depair, since it's equally as tasty and nutritious without.  Here's a rough recipe... please keep in mind that I'm one of those cooks that doesn't measure, but rather goes on instinct.  If in doubt, always use less.  More can be added, but little can be removed without starting all over.  Additionally, don't be afraid to adapt or stray, or to tailor to the tastes of your family.  If you dislike one of my ingredients, don't despair about it.  Just change it up a bit!  Most importantly, enjoy yourself.  Enjoy prepping and cooking, and savor the meal.  It does equally as much for your spirit as it does for your health.

Beef Pottage ala Accidentally Mommy
  • Beef for stew, well marbled***
  • Beef broth, consomme, boullion or stock (I love love love "Better than boullion" concentrate.)***
  • Root veggies of your choosing - potatoes, turnips, carrots, yams - anything works, really.
  • One or two good sized onions
  • Garlic.  I like a LOT of garlic - but that's your choice, really.
  • Celery
  • Butter***
  • Flour***
  • Seasoning - my usual defaults are sea salt, ground mixed pepper (pink, black, white peppercorns,) ground rosemary, a dash of parsley, a sprinkle of herbs de provence mix, and sometimes a little paprika and turmeric, if I'm using lamb, venison or rabbit, or if I'm making it vegetarian with seitan, TVP or tofu.
Chop your veggies and toss them into the pot, covering them with your liquid of choice. This includes your onions, but not your garlic.

Put a dollop of butter in a pan, and brown the stew meat with your garlic and your seasonings.  I like to get it really brown, so that I can deglaze the pan later with either broth or red wine.  You could use olive oil here, but I feel it imparts a flavor that doesn't mesh so well with the rest of the ingredients. 

Deglaze the pan if you so wish, and add that to the pot, along with the meat and garlic.

Cover and let simmer for as long as you want.  Depending on the thickness of your veggies, it could take as little as 45 minutes or as long as two hours.  You can go even longer, if you'd like.  Just make sure your root veggies are at least fork done before moving on to the next step.

So now that the veggies are done, you're going to make a medium roux.  The trick to a good roux is making sure you're using equal amounts of fat and flour, and that your fat is a high-quality fat.  I use salted butter, full-cream spring butter, if I can.  If not, the best butter you can find/afford will work.  Hell, whatever you have on hand will work, too.  Melt the amount of butter you're using (say, 1/2 cup,) over low heat.  Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of flour to the melted butter.  Keeping it on low heat, whisk constantly until mixture begins to turn a light tan color.  Then do it some more.  You're looking to get a pretty, rich carmel color and smooth texture.  Whatever you do, DO NOT turn the heat up, and DO NOT stop whisking!  You will burn the roux, and it will smell awful.

Once you achieve that golden carmel color, incorporate it into your pottage/stew.  I use the whisk to whisk it into the top layer of the stew, and then a long-handled wooden spoon to mix it the rest of the way.

Experiment, have fun, and eat up!

*** Better than Boullion makes an awesome veg*n veggie and a mushroom base.  TVP, Seitan, Tofu... use whatever you prefer to sub the beef.  If you're veg*n, use a corn starch slurry to thicken instead of roux.  (To make slurry, add cornstarch to cold water and whisk.  Gently temper in mixture to pottage, taking care to make sure you mix as you incorporate.)

1 comment:

  1. Mmm, beef stew. Love fall weather and fall cooking. My favorite time of year. xx