A Season of Comfort: Recipes for soups, stews and more

For me, there is nothing more comforting than a pot of soup or a long slow-cooked stew on the stove.

pho image

Chilly temps, sweatshirt weather, and piles of brawny squashes in markets inspire cravings.

Summer's dainty appetites are replaced with actual hunger and a desire for comfort. For me, there is nothing more comforting than a pot of soup or a long slow-cooked stew on the stove. 

A great long and slow-cooked dish is greater than the sum of its parts. Each ingredient must be well thought out and treated individually-and the result is a perfect symphony of flavor and satisfying goodness.

I make soups and stews ad hoc. I am not a fan of bits of leftovers thrown together to make a dish. Instead I carefully assemble my ingredients. But there are some shortcuts you can take to achieve slow-cooked flavor. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. I keep a bowl in my fridge where I add herb stems, mushroom stems, carrot nibs and onions slices. These items are perfect flavoring agents for homemade soups and stews. No sense throwing them out when you paid for them and can eke out some flavor.
  2. I save my poultry bones. When I roast a turkey or chicken, I save the bones. The bones have collagen and gelatin in them. That is the secret to a great soup, stock, or stew with body and flavor. Bonus tip: if you must use packaged chicken broth, add your reserved bones to fortify the flavor.
  3. Low and slow is the key to a full-flavored dish. Yes and No! sometimes life is busy, and one must pull out the Instant Pot or other pressure cooker for fast results.
  4. Veggies and more veggies. Cooking a stew long and slow with vegetables adds flavors and depth. Serving those long-cooked veggies is like eating mush. I strain out the veggies that gave their all for my dinner and add fresh vegetables before serving. They will have better texture and fresher flavor. 
  5. Brown food = delicious food. Be sure to brown your meats and vegetables. The caramelization adds flavor and richness.

Pho

This is a Vietnamese meal in a bowl for busy cooks. Pho seems to be everywhere lately. The secret to great Pho is the broth. A well-made pho broth can take days to prepare. I have a quick and easy version that will approximate the real thing.

Serves 4-5

 

  • 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (4-inch) piece fresh ginger
  • 2 whole heads of garlic, not peeled and cut in half horizontally
  • 2 (3-inch) whole cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (homemade or purchased)
  • 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (I use coconut aminos which are very low sodium)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces dried Shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into medium dice, or 2 cups diced tofu for vegetarian version

Garnishes

  • 8 ounces thinly sliced Ribeye or London broil
  • (vegetarian option) substitute bok choy, mushrooms, and favorite vegetables for the beef
  • 8 ounces dried rice noodles
  • 3 medium scallions, sliced
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, such as Thai bird, serrano, or jalapeño, sliced thinly
  • 1 to 2 medium limes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1 cup fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, Thai basil, mint, or a mix, chopped
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in half
  • Hot sauce, Sriracha, or hoisin sauce

Preheat oven to broiler setting.

Line a baking sheet with foil. 

  1. Char onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, and coriander seeds, on foil lined baking sheet, for about 5-7 minutes until spices are toasty and fragrant and vegetables are browned.
  2. Transfer vegetables and spices to a large saucepan and add chicken or vegetable broth, tamari, mushrooms, and carrots. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add chicken to mixture and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Divide sliced beef, vegetables, noodles, and scallions between 4 bowls. Pour piping hot broth over. Do not stir.
  5. Garnish with hard boiled eggs, chili pepper, lime wedges, sprouts, and fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with hot sauce.

Beef Stew 

A good beef stew is a gift that keeps giving. It is delicious on Day 1 and just gets better as it sits. The secret to a good beef stew, or any stew for that matter, is browning the ingredients. Yes, you can get dinner on the table if you skip the browning, but the dish will not have the long, slow-cooked rich flavor. A well-made beef stew can be dressed up for your most VIP guests or played down for tailgating. 

Serves 6

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 carrots, chopped coarsely
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped coarsely
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped coarsely
  • 2 whole garlic bulbs, cut in half horizontally
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • Bouquet garni of rosemary stems, parsley stems, fresh thyme stems tied together with string
  • 2 cups good quality dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot work well)
  • 2 cups chicken stock, homemade preferred
  • 2 cups sautéed mushrooms
  • 2 cups sautéed peeled pearl onions, I use frozen pearl onions in a pinch and sauté them in extra virgin olive oil until brown and gorgeous.
  • Garnishes: Crispy shallots, freshly chopped flatleaf parsley

  Preheat oven to 325F. or preheat slow cooker to LOW.

  1. Pat meat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, lightly coated with oil over medium heat. Brown meat, in batches, being careful to not overload the pan or the meat will steam instead of brown.
  3. Using the same pan, add a bit more oil and sauté carrots, celery, and onion until deep, golden brown. Add garlic and tomato paste to the last batch of vegetables and stir to combine. Add meat back to the pan, or transfer to a pressure cooker or slow cooker.
  4. Add herb bundle, wine and stock. Cover and braise in preheated oven for about 2 ½-3 hours or 6 hours in slow cooker or 75 minutes in pressure cooker.
  5. Remove vegetables and discard. Transfer braising liquid to a saucepan and reduce over medium heat until thick and coats the back of a spoon.
  6. Sauté mushrooms and pearl onions and add to meat. Pour over reduced pan juices and garnish as desired.
  7. Serve with potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, pasta, or polenta.

Butternut Squash Khoresh

A Khoresh is a Persian stew. Delightfully fragrant and loaded with seasonal ingredients, you can whip up this versatile dish quickly and deliciously. I love to serve Khoresh with Basmati rice for a weeknight quick dinner and with tahdig (Persian rice) for a festive Shabbat meal.

Serves 6

  • Extra virgin olive oil or ghee
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 red peppers, sliced into matchstick pieces
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into matchstick pieces
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups medium diced butternut squash (1 small squash)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • Suggested garnishes: candied orange peel*, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped parsley, cilantro, and mint
  1. Heat a large saucepan or stock pot, lightly coated with olive oil or ghee, over medium heat. Sauté onion, peppers, carrots, celery, and squash until lightly browned. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, cardamom, and saffron. Stir to combine. Transfer mixture to slow cooker, pressure cooker, or keep on stovetop.
  2. Add orange zest, juice, lime juice, broth, and tomato puree. Slow cook for 3 hours on low, pressure cook for 20 minutes or simmer on stovetop for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Garnish and serve with basmati rice, tahdig, or favorite side. 

*Candied Orange Peel 

This sweet and fragrant garnish is delicious on savory squash Khoresh.

  • 4 large oranges
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Peel and juice 4 large oranges and reserve juice.
  2. Boil orange peels in 1 cup water for 2 minutes. Drain.
  3. Add reserved orange juice, 1 cup sugar, and orange peels to a small saucepan. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and orange peels look sticky and shiny.
  4. Place orange peels on parchment paper to cool. Store covered for up to 3 days or refrigerate for 2 weeks.

Laura Frankel is a kosher chef and author.Previously, she was the Culinary Director for Jamie Geller's Test Kitchen and Kosher Network International. Frankel is the author of two Jewish cookbooks, with a third forthcoming. She is the founder of Shallots Restaurant in Chicago, Skokie, and New York, and served as Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck.

 




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