Tidewater Kitchen - March 2008

Stews and Chowders

by

Pamela Meredith Doyle

   Stews and chowders are one of my favorite meals. It is easy to make and nice to have in the freezer. They are wonderful for dinner parties as they have few ingredients and are great to make ahead. How are chowders different from stews? A chowder is made with bite-size pieces of meat or vegetables and is eaten with a spoon, whereas a stew is a thick one-dish meal that is eaten with a fork and without a knife.
    Stock is a flavored liquid;, and a good stock is the key to a great soup. It is appropriately named “base” by the French, as stocks are the basis for many dishes.
    There are several types of stocks. A stock is the essence of meat, fowl or fish that has been fortified by the addition of vegetables, herbs, wine, etc. Stocks are sometimes called broths, because they add flavor and aroma to dishes and play an important part in making the best dishes. Beef stock has the deepest flavor and color, followed by chicken stock; fish stock is the lightest.
    The main ingredients of stock are soup bones and water. Beef and veal bones are available from butcher shops and at many supermarkets. Chicken wings or necks for chicken stock are found in almost every supermarket. Fish bones for fish stock can be obtained at fish markets.
    A good quality stock has a combination of mildly flavored vegetables, incorporated for their sweetness and aroma, and meat and bone, used for their flavoring and thickening properties. Water is the medium that brings these elements together.
Aromatic vegetables, such as onions and carrots; herbs, such as thyme and bay leaves; and peppercorns are often added to the stock base. Do not add too much salt because the stock might be used in a dish that already contains salty ingredients. If stock is reduced to concentrate its flavor, it can become over salted.
    If you are in a hurry, substitute canned broths or bouillon cubes for beef and chicken stocks, and bottled clam juice for fish stock. However, these are very salty and will never give the same taste as a homemade stock, which is the freshest, most natural flavor and free of preserves.

STOCK MAKING
1. Start the stock with cold water. The ingredients should always be totally covered. When bones are covered with cold water, blood and other impurities dissolve. As the water heats, the impurities coagulate and rise to the surface, where they can be removed easily by skimming.
If the bones were covered with hot water, the impurities would coagulate more quickly and remain dispersed in the stock without rising to the top, making the stock cloudy.
2. Simmer the stock gently. The stock should be brought to a boil and then reduced to a simmer, a temperature of approximately 185 °. While simmering, the ingredients release their flavors into the liquid. If kept at a simmer, the liquid will remain clear as it reduces and a stock develops.
3. Skim the stock. Once you remove the scum, after the stock comes to a boil, simply add several eggshells; this will save you the bother of further skimming, since the scum adheres to the eggshells.
4. Strain the stock carefully. Once the stock finishes cooking, the liquid must be separated from the bones, vegetables and other solid ingredients. In order to keep it clear, try not to disturb the solid ingredients.
Skim off as much fat and as many impurities from the surface as possible before removing the stockpot from the heat.
After removing the pot from the heat, carefully ladle the stock from the pot without stirring it.
Strain the stock through a mesh strainer/colander with several layers of cheesecloth.
5. Cool the stock quickly. Most stocks are prepared in large quantities, cooled and held for later use. Great care must be taken when cooling a stock to prevent food-borne illnesses or souring.
Keep the stock in a metal container. A plastic container insulates the stock and delays cooling.
Vent the stockpot in an empty sink by placing it on a rack. This allows water to circulate on all sides and below the pot when the sink is filled with water.
Fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes or make an ice bath. Make sure the weight of the stockpot is adequate to keep it from tipping over.
Let cold water out in drain. Stir the stock frequently to cool faster.
6. Clarifying Stock. Completely degrease the broth by refrigerating until the fat hardens, then remove the fat. It is critical to make sure it is grease free or it will interfere with the egg white’s trapping ability.
For 4 Cups of Stock: add 1 lightly beaten egg white and 1 eggshell. Simmer stock slowly for 10 min. & remove from heat. Skim off scum that has risen to surface, and strain gently by ladling stock through a colander lined with dampened cheese cloth.

CHICKEN STOCK
6 pounds chicken backs, wings, skin, etc. (except livers)
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 leek, coarsely chopped
Bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley, 1 celery leaf tied together with a cotton string)
6 peppercorns
1 t. salt
Enough cold water to cover the ingredients by 1 full inch

Put all the ingredients into a large stockpot and bring to a boil.
Remove the scum that rises to the surface, reduce the heat to the lowest level and simmer your stock for approximately 3 hours.
Remove the meat and bones from the stock, strain it, skim off the fat, cool.
The stock will keep for at least one week in the refrigerator.
If you would like to have a more concentrated stock, simply return the strained stock to a clean saucepan and continue simmering to reduce it to the strength you wish.
YIELD: Approximately 3 quarts stock.

VEAL OR BEEF STOCK
The bones and vegetables are roasted first to give the stock a brown color and rich flavor. For the best flavor, use knuckle bones with some meat attached.

5 pounds veal bones (knuckles are best) or beef soup bones, chopped in a few pieces by the butcher
2 medium onions, unpeeled, root end cut off, quartered
2 medium carrots, scrubbed but not peeled, quartered
2 stalks celery, cut in about 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
10 stems parsley (w/out leaves)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
¼ cup Madeira or Red Wine
½ t. black peppercorns
About 16 cups cold water
½ t. dried thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 450°. Put bones in a roasting pan and roast them, turning them over occasionally with a slotted metal spatula, until they begin to brown (about 30 minutes). Add onions, carrots, and celery and roast them until browned (about 30 minutes). Spread tomato paste over the meat and roast a little longer.
Using a slotted spatula, transfer bones and vegetables to a stockpot, kettle, or other large pot; discard any fat in pan. Then pour Madeira or Red wine into the roasting pan and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom. Pour into the stockpot. Rinse the pan with ½ cup cold water and add to pot. Add ingredients in stockpot, bay leaves, parsley, garlic, peppercorns, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, skimming foam that collects on top. Stir in thyme and rosemary.
Reduce heat to very low so that stock bubbles very gently. Partially cover and cook, skimming foam and fat occasionally, for at least 4 hours of cooking, add hot water occasionally to keep ingredients covered.
Strain stock into large bowls, discarding bones and vegetables. If not using immediately, cool to lukewarm. Refrigerate until cold and remove fat from the surface. Stock can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days, or frozen.
YIELD: Makes about 8 cups.

Cream of Mushroom Chowder
4 T. butter
5 bunches scallions, finely chopped or 4-5 onions
Salt and pepper
2 cans chicken broth (Campbell’s)
2 cans water
2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the scallions and sauté them for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth and water and simmer for 15 minutes.
Then add the mushrooms, bring to a boil and turn off the heat (almost like raw mushrooms).
Add the cream and reheat to serve… this step can be eliminated if you don’t want to serve it right away. It can be made ahead of time.

Chicken, Broccoli and Black Bean Chowder
Serves 4
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup diced carrots
½ diced onions
½ diced celery
1 cup broccoli stems, peeled and diced
2 t. dried thyme
2 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried sweet basil
¼ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock, hot
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
½ t. Tabasco
1 cup diced chicken
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup broccoli florets
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T. cornstarch mixed w/ a small amount of warm water

In a ¼ cup butter, sauté carrots, onion, celery, and broccoli stems for 5 minutes. Add thyme, oregano and basil; sauté 5 minutes more. Add wine and deglaze the pan. Add hot chicken stock and reduce by one-third. Add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, chicken, beans and broccoli florets; simmer 5 minutes. Add cream, simmer 5 minutes more and season to taste, thicken with cornstarch if you want. Drop in remaining butter, piece by piece, stirring until melted and serve immediately.

Chickpeas and Tomato Stew
Serves 4
5 cups canned tomatoes with their juice
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ t. dried sage
2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 t. salt
1 cup small pasta, whichever is your favorite
3 cups drained and rinsed canned chickpeas
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ t. fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more if you want for serving

In a food processor or blender puree the tomatoes in their juice. I like to keep them somewhat chunky for the stew. Set aside while you make the soup.
In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic.
Add the pureed (chunky) tomatoes, the sage, broth, water and salt to the pot. Bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and chickpeas. Bring the soup back to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender about 15 minutes. Stir with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Potato, Leek and Bacon Chowder
½ pound bacon, cut into small pieces
3 T. olive oil
5 small leeks, the white part only
6 cups peeled and diced russet potatoes
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the pieces are crisp. Make sure to pour off the excess fat as it is rendered in order to crisp the bacon faster. Drain the bacon thoroughly on a paper towel.
Add the olive oil to a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until they are soft about 8 minutes. Do not allow them to burn.
Stir in the potatoes, add the broth and half and half and cream and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender about 30 minutes.
Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Stir in the bacon and serve.

Ribbolita Stew
This is a true Italian Delight!
2 T. olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 15 oz. cans cannelloni beans
2 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut up
5 cups well flavored (Swanson’s natural is my favorite) chicken broth
½ small head Napa cabbage shredded
½ cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
8 thick slices of Italian bread lightly toasted with olive oil

Heat the oil in a heavy soup kettle. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook over medium high heat until softened and the onions are transparent, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
Add the potatoes and cook 2 minutes more, stirring once or twice. Add the tomatoes, their juice, and about 1 cup broth, breaking up the large pieces. Add the Napa cabbage and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 30-40 minutes.
To serve, place 1 thick slice of Italian bread or toast in each flat serving bowl. Ladle the soup over the bread and drizzle each serving with a little extra-virgin olive oil.

Corn and Crab Chowder
6 T. butter
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup sliced celery
Salt and pepper to taste
1½ cups peeled and diced russet potatoes
½ cup clam juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3 cups corn
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk
2 cups half and half
2 T. sherry
8 oz. special grade crabmeat
2 T. chopped fresh chives

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the onion, celery and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender about 15 minutes.
Add the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add the clam juice, chicken broth, and bay lead and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and reserve.
In the large stock pot, add remaining butter and flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in half and half all at once, and continue to stir until it becomes thickened, then simmer.
Add the simmering vegetables and corn to the thickened mixture and season with sherry and more salt and pepper to taste.
Add the crabmeat and serve. Garnish with chives if you wish.

Minestrone
¼ cup olive oil
1½ cups very thinly sliced onion
2 small zucchini, diced and trimmed
2 medium red potatoes, washed and diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup small cauliflower florets
3 cups stemmed, halved and seeded tomatoes
1 cup mushrooms, diced
2 cups green beans snapped into pieces
6 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup of your favorite pasta
¼ cup Italian parsley
½ cup Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy kettle. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the remaining vegetables and toss to coat with oil. Stir in 6 cups of water. Stir well and salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat or just until vegetables are tender.
While the soup is cooking bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil and boil pasta for 6-7 minutes, until just al dente or slightly firm in the middle when you bite in to it. Drain well and add to soup and cook 2 more minutes.
Just before serving the soup, finish with ¼ cup finely parsley and cook 1 or 2 minutes. Serve while the parsley still gives its fresh flavor to the soup. Serve with a tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese.

Mussels, Clams and Shrimp Stew
¼ cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 t. dried crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
24 small Littleneck clams (about 2 ½ pounds total), scrubbed
24 mussels (about 1½ pounds total), debearded
20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined, butterflied
½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
Warm crusty bread

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper. Sauté until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and the flavors blend, about 5 minutes. Stir in the clams. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the mussels. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels open, about 5 minutes longer.
Using a tongs, transfer the opened shellfish to serving bowls (discard any shellfish that do not open). Add the shrimp and basil to the simmering tomato broth. Simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes. Divide the shrimp and tomato broth among the bowls. Serve with the warm bread.

Creamy Broccoli Cheddar Chowder with Pastry Crust
This isn’t one of your lowfat chowders, but it is so rich and awesome!

½ cup butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 large bunch broccoli
½ cup flour
4 (13 ¾ oz) cans chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
¼ lb. smoked cheddar cheese, shredded (reg. cheddar is fine too)
¼ t. salt, pepper and nutmeg each
6 frozen puff pastry patty shells, thawed
1 egg, beaten

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add chopped onions and cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Chop stems of broccoli; reserve florets. Add to pot and cook 5 minutes. Stir in flour; cook, stirring 5 minutes more. Stir in chicken broth. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
Transfer soup to blender in small batches; blend until smooth. Strain into clean pot. Cook reserved florets in boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain, add to soup. Bring cream to boil in small saucepan. Stir ¼ cup cheese into cream, and then add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Reheat soup (do not boil) and spoon into 6 ovenproof crocks. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll puff pastry shells into circles 2 inches larger than crocks. Brush rims of crocks with beaten egg and fit pastry on top, pressing to seal. Bake on cookie sheet 12 – 14 minutes until golden. Serves 6.

Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce
Servings 6
Serve with Parmesan Cheese or Horseradish Mash Potatoes

4 T. olive oil
3½ pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 2 ½ inch pieces
3½ cups chopped onions
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained
½ cup hoisin sauce
2 bay leaves
1 pound slender carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1 inch lengths
1 T. cornstarch mixed with 1T. water
2 T. chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 T. oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Add meat to pot; sauté until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Push meat to sides of pot. Reduce heat to medium; add 2 T. oil to pot. Add onions; sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Mix meat into onions. Add 1 cup wine, tomatoes with juices, hoisin sauce and bay leaves. Bring to boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and 1 cup wine. Cover; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, increase heat to high; boil until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
Uncover, increase heat to high; boil until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer.
Reduce heat to medium, add cornstarch mixture and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Season stew with salt and pepper.
This can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before serving, stirring occasionally. Transfer stew to large bowl. Sprinkle with parsley; serve.