Monday, August 12, 2013

Freezing Stew

My favorite magazine – “Cook’s Illustrated” - is, of course, dedicated to cooking.  I really like how the authors write about how they go about developing a recipe.  Besides giving lots of good cooking tips, they also evaluate equipment and food products and since they don’t have advertisers or sponsors to answer to, I find their recommendations to be spot on.  They also give lots of good cooking tips.
One of their cooking tips caught my eye in the recent Sept/Oct 2013 issue (page 31) titled “Freezing Stew? Read This First” (not a MLA style citation but you've got all the information!).  I like to cook in quantity and freeze meal size portions for future lunches and dinners.  I have frozen plenty of stews so  I was surprised by the brief article (which I shall further condense) that not all cooked vegetables freeze well.  The author cooked and then froze a number of common stew vegetables including the following that I often add to my stews – squash; carrots; peas; sweet potatoes; and red, Yukon gold, and russet potatoes.  They found that the potatoes and squash were reduced to a watery mush after freezing.  Their advice was to cook the squash and potatoes on the side and add them in when reheating the stew.

As an alternative, you could make Belgian Stew (a recipe given to me by a wonderful friend who actually happens to be Belgian) which does not include vegetables.  This stew is normally served with French fries but it would also be good served over mashed potatoes or rice.  Sliced carrots, peas and green beans can be added to this stew and then frozen with no mushiness, but then it would not be authentic Belgian Stew (but it would taste good and be very healthy).
The LOML and I do not eat a lot of red meat so I don’t make this stew very often.  Since it is a very basic meat stew I think that it could easily be made with pork, chicken or turkey.
Number of servings???  It sort of depends on who is at the table!  Our sons love this stew so when they are at home there is not much left over to freeze.
Belgian Stew
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP oil
3 lbs chuck roast, cut into 1” cubes, remove most of the fat (substitute pork, chicken, or turkey)
salt and pepper
2 large onions, diced
1 slice of white “peasant” bread, crusts removed (gluten free works fine)
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 bottle dark beer (remember, if you are gluten free make sure the beer is too!)
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 TBSP white wine vinegar
corn starch
Heat butter and oil in large pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper meat.  Sauté meat in pot until brown – do this in portions so as not to over crowd the pan.  When all the meat has been browned, add onions to the pan and brown thoroughly (add more butter and oil if necessary).  Return meat and juices to the pot.
Spread the bread with mustard and place on top of the meat & onion mixture.  Add the beer.  Fill the beer bottle with water and add to the pot.  Add thyme and bay leaves.  Cover pot, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Before serving add vinegar.  If the sauce is too thin, thicken with a slurry of corn starch and water.

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