The stew is a rich and fragrant dish with ancient roots. It owes its name to the cooking that once took place on the stove in peasant houses and still today is a real explosion of flavors: the meat is cooked slowly and for a long time in the broth or in the wine, becoming soft and tasty. Perfect in the cold winter evenings, the stew is often accompanied by a mashed potato or sautéed vegetables. Let's see the secrets together to do it perfectly and without errors.
The stew is a rich and fragrant dish with ancient roots. It owes its name to the cooking that once took place on the stove in peasant houses and still today is a real explosion of flavors: the meat is cooked slowly and for a long time in the broth or in the wine, becoming soft and tasty. In fact the difference between braised and stew is only in the names: braised comes from "braise", that is from embers, because long ago the meat was cooked in a casserole put on the embers. Stew, instead, comes from "stove" that many years ago was used to cook food.
The stew is also a way to cook food and you can also use it to prepare fish or vegetable dishes. The meat stew is perfect in cold winter evenings and it can be accompanied with a mashed potato or sautéed vegetables.
Rules for preparing a perfect stew
Choose a good meat
For a perfect stew in which the meat is tender and juicy the advice is to use cuts of meat rich in connective tissue that makes meat soft during cooking. If you want to prepare a stew with beef the best cuts will be: shoulder and muscle; for the shin it is advisable to cook it with the brazing method. If you prefer a stew based on white meat, you can use chicken drumsticks. In any case, the meat must be cut into cubes of no more than 2 or 3 centimeters. Make sure it is at room temperature when you start your preparation.
In the original recipe the meat is cooked in two moments: a first browning in a pan with butter or oil and a second one in a casserole with broth, vegetables and aromas. The first cooking is very important because it allows the meat to caramelize on the outside remaining soft inside. Use a non-stick pan, melt a knob of butter and brown the meat cut into pieces that are not too large on all sides.
The casserole and the times
For an error-free stew the advice is to use a cast-iron casserole with high edges. The cast iron allows a uniform and slow cooking that allows the meat to "stew" and become soft. Slow cooking over a gentle flame will be more effective if the saucepan has a lid: in this way the heat remains inside and the moisture that is created helps the cooking. Remember that the stew needs time: for an ideal cooking you need at least 2 hours and a half, strictly on a low flame.
What vegetables to use?
For the base of your stew we recommend using the usual chopped onion, carrot and celery: brown them in extra-virgin olive oil in a pan before cooking in a casserole dish with the other ingredients. The vegetable that par excellence accompanies the stew is the potato: its consistency in fact allows it to absorb the sauce and acquire its flavor. For a tasty variant you can use mushrooms and peas: your stew will get a nice sweet taste.
Aromatic herbs and spices
The aromatic herbs are excellent allies for a fragrant and tasty stew: the most common "dried" herbs are rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and bay leaf; as for the fresh ones you can use chives or parsley instead. Pay attention to the times: dried herbs should be added one at a time during cooking, while fresh herbs should be added only after cooking. If you want to experiment with new aromas and flavors, you can use coriander, cumin or a stick of cinnamon. Pay attention to the salt, during the cooking test the liquids in which the meat cooks, if you use many herbs or spices, you will need very little salt.