“I stretched back and I hiccupped and looked back on my busy day”
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The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
It’s a classic musical choice that supposedly reveals some deep aspect of your persona. For me, the answer is neither. Don’t get me wrong – I like both bands, but there is a third and superior choice: The Who. I’ve never owned a Rolling Stone Album. I might have owned The Beatles Greatest Hits. I, however, bought every Who album up to Who Are You. They spoke to disaffected high school me better than any band at the time. I saw myself in Quadrophenia’s Jimmy. Tommy was the first time opera made sense to me. (Hell – I even dug the insane shitshow that was Ken Russel’s Tommy movie.) I really did hope I’d die before I got old. (Sadly not the case.) So when I was playing around with a vegetarian stew recipe, and Cherie suggested “Stew Are You” as a name, the choice was easy.
There are few dishes more comforting than a great slow-cooked beef stew. The zen of an all-day cook. The smell of vegetables and meat slowly simmering to tenderness filling the house. The anticipation of the first delicious spoonful. It all adds up to pure comfort in a bowl. When I decided to switch to mostly plant-based cooking, I wondered what I would do to satisfy that stew experience.
It turns out the answer is mushrooms. Using a mushroom stock adds depth to the gravy. Two kinds of mushrooms replace the meat but still provide a luxurious texture. I was skeptical this would result in a stew that could replace my beloved beef stew, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a vegan stew with all the flavor and comfort of its meat-filled cousin.
I generally make my own stock as it allows me more control over the finished product and the dish as a whole. If you do not want to go through the full stock process, a good vegetable stock will also work. You could also doctor it with a bit of mushroom and let that simmer for an hour or so. When I do use store-bought stock, I find they are often improved with a bit of simmering to concentrate the flavor.
Many vegetable stew recipes call for slicing the mushrooms. I prefer mine to be a large dice to mimic the size and texture of the beef pieces they replace. This also keeps their texture intact during the long simmer. As with any stew, this s great right out of the pot the same day, but even better if allowed to rest in the fridge overnight. Served with a nice piece of crusty bread and you have a perfect healthy comfort meal any time of the year.
STEW ARE YOU
Mushrooms, carrots, onions, celery, and peas in a vegetable stock gravy
Makes 6 – 8 servings
1 small onion, fine dice
3 clove garlic, minced
1 rib celery, fine dice
1 medium carrot, fine dice
1/4 cup vegetable stock, for saute
8-ounce crimini mushrooms, chopped into bite-sized pieces
8-ounce portobello mushrooms, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion (chopped)
2 medium carrots, chopped into ½” pieces
2 ribs celery, chopped into ½” pieces
5 medium red potatoes, bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake (I use Aleppo Pepper)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 1/4 cups mushroom stock (see below)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
Place a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat. Add the ¼ cup of vegetable stock and heat. Then add the fine diced onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Saute this until the veggies are nice and soft with translucent onions. Take care not to brown or burn the veg by adding a touch more broth if needed.
Add the large chopped onion and continue cooking until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook until they lose their liquid. Add the spices and cook 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the balsamic scraping any brown bits off the bottom.
After deglazing, add the 3 cups of stock, the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Then add the remaining chopped veggies – but not the peas – and turn the heat up to boil. Once you get a good boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to an hour until potatoes and carrots are tender but not mushy.
Add the peas and cook on simmer 10 more minutes.
Makes about a quart
8-ounces crimini mushrooms. rough chop
8-ounces portobello mushrooms, rough chop
1 small onion, skin on and quartered
2 stalks celery, rough chop
1 medium carrot, rough chop
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
1 tablespoon dried thyme
6 cups of water
Place the vegetables, peppercorns, and thyme in a heavy bottom pot. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low, uncovered, for two hours. Let cool to room temperature. Strain out vegetables and store the stock in an airtight container in the fridge.