I have scads of childhood memories about my mom in the kitchen. One that I particularly relish is the one where she is cutting up a roast into small, square pieces for an upcoming stew. My special enjoyment of this memory likely stems from the fact that I had to wait so long to participate in making a stew. My mom knew me well enough to know that I was far too “enthusiastic” to be given a large, sharp chopping knife . . . So, for years, I’d just sit at the round table in our tiny little kitchen and watch her cubing meat and chopping the veg that would all eventually marry together into something beautiful. She’d place all of that cubed meat into a deep bowl, then shake over it a healthy amount of flour, salt and pepper. Now, I finally got to participate! I got to put my (freshly washed) little hands into that big bowl of meat and toss it with the seasoned flour until each piece was appropriately covered in it. Then mom would haul out her big cast iron dutch oven and it was nearly go time. She’d brown all of that floured meat in lard, then add the aromatics, herbs and the broth into the pot and cover it for a good, long time. About thirty minutes before it was time to eat, she’d add in all of the veg and let it cook til just fork tender. Then, it was to the table! With a loaf of her homemade, freshly baked bread and fresh butter, & a jar of sweet pickles, my dad, me and mom all ate like royalty. Or it least, it certainly felt that way to me.
It’s memories like these that keep me cooking. I love cooking up the old favorites, as well as creating interesting new dishes (I wonder what my mom would say about my vegan stew with cauliflower, cabbage & quinoa?). Whether we’re working on a time-tested favorite or a festive new recipe, there is no doubt in my mind that Winter truly is the time for stews.