Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter Root Stew

After our rich Saturday eating extravaganza, beginning with lunch at Les Halles (which is my new favorite restaurant by the way) and ending with dinner at Egan & Son's new location in West Orange, NJ, I figured I would make something less rich and more wholesome for Sunday dinner. Based on what I had left around from the food co-op, I decided to make a stew of various winter roots. My only concern was that it could end up being somewhat boring.

We've all made those dishes before where you know that it will be edible and you know that it will be more or less good for you, but you don't know if it will be exciting or something that you'll want more than a few bites of.

So, in the quest for flavor, I ended up using my chicken broth and about a pint of beer to give the stew a hearty, yet tasty flavor. Once that broth and beer mixture combined with the juices of the carrots, parsnips, onion, celery root, etc, it was pretty damn flavorful. I was also a little stumped on how to season it. I could toss in some maple syrup, maybe throw in some apples and cinnamon. I ended up with salt, pepper, some cinnamon and some nutmeg. Not too much though! The spices were subtle, which made it really nice. Boring, it was not. Although, it was interesting how the flavors of the root vegetables all seemed to blend together. It was difficult to tell whether you were eating a piece of turnip or a piece of celery root. It all sort of blended together into a delicious flavor; one that is sweet, but savory and evokes sitting by a nice warm fire on a cold winter day.

Next question was whether or not to add a meat. I happened to have a really nice piece of smoked Kielbasa that my upstairs neighbor gave me after a trip to the Polish butcher. I chopped into bite sized pieces and threw it in there. This way, there really wasn't enough meat to take over the thing and turn it into a meat stew. The Kielbasa just added a little something, turning the stew from a side dish to a main course. Vegetarians could totally go without the Kielbasa and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. Carnivores can go crazy and throw in a slab of bacon-which I had considered, but decided against in light of the order by the Mrs. to "don't make anything rich". Another idea would be some beef to stew in with the veggies. You get the idea here. There is ample opportunity for improvisation.

Winter Root Stew

1 pint of dark beer (I used my homemade brown ale)
About 1 Quart Chicken Stock (can substitute with any stock, including vegetable)
1 onion, minced
3-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 celery root
2 sweet potatoes
1 turnip
1 acorn squash
2 white potatoes
2 red potatoes
4 carrots
4 parsnips
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp olive oil OR butter
1 Kielbasa sausage (or 1 lb of thick cut bacon)

Note: You'll want to use a dutch oven for this. If you don't have a dutch oven, you could just use a pot and keep it on the stove, although I liked not having to tend to it by putting it in the oven.

In a large dutch oven or large pot, warm the oil (or butter) on medium-low heat on the stovetop. While the pot is warming, mince your onion if it is not already minced. Add the onion and saute while mincing the garlic. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Chop the root vegetables into pieces approximately just small enough to fit onto a tablespoon. They will soften up after they are cooked and can be broken into bite-sized pieces with a spoon by the eater. Add the root vegetables to the pot. Next add the chicken stock and beer to the pot so that it just about covers the vegetables. Use as much stock as necessary to cover most of the vegetables.

Next, chop the kielbasa into spoon-sized pieces and add to the pot. Stir all of the contents of the pot around so as to mix them up and disperse the sausage throughout the pot. Now turn off the stovetop and put the pot into the oven for about an hour. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the vegetables and amount of liquid added to the pot. Cook until the vegetables are soft and steamy. Add salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg after removing from the oven and then stir the contents again. If you do not have a dutch oven, simply the pot the on low heat, stirring occasionally for about an hour.

Serves 4-6

Don't forget to save any leftover broth from the pot. Freeze and add it to your next dish!


  1. Beer & Sausage - they make anything a tasty treat! This stew sounds awesome and I bet it would be superb with that bread you made too! ~Mary

  2. Thanks! The bread would have been a good combo, except it never lasts longer than an hour. We eat it instantly. I'm thinking of maybe making bigger batches of dough. MUCH bigger.