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Stews & Hearty Soups

Stews & Hearty Soups

Brrr!  Chilly temps and overcast skies call for warm, hearty soups & stews with simple ingredients from generations-old recipes:  truly, comfort food.

Vietnamese Pho

Texas' colorful heritage literally flavors our cuisine, reflected in local stews and winter-weather soups:  Southwestern posole, ranch-style chili, Cajun gumbo, Vietnamese pho, East European goulash -- and even the humble and tasty dish of chicken & dumplings.  The uncanny beauty of these dishes is their simple use of readily available foods, indeed whatever is on hand in your pantry and fridge.

In days of yesteryear, families took leftover meat cuts and put them to good use in slow-cooked, one-pot meals.  Fortunately, thanks to slow cookers such as pressure cookers and crock pots, this culinary tradition thrives in a contemporary setting.  (And, no, you don't "have" to have a pressure cooker, crock pot, stockpot, Dutch oven or anything fancy-schmancy!  Just use at least a 4- to 6-qt. pot, depending on how much food you're preparing and whether or not you'd like to have leftovers for later:  many soups & stews freeze well.)

Okay, got a pot ready?  Fiesta Mart's Meat Department has all the meat cuts you'll need:  cubed beef (stews, goulash), pork shoulder/shanks (posole), ground meats (chili) and chicken thighs (dark, flavorful poultry meat for stews, dumplings and gumbo).  Generally, you'll find that most recipes will specify what meat type and cut are best suited for the dish.  A quick tip:  If the recipe calls for browning the meat(s) first, be sure to blot them with a paper towel:  too much moisture and the meats will steam instead of browning properly.  This month at Fiesta Mart, we are celebrating Meat Month, so take advantage on special pricing.

Stews And Soup

Then, when adding liquid, be sure to note if the recipe calls for "broth" or "stock":  broth is made from the meat/poultry flesh, whereas stock is made from the bones.  Stock tends to have a heavier, richer flavor, so be careful about substituting one for the other.

Among the vegetables to be added, check the recipe for potatoes:  they usually take the longest to cook, so add them first unless the recipe states otherwise.  Ingredients that form part of the seasoning base -- sometimes referred to as a "mirepoix" or a culinary "trinity," i.e., chopped celery/onions/carrots; celery/onions/bell pepper; garlic/onions/bell pepper, etc. -- may be sautéed earlier with the browned meat(s) before adding the liquid, but many other vegetables should be added later in order to avoid over cooking them. 

Finally, let's not forget the cook's magic wand:  herbs and spices.  Fresh or dried, herbs and spices simply love stews and soups!  Some dried seasonings with a powerful flavor, such as bay leaf, oregano, thyme and tarragon, can be added early during the cooking process; other seasonings, such as chives or French grey salt, are more delicate and should be added at the end of cooking or even right before serving.  (Again, refer to your recipe.)

Did we whet your appetite yet?  Check out some of our favorite winter recipes here.

 

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