When the wind is hostile and the sky hangs heavy and gray, what do you want to cook? For me it’s stew. Unlike the chi-chi, vertical constructions presented at high-end restaurants, it isn’t sexy fare. But I can’t think of anything more uplifting than browning meat, chopping onions and letting an herb-infused pot of stew bubble its unhurried way to soul-warming succulence.
Stew is benevolent, lenient. Neither ingredients nor time require exact measuring. There’s no special knife techniques, no constant stirring, no last-minute rush. Prepared ahead, stew gets better by the next day, without any attention on your part.
If you need ideas you can turn to America classics like chicken and dumplings or beef stew, or go for any number of regional specialties, maybe a spicy posole from New Mexico, or an extra-hearty gumbo from the Gulf Coast. Then again, you can easily build your own creation by varying the spices, vegetables or liquid in a tried-and-true recipe.
A stew by definition makes the meal. Serve it over something plain and starchy—potatoes, tortillas, rice—then add a simple salad. You won’t have to worry about dessert. Stew is Big Fare, and so satisfying there may not be room for that.
Chicken and Cornmeal Parsley Dumplings—A memory-filled dish that never goes out of style.
Easy Posole—New Mexican corn, chile and pork stew.
Chicken, Sausage and Ham Gumbo—This is happy food, celebratory enough for a Mardi Gras crowd, hearty and heartening for everyday winter meals.
Oyster Stew—Coastal residents of New England, the Pacific region and the South all down it with relish.
Kentucky Burgoo —A substantial, multi-layered stew traditionally cooked in an iron kettle.
Potato and Chick Pea Coconut Curry Stew—Inspired by the cuisines of America’s Southeast Asian immigrants.
Norwegian-Style Meatballs and Gravy —A specialty from Lutheran church suppers of the upper Midwest.