Archive for the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

Parsons Vegetable Beef Stew

07 Feb


M: What’s the difference between soup and stew? If you go strictly by their definitions, it’s a matter of how much liquid is in there. Soup is a liquid food that sometimes has meat or vegetables in it, while stew is a dish of meat and/or vegetables slowly cooked in liquid. That all makes sense, but if I make a particularly hearty chicken noodle soup, does it become  chicken noodle stew? Perhaps. Is chili a stew? I suppose so. Minestrone sometimes seems pretty stew-like, but is usually thin enough to be correctly called a soup and there are plenty of beef and vegetable soup recipes out there one wouldn’t confuse with stew. And then there’s stew that will never ever spark this culinary debate.

This is that stew.

Loaded with beef, potatoes, carrots and whatever stew-friendly vegetables may be lurking in the pantry or root cellar, put down the spoon and grab a fork. A nice, long simmer makes everything tender, but not too mushy and thickens the consommé to a not-quite gravy consistency that is just about perfect without a hint of flour or corn starch, especially if you include okra in your melange of vegetables. This winter dish nails it exactly as written.

What to change

All that said, it’s stew, which means I rarely stick to the recipe. It’s just to easy to tinker with, depending on what’s in the house. As written, it has an open door policy on what vegetables go into the mix, which is a very good thing. Parsnips, leeks rutabaga.. If it seems like it will play well in the stew without disintegrating, in it goes. Herbs like rosemary and thyme can add a little depth to the flavor in small amounts and I sometimes increase the hot sauce to warm my bones on a cold winter day. Taste as you go and you won’t go too far wrong.

What not to change

Always sear the beef first and use the onions to deglaze the pot. The texture of the meat in important and that deglazing makes for a richer stew.

Don’t add flour or cornstarch. A nice simmer should create a  thick broth without crossing over into gravy territory.

Don’t stray too far on cook time. The window to simmer is wide and it’s tempting to turn this into a slow cooker recipe, and you can. Just don’t expect it to be as good if you leave it to simmer for eight or nine hours. The vegetables should be soft, but left to simmer too long will turn to mush. Conversely, rushing the stew will result in beef that is a little tough and doesn’t allow the flavors to fully develop.

Oh, and don’t forget the bread when serving. You’ll want some biscuits, cornbread or a hearty loaf of something to sop up every last bit of this winter favorite.

Recipe: Parsons Vegetable Beef Stew

Summary: Classic vegetable beef stew is what’s for dinner this winter and this easy recipe gets it just right (but we still can’t help but tinker with it). From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.


  • 2 lb Beef Stew Meat
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 3 T Unsalted Butter
  • 1 c Chopped Celery Leaves
  • 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 (10.5-ounce) can beef consommé
  • 2 T Ketchup
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 4 dashes hot pepper sauce
  • 1 lb White Potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 lb Carrots, peeled an cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 lb Small Onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 Stalks Celery, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 c Shredded Turnips, Garden Peas, Green Beans, Sliced Okra and/or other vegetables


  1. Season beef with salt and pepper and, working in batches, brown well in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a dutch oven over medium-high heat, added butter as needed.
  2. Transfer browned meat into a bowl.
  3. Add celery leaves and onion to pot, stirring to coat and deglaze.
  4. Add consommé, stirring and scraping to deglaze bottom of pot.
  5. Fill consommé can with water and add to pot.
  6. Stir in ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and hot sauce.
  7. Return meat to pot and add water, if needed, to cover.
  8. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer one hour.
  9. Stir in potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and optional vegetables and simmer additional 1 1/2 – 2 hours (until meat is tender).
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



Gumbo z’Herbes

28 Mar

Gumbo z'Herbes

M: In an earlier post, we touched on the argument that “greens is greens”.  This dish, also called “Green Gumbo” does away with the concern of differentiating between greens by using as many different types as you can get your hands on.  It’s origins were as a meatless meal either served on Holy Thursday or prepared on Holy Thursday to be served on Good Friday, but at some point plenty of meat (and I mean plenty!)  began to appear in many versions.  I’m not sure how that fits into the Lenten schedule.  Some say nine different kinds of greens should be used, nine being a holy number.  Others offer that the more abundant the variety, the more friends will be made in the year ahead.  Whatever the particulars of your tradition, this once a year meal deserves to be part of it..  We made it a little early so you’d have time to shop for the numerous ingredients.

Pureeing those greens and stirring them into an increasingly murky pot, I was unsure about this one.  But as each meat was added and the spices began to merge, the gumbo came together into something outstanding.  Still murky, but so tasty.  I can’t help but wonder if those who were preparing it on Holy Thursday to serve on Good Friday switched over because no one could bear the wait, although the longer this one sat on the stove, the better it got.  A little time consuming to put this one together, but it does not disappoint.  That’s a lot of greens.

Rinsing Greens Cooking Greens Pureed Greens
Drumettes Meat and Greens Nearly Gumbo

Recipe: Gumbo z’Herbes

Summary: A Spring tradition rich with a variety of meats and more greens than you can shake a stick at. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook


  • 2 Ham Shanks
  • 1 Gal. Water
  • 6-8 Lb Various Greens (7 to 11 of the following: Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Spinach, Cabbage, Carrot Tops, Beet Tops, Arugula, Parsley, Green Onions, Watercress, Romaine Lettuce, Curly Endive, Kale, Radish Tops, Pepper Grass)
  • 3 Yellow Onions, roughly chopped
  • 8 Garlic Gloves, peeled
  • 2 Lb Fresh Hot Sausage
  • 1 Lb Chicken Drumettes
  • 1 Lb Andouille Sausage, cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 1 Lb Stew Beef, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 Lb Pork Sausage
  • 8 oz. Ham, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 c AP Flour
  • Vegetable Oil
  • 3 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp File Powder (if desired)
  • Cooked Rice, for serving


  1. Bring ham hocks to boil in water in a pot and reduce to simmer until needed.
  2. Thoroughly wash then drain greens.
  3. Bring greens, onions and garlic to boil in a very large pot and reduce to simmer until tender (about 45 minutes).
  4. Transfer greens to a bowl to cool, reserving water.
  5. Once greens have cooled, puree in small batches in food processor and set aside.
  6. Cook hot sausage in a skillet over medium heat until fat renders then remove from skillet and set aside in a bowl.
  7. Brown drumettes in skillet in rendered sausage fat until browned then transfer to bowl with sausage.
  8. Remove ham hocks from pot and pull meat from bones, chopping into bite sized pieces and add to bowl with sausage.
  9. Return pureed greens to large pot and add sausage, chicken, andouille, pork sausage, stew beef, ham shank and chopped ham.
  10. Cover with equal amounts of stock from ham shanks and reserved liquid from greens and bring to simmer over medium-high heat.
  11. To make roux, sprinkle flour into skillet containing hot sausage drippings over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add vegetable oil as needed to create a thick paste.
  12. Drop roux in spoonfuls into gumbo, stirring well.
  13. Add thyme, cayenne, bay leaves and salt to gumbo and let simmer, stirring frequently, until meat is cooked through (about an hour).
  14. If desired, stir in file at end of cooking.
  15. Serve over rice.



Chicken and Dumplings

29 Nov

Chicken and Dumplings

M: When it comes to comfort food, few meals top the silky smooth embrace of chicken and dumplings.  The one pot Sunday dinner of chicken stew pillowed by supple, puffy biscuit dough nestled and wet-cooked on its surface.  The dumplings soaking up the broth, giving heft, texture and weight to the dish and helping stretch a little bit of chicken to feed a hungry table.  No drama here.  So when chatting with an NC native about this one, how do I draw the phrase “go to war over it”?  The debate is a matter of dropping or rolling.  Dumplings come in many forms, but in the case of chicken and dumplings, this seems to be the core debate.  Do you drop the sticky dough in by the lumpy spoonful into that bubbling broth or is it first rolled flat, sliced into strips and gingerly arranged?

“It’s got to be rolled out.  Flat as you can get it.  So flat you can read a newspaper through it.   Practically chicken and pasta.”  I’m told this is a particularly Eastern Carolina attitude.   I can go either way on this front.  While I loved the puffy structure and give of these dumplings, there is something to be said for the semi-shapeless, knotty glob.   Debate all you want.  Once again, the right way has a whole lot to do with how grandma did it.  And while you’re at it, pork lard is fine, but you’ve got to throw some of that chicken fat in there if you want those dumplings done right.

K:  Oh, for the love of pete, if I wanted chicken noodle soup, I’d make chicken noodle soup, and I wouldn’t call it chicken and DUMPLINGS. I am generally in agreement with most things Carolinian, my people being who they are (South Georgian by way of North Carolina) and me having a firm belief in regional unity and all that, but….seriously? A rolled dumpling? That’s a noodle. These were extremely fluffy, tasty noodles, and I loved them very much, but I have a very hard time calling them dumplings – which should CLEARLY be sticky dough dropped into boiling stew.

Now, having stating which side of the dumpling battleground I cheerfully inhabit, I will say that someone in my family (I do SO wish I could remember who) made a dish exceedingly similar to this, only they used a LOT more black pepper, and didn’t cut up the dough. The dish was always made in a deep ‘chicken fryer’ type cast iron skillet, and at the last minute the thinly-rolled dumpling dough was laid in it’s entirety right over the top of the boiling stew, which was then covered with a lid and quickly tossed into a hot oven for a very brief finish.  This combination of boil/bake made for an odd, but spectacularly good hybrid.  Think chicken and dumplings meets chicken pot pie…only….better than either, somehow.  I haven’t had that in longer than I am willing to admit, on account of how old it would make me seem, but now that it’s in my head, I can’t let it go.  I suspect I will have to make this again very soon, just so I can do us up some C&D/Pot Pie Frankenstein stew.

Hmmm….now that I think about it, there IS a ridiculously large bowl of leftover turkey in the fridge, and the turkey stock has even been made already….

Yeah, I’ll see y’all later.  I’ve got Turkey Frankenstein Stew to make.

Dumpling dough Chicken soup

Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings

Summary: We liked this recipe a lot. Straightforward. Classic. The stew thickened up very nicely, making this a hearty, comforting meal that is extremely flavorful while remaining uncomplicated. Our primary adaptation to the recipe was to move the stock making portion of the directions off of the stove top and into the pressure cooker to speed it up while jacking up the flavor. ( K: Oh, OK, I added a LOT more freshly ground pepper.  I wouldn’t say that I doubled the amount called for?  But I have a bit of a love affair with pepper, and there is every chance that I might have done that even if I don’t want to say it.  Go ahead, be liberal with your pepper grinder. ) 

This would also be a great use for all that leftover Thanksgiving turkey that you can no longer bear to see, much less eat.

Adapted from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.




  • 4 Lb Stewing Chicken
  • 2 Ribs Celery, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 1 Large Onion, quartered
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 12 Peppercorns
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 T Butter



  • 2 c Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 T Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 4 T Lard
  • 1/2 -2/3 c Milk



  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped
  • 2 Large Carrots, peeled and sliced (K: I also added golden beets for a more sweet/earthy flavor profile.)
  • 3 c Chicken, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Green Onions, sliced (for garnish)



  1. Combine chicken, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme and butter in a stockpot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer until chicken is fully cooked (about 30 minutes).
  3. Remove chicken from pot, pull meat from bones and return skin and bones to pot.
  4. Return stock to boil until reduced to about 4 cups then strain and discard solids.



  1. Sift flour, salt, baking powder and pepper together.
  2. Work lard into flour until mix is crumbly.
  3. Add milk to flour to form stiff dough then roll out to 1/8″ on a well floured surface.
  4. Cut into 1×1-1/2″ dumplings.



  1. Add onion and carrots to stock and simmer at low boil until soft (about 15 minutes).
  2. Tear chicken into bite sized pieces and add to pot.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Gently drop dumplings into pot and cover 5-8 minutes.
  5. Serve hot, garnished with green onions.


Chicken and Dumplings


Vegetable Soup

02 Nov

Vegetable Soup

M: The weather has turned.  A cold, blustery, rainy day here in the piedmont.  A good day to hunker down next to a crackling fire in the wood burning stove.  Not so bad really, save one thing.  I have a cold.  Red nose, hacking cough, pile of tissues unceremoniously piled up on the end table.  What’s a fella to do?  Sure, there are plenty of pharmaceutical responses to that (and I won’t deny they are in full force here), but where is the poetry in that?  On a day like today, there is really only one thing I’m looking for.  Soup.  Hot.  Soothing.  Ideally, with enough spicy heat to clear the sinuses.  Chicken soup has the reputation, of course, but this silky, steamy vegetable soup fits the bill very nicely.  Augmented with a couple of healthy dashes of Sriracha, the heat is also in place and the healing begins.

OK, so when the weather turns cold, soup doesn’t just happen around here when the sniffles set in.  It is a winter long affair here.  More often than not, though, there isn’t a recipe.  Soup around here is usually what you make of it.  Or more correctly, what you make of it is soup.  There are, or course, some long held recipes around I will bring out when nothing else will quite do, but most of the time soup is what becomes of surplus groceries or leftovers that may be a little too leftover.  Nearly all of them start with some sautéed onion and celery, but then its off to the races.  Some spices, some stock, maybe a little cream, and whatever calls out from the pantry or crisper.

Before I come off as some rogue, soup rebel without a ladle, I do enjoy seeking out recipes from all walks of soup culture.  For the last few years, I have participated in a project called Soupruary, the brainchild of my Midwestern friend Coco, in which every day for the month of February a new soup recipe is what’s for dinner.  And that is a lot of great soup.  But on that cold, blustery day where I’m fighting a cold or, you know, any given Tuesday, the soup of the day is what is on hand.

That’s a lot of talk about not using a recipe to talk about this recipe for soup.  Apologies to the author if I’m off base on this one, but I suspect this recipe only made its way onto the page after someone said “Hey, this soup is awesome.  Give me the recipe.”  This one reads like someone who knows their way around the extemporaneous soup and lets it flow.  Great blend of spices here (and many of them),  the anchor ingredients are all there and then let the vegetables fly.  I am not generally one to throw a splash of coke into anything not named Jack, but it also served well here.   A lovely bowl of soup here.  Make it.  Then make it your own.

Recipe: Vegetable Soup

Summary: As a starting point or sticking strictly to the recipe, this is just thing to warm your bones and fill your belly on a chilly day.  From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook


  • 1/2 Stick Butter
  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped
  • 2 Stalks Celery, chopped
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Dried Basil
  • 1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp Dried Marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp Dried Dill
  • Pinch Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
  • 1/4 tsp Paprika
  • 3 c Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 c Dry White Wine
  • 2 c V8 Vegetable Juice
  • 1/3 c Coca-Cola
  • 2 T Parsley, chopped
  • 2 c Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 c Chopped Cabbage
  • 1 c Chopped Potatoes
  • 1/2 c Sliced Mushrooms
  • 4 c Assorted Chopped Vegetables (ie Snap Beans, Corn, Peas, Okra, Butterbeans, Carrots)
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Saute onion and celery in butter in a large pot at medium-high heat until soft (about 8 minutes).
  2. Stir in salt, basil, oregano, marjoram, dill, red pepper, allspice, and paprika, stirring constantly for a minute or two.
  3. Stir in stock, wine, V8, and coke and stir another minute, deglazing pot.
  4. Stir in parsley, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms and assorted vegetables.
  5. Bring to boil, then reduce to low and simmer until all vegetables are tender (about 40 minutes).
  6. Salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Brunswick Stew, The Finale

10 Jun

K: I’m going to use this third, and final, post on our adventures with Brunswick Stew to begin my efforts to convert each and every one of you into users of the workhorse of my kitchen, one that we could not live without. Sure, there will be a recipe, and the ingredients will be the same as before – that being the point and all – but instead of nine hours on the stove, or even 14 in the slow cooker, I did my version in under three. Not that three hours is FAST, mind you, but it’s better than nine or 14, and I was giddy to find that I got nearly the exact same texture, structure, and flavor as we did on the stove. That makes this stew far more likely to get regular rotation in my house.

What is this magical item? It’s a pressure cooker. Wait, don’t go yet. Yes, I know all the same horror stories you do about exploding pots, or those bobbing weight thingies blowing off and sending lava-hot tomato juice spewing into every corner of the kitchen, even potentially injuring someone, BUT today’s pressure cookers are completely different animals and incredibly safe. My PC gets constant use, and is second only to my 3rd generation cast iron frying pans in its usefulness in my kitchen. It is the one thing that makes it possible for me to home cook 90% of the food we eat, despite having a small child in a 2-working-parent family, both with demanding careers. Honestly, amazing beef stew in 20 minutes? Best chili you’ll ever make in less than 30 minutes? LIFE SAVER. I won’t spend a ton of time on this here, there’s a lot of information out there on this newer breed of pressure cookers. One good place to start (after you’re finished Googling) is at Lorna Sass’s blog. She has several exceedingly good books on the topic, bibles really, one of which, Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker, has seen more use than my Taste of Georgia cookbook, and people….that’s saying something. For anyone interested, this is my baby, and you will have to pry her from my cold, dead hands to take her from me. Trust me on this pressure cooker thing, you won’t be sorry.

This also wraps up the ‘more than you ever wanted to know about Brunswick Stew’ section of this blog. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for strawberry season.

Recipe: Brunswick Stew (Pressure Cooker)

Summary: Small batch, pressure cooker version of the original recipe to fit a 6-7 qt cooker. Sadly, no squirrel.


  • 1/2 Chicken – just cut a fryer in half
  • 1 lb Pork – Butt or Shoulder
  • 1/2 lb Beef – I used basic stew meat
  • 1 Onion, large – peeled and chopped
  • 20 oz Butterbeans – fresh or frozen
  • 2 lb Potatoes – washed, peeled, and quartered
  • 2 qt Tomatoes – canned
  • 24 oz Corn kernels – fresh or frozen
  • 1 Tbs Salt, divided
  • 1 Tbs Pepper, divided
  • 2 oz Butter
  • 1 T Vinegar
  • 3 T Ketchup
  • 5 tsp Sugar


  1. Place meats, onion, and 1 tsp each salt and pepper in PC and add 4 cups of water.
  2. Following the manufacturer’s instructions for your PC, close lid, bring to high pressure, and cook for 1 hour.
  3. Quick release pressure, stir well to facilitate fishing out any bones, then add butterbeans and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, return to high pressure and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Quick release again, add potatoes and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, return to high pressure, cook for 40 minutes.
  5. Quick release, add tomatoes and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, return to high pressure, cook for 20 minutes. (At this point I was pushing the fill limits of my PC, so do watch for that if you have a smaller pot. If that’s an issue, at this point you can simply keep the lid unlocked and continue cooking as if this was a regular pot. It will take a little bit longer, but is better than a clogged steam vent on your PC.)
  6. Quick release one more time, add corn and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, return to high pressure, and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. One last quick release here, and then add the butter, vinegar, ketchup, and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 mins.
  8. Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve.