When I was growing up, my family and I visited my mother’s relatives in Philadelphia quite often. As a young girl, I wanted to be considered a ‘northerner’- those city folk seemed so sophisticated. I was born in Washington, DC and have spent most my life living in Maryland; which as you know is south of the Mason-Dixon line. I like to think of myself as a ‘southerner’ now, as my opinion is that southern cooks really appreciate what comfort food is all about.
After the rush of the holidays and the cold weather has settled in, there is nothing better than the house smelling like the food you are cooking. Soups and stews each have an aroma of their own and the old house that I live in essentially has no kitchen ventilation. So they become a potpourri of sorts. I love soups/stews and find comfort in preparing them as well.
Many people turn their noses up at any dish prepared with game meat (what can I say -different palates) so I won’t include my venison stew recipe. If you own the “Cooks to the Rescue” cookbook that I co-created, you can find the recipe in the game section (if you don’t own one, there are a few left for sale of the limited edition – I know where to get them). I have been asked to prepare this stew time and again as it is bold and hearty, outrageously delicious and soothing to the soul. But then, isn’t that what comfort food should be?
I prefer to use fresh local ingredients when I cook. Oysters are in season right now and although corn is not, I have mentioned in other posts that I freeze sweet white corn in the summer. If you like oysters, you will certainly love this chowder.
ALI’S OYSTER AND CORN CHOWDER
- ½ stick butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 cups half-and-half
- 2 cups fresh corn**, blanched and cut off the cob
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 pint oysters with their liquor
- 6 T. flour – mix with water to make a thin paste
**May substitute frozen white corn, thawed.
- Melt the butter in a large soup pot.
- Add onion and celery; cook until soft.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, parsley and 2 cups of half-and-half. Simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the corn, the remaining cup of half-and-half, pepper, salt and oysters with their liquor.
- Add the flour paste, stirring frequently. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the edges of the oysters curl.
Nothing warms the cockles like lamb stew on a chilly evening. I have found that people either love or despise the flavor of lamb meat. I pity the taste buds of the latter folk. My Scottish ancestors may have said “S mairg a ni tarcuis air biadh – He who has contempt for food is a fool”. But then, they probably ate Haggis which is a dish containing sheep’s intestine cooked in the sheep’s stomach. Not that there is anything wrong with that. No wonder the Scots have some of the finest whiskey in the world! Lamb stew is a dish that their southwestern neighbors in Ireland more likely ate (they may have used mutton instead of lamb). I have heard lamb stew referred to as ‘Irish penicillin’ ~ it will cure whatever ails you! I couldn’t agree more.
My stew is prepared with boneless leg of lamb but you certainly can make it with a lesser cut; perhaps lamb shoulder. Add root vegetables from your own garden for a fairly inexpensive dish. Serve with warm crusty bread and you have a rich, satisfying meal.
ALI’S LAMB STEW
- 6 T. olive oil, divided
- 2 cups onion, chopped
- 2 T. fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
- 3 T. flour
- 2 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 cups Guinness Stout**
- 1 T. tomato paste
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
- 2 cups carrot, thickly sliced
- 2 turnips, peeled and quartered
- 1 T. whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
**In a pinch I have used New Castle Brown Ale imported from England. With either, the alcohol burns off imparting a serious depth to the broth.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 tsp. oil to coat the pan.
- Add onion, thyme and rosemary; sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Place onion mixture to a large bowl.
- Place flour in a shallow dish; sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Dredge lamb in flour.
- Return pan to medium-high heat and add 2 tsp. oil.
- Add half of the floured lamb to the pan; sauté 6 minutes, turning to brown all sides.
- Add browned lamb to onion mixture. Sauté the remaining lamb in the same manner with the remaining oil.
- Add beer to the pan; bring to a boil, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until reduced to 1 cup (about 5 minutes).
- Return onion and lamb to pan.
- Stir in the tomato paste; cook 1 minute. Add broth and bay leaf; bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
- Uncover and stir in potato, carrot and turnips. Simmer, uncovered for 1-1/2 hours.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and mustard.
- Ladle stew into bowls and sprinkle with parsley; serve piping hot.
I love soups for lunch (light fare with a small salad) and stews for dinner (as the entrée). Prepare either a soup or stew a day ahead to allow the flavors to set in. And if it is comfort you are seeking, be sure to prepare a hot soup; not something like gazpacho or vichyssoise. I love legumes and grains, especially lentils and barley. Talk about a hearty ingredient in a soup. Plus they have the bonus of being loaded with nutritional value.
ALI’S LENTIL AND SAUSAGE SOUP
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 small leeks, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 T. tomato paste
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup French green lentils, rinsed
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. cumin
- Splash of red wine
- 4-5 links chorizo sausage (or other desired spicy sausage), casings removed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- Sauté vegetables in olive oil over medium-high heat until tender.
- Add all remaining ingredients except the sausage.
- Bring to a boil; simmer for 45 minutes partially covered.
- Crumble sausage; cook over medium heat until browned.
- Drain sausage and add to soup immediately prior to serving unless preparing the day before.
- Garnish with parsley then serve warm.
So take a long winter’s nap by the warm fire then get out your stock pot and start cooking in anticipation of a snow storm!
Bon Appétit and Happy New Year!