Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Almost Asian Stew

Okay, this isn’t precisely Asian and it isn’t exactly stew, but once you actually sit down with a bowl of it, I think you’ll see my reasoning behind the name. I'd have a picture for you but the last time I made this for the family, we dug right in and ate it before we remembered anything about taking a picture. I'll have to remember next time around.

This is another dish that is very flexible and simple to adapt to a variety of tastes and specific diets. You’ll be steaming vegetables for this and if you don’t have a steamer or one for your microwave, don’t fret. A regular microwavable cereal bowl and some plastic wrap to cover it will work just fine.

So, here’s what you’ll need for dinner for about four people:

· 1 – 1 ½ lbs. stew meat (I like beef but pork could be used) or boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in 1” cubes
· 8 oz beef or chicken broth (or stock or bouillon equivalent)
· 3 T low-sodium soy sauce
· 1 clove garlic, minced
· ¼ - ½ C each – broccoli flowerets, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, carrots, celery, green onion, snow pea pods
· 1 package chow mein noodles
· Toasted sesame seeds to garnish

In a skillet (at least 12” with a lid), brown the meat. If your skillet is not non-stick, you may need just a little oil but don’t use much. You’ll keep cooking in that same skillet so a bit of sticking is fine but a lot of oil is not and won’t make for a nice broth later.

Once the meat is lightly browned, add the broth and one cup of water. Drop the cooking temperature to low. Add the soy sauce and garlic. Cover and let the meat simmer for an hour. Check every 15 – 20 minutes and add water if your liquid seems to be cooking away. Add the green onions in the last 20 minutes or so.

Prepare your vegetables by cutting them into roughly ¾” – 1” pieces. I like to cut the carrots and celery on the bias because it looks nice. Carrot slices should be no more than ½” thick or they will take too long to cook.

If all the diners are able to eat all the vegetables, steam them in one bowl in your microwave. If you’re using a bowl and plastic wrap instead of a steamer, leave the plastic open along one side an inch or so to vent. This should take 3 -4 minutes on high power. You want the vegetables soft-ish but they should still have just a bit of snap. I guess you’d call it al dente. If not everyone can eat all the vegetables, steam them in separate bowls and everyone can add just the vegetables they want to their own bowl of stew when the time comes.

Cook the noodles according to package directions.

Dish up a serving of noodles into a soup bowl and ladle some meat and broth over them. Add some of the vegetables and toss lightly. You can sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top before serving.

Ready for the variations?

You can use any fresh vegetable you like in this. A handful of shredded cabbage (uncooked), added in just before serving, gives some nice texture. Cauliflower would be a good addition, too. If you like ginger, you could add ½ - 1 tsp when you add the broth to the meat. It isn’t required and goes with personal taste.

This could be made with seafood though you wouldn’t want to simmer it so long, of course. If you try fish or seafood, go with a vegetable broth.

If you are fresh out of chow mein noodles, go ahead and use spaghetti. I’ll never tell. If noodles don’t really get you excited, you can serve this over cooked brown rice, instead.

If you’d like a gravy rather than a broth, you can add a tablespoon of flour, cornstarch or tapioca to the cooking liquid in the last 15 minutes of cooking, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.

To help streamline this dish and avoid a lot of messing about in the kitchen after a long day, the vegetables can be cut and made ready for cooking in advance. The cooking isn’t really labor intensive, though you will still need to allow enough time for the meat to simmer and become tender.

Now I’m hungry. So, let’s go eat that!

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