The Reluctant Blogger

Dark Days Week 5.2*: Two Stews Plus Bread and Butter
January 5, 2011, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Bread, Dark Days, Soup

*Somewhere I added an extra week (must have done two posts in one week) – not sure where that happened and rather than go back and renumber, I’ll just get it right from here out.

One of the great things about the holidays is extra time at home, which generally translates to extra time in the kitchen.  In preparation for returning to reality, I wanted to get some dinners in the fridge and freezer to ease back into working and commuting and having less time in the kitchen.  In addition to a few casserole-like things that freeze well, I made two local-ingredient stews: borscht and elk & root vegetable stew (what I’d normally call “beef stew”).

I don’t make stew that often, though every time I do make it I think I really should make it more often.  Elk stew meat is much leaner than beef and I’ve had mixed results with braising attempts with it, but the meat turned out very tender.  For the “beef stew”, I floured about a pound of meat, then browned it in olive oil in my Dutch oven.  After the meat was good and brown, I added four minced cloves of garlic, one chopped onion, a three-inch piece of rosemary, and about 10 sprigs of thyme.  I cooked that for a few more minutes before adding three parsnips (roughly 2 cups), celery root (about 1.5 cups), 1 cup of carrots, 2 cups of mushrooms, 1/2 cup celery and about three cups of whole small purple potatoes and then pouring in about half a bottle of white wine.  The purple potatoes added an additional pop of color and made me glad I’d squirreled them away for so long (I bought them sometime in August or September).  Once the wine was simmering, I put the whole thing in the oven at 250 for the afternoon.

Once the elk stew was in the oven, I started the borscht.  Borscht is one of my favorite winter stews, but somehow I’ve managed to only make it when my husband has been gone and until actually sitting down to eat he was pretty skeptical (thankfully, he was pleasantly surprised).  I have no idea if my version of borscht is “authentic” – since the base recipe originally came from a 1950s copy of the Joy of Cooking, it probably isn’t – but I think it’s pretty delicious.  I started by browning about a pound of meat in my second Dutch oven (no flour this time), then added one large chopped onion and cooked it for about five more minutes before adding about a cup of chopped carrots, half a small-ish head of finely chopped red cabbage, and the beets.  Lots of beets.  Probably six cups of chopped beets, though I didn’t actually measure.  Then I poured in enough water to cover the vegetables and meat, plus a good splash of red wine vinegar (1/4 cup, maybe?) and some salt and pepper, put the lid on it, and put it in the oven with the stew.

Earlier in the day I’d made butter from some heavy cream that needed to be used.  I saved the whey and used it to make a loaf of bread to have with the elk and root vegetable stew.  I will definitely be saving any whey from future butter or cheese projects and using it in bread – it made for a subtly sweet loaf of really tender and delicious bread.  Thankfully it was a small loaf of bread because it was polished off before the end of the night!  Hot bread and fresh butter really can’t be beat.  Since we filled up on bread, we had very small bowls of elk & vegetable stew for dinner and will be finishing off the rest of it later in the week. The borscht made for a very quick and delicious dinner after a long day of work (and the time in the fridge was a benefit – stew is almost always better a day or two later). It’s so nice to have dinner ready to go when I walk in the door after work.

Many of this week’s ingredients came from my Full Circle box.  The weekly box has been great, even though much of what they offer right now is coming from elsewhere.  I’m not going to get tomatoes from California or Mexico in the middle of the winter, even if they are organic, but I think what they’re doing is great and the convenience can’t be beat given where we live.  I really like the ability to switch items, and that is what has really made the box work for us.  I’ve tended to get mostly Full Circle and Washington items, but I won’t lie – it has been very nice to be able to swap some lemons in here and there.

Sources for this week’s dinners:
Elk – our freezer
Parsnips, celery root, red cabbage, beets – Full Circle Farm, Carnation, WA
Onions – Andersen Organics, Othello, WA (by way of Full Circle box)
Mushrooms – Champs Mushrooms, Abbotsford, B.C. (by way of Full Circle box)
Carrots – Marshland Orchards, Snohomish Valley, WA (by way of their stand at Pike Place Market)
Purple potatoes – Davis Farm, Belfair, WA (squirreled away in the basement since the last farmers’ market in September)
Garlic – from my in-laws up the street
Thyme and rosemary – from my backyard
White wine – Half of a bottle of 2008 Airfield Estates Unoaked Chardonnay, Prosser, WA (by way of Full Pull Wines)
Red wine vinegar – homemade from Washington wine
Heavy cream – Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, Lynden, WA (by way of Full Circle box)
Exceptions: flour and honey from Montana (gifts from my parents), celery (from California, by way of Full Circle box), olive oil, salt, pepper, yeast, vinegar mother


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[…] we can skip because we don’t use as much (more pickles and less jam, for example). I learned how to make butter, and realized it’s totally worth making for table use, but maybe not worth it for baking […]

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[…] different plans than the ones I make for myself. In looking back through my archives, I see I used borscht as a Dark Days meal last year; this year’s borscht was similar, though […]

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