Saturday, February 15, 2014

STEW ON THIS! - Part 2

Welcome back!

Unfortunately, it's still cold outside.  But on the plus column, it makes this series of For The Culinarily Challenged still relevant!  This week I'll be looking at chili, Indian style curry, and my personal favorite, Filipino chicken adobo.  While the last one isn't technically a stew, I make it very stew-ey, and therefore, as far as I'm concerned, it counts! 

I hope you'll learn and enjoy!

Indian Style Beef Curry

With all the jokes about its effects on the digestive system, curry, particularly Indian style curries, get a bum rap.  With that in mind, I set out to come up with something palatable for even the pickiest eaters.  In order to do this, I took some inspiration from culinary geniuses like Brit Jamie Oliver, Canadian Michael Smith, and the sight and smells of all the great Indian restaurants I've been to, and threw in my knowledge of what makes a really great beef stew, namely time, patience, a little flour, and beef broth.  The result was something that even a man afraid of spicy food went and got two helpings of.

Here's how you make it:


From the Store

1 pound of Stewing Beef

5 or 6 Small Potatoes, cut into 4 pieces each

1 can of Diced or Crushed Tomatoes

2 Teaspoons Garam Masala - this is an Indian Spice blend you can often find already prepared and packaged in grocery stores. If you can't find it, use the plain cinnamon in your pantry instead.

1 thumb sized piece of Ginger, sliced as thin as you can

One bunch Cilantro - cilantro is an herb that has kind of a lemony taste.  You can't find it in most major grocery stores in a large bunches next to the parsley.  If you're not sure, rub a leaf between your fingers, it should have a fresh slightly lemony smell.  If you're really not sure, here is a picture.

From the Fridge

Hot Sauce, to taste

2 cups Beef Broth plus 1 cup Water

Two cloves garlic, cut into small pieces, the tough woody bit at the end removed

One medium Onion, peeled and cut into small pieces

From the Pantry

3 Tablespoons of Curry Powder

Salt and Pepper - to taste

2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil

2 to 3 tablespoons of flour


One Mixing bowl

Rubber gloves (optional)

One large Pot with lid

One Wooden Spoon

One Slotted Spoon

One Knife and Cutting board (to chop your vegetables)

Measuring Spoons

1 Measuring Cup

Dump the stewing beef in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of curry powder.  If you have sensitive hands, put rubber gloves on before doing the next step, as curry powder and other strong spices can irritate your skin.  With your hands, rub the curry powder, salt, and pepper into the stewing beef, see the image below.  You can now dump in the flour and toss the beef in it to coat.

Dump 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the pot and heat over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot enough that it slides easily around in the pot, throw in your beef and brown on all sides the same way you would for a beef stew (see Stew On This - Part 1).

While the meat is browning, chopped up your ginger, the stems and/or roots of the cilantro, and onion, and set aside.

Take the meat out of the pot using your trusty slotted spoon, and set aside.

Throw in your onions, cilantro roots and/or stems, and ginger, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the onion is soft and you can smell the contents of the pot.

Add the garlic, and stir for another minute or two.

Pour in your tomatoes, and add two or 3 tablespoons of curry powder, two or 3 teaspoons of cinnamon or garam masala, and if using, your hot sauce.

Dump your beef back into the pot, add 2 cups of beef stock and 1 cup of water.

Bring to a boil, meaning the contents of the pot are producing big bubbles, and then lower the heat.

Cover the pot, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the beef is chewable, stirring occasionally, say every 5 to 10 minutes, so the bottom of curry does not burn.

While the beef is simmering, clean and cut up your potatoes.

When the beef is tender, toss in your potatoes and cook for another 15 minutes or until the taters are done.

Taste your curry, and adjust for salt, pepper, and heat, using the hot sauce.  Give it a quick stir.

Pour over a bowl of rice, or serve as is with a few cilantro leaves on top.

If you wanna get fancy, top with some full fat yogurt, add a wedge of lemon or lime, and then top with the cilantro leaves.  The yogurt will also help neutralize the heat for those of your guests who don't like spicy food.
Serves 4 to 6, and will keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

Smokey chicken chili

I realize that the Super Bowl was two weeks ago but just because it's over, doesn't mean we can't enjoy a good chili.  Spicy food is great for bringing colour to one's cheeks, and heat to the body, and right now, as mother nature gets more and more unpredictable, we need warmth more than ever.  Unfortunately, many of us can't handle spicy food, but I am happy to say that there are ways around that.  Hot and spicy is not the be all an and end all of chilis.  There are other flavors you can enjoy, like smoke for example, that will allow you to enjoy the flavors of chili, without burning your face off or sending you on a mad dash to the bathroom.  That being said, the hot sauce and this recipe was more of an afterthought for those of us with a need for heat.

Now let's get started


From the store

One Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce, the stem removed -these are jalapenos that have been smoked, dried, and canned in a tomato vinegar sauce.  You'll need about 1 pepper, plus 1 teaspoon of the sauce it was packed in.  This will add a little heat and a ton of smokiness.  Bear in mind that some brands are spicier than others, so you may need to taste one before putting it in your chili.  In case you don't know what to look for, here's a photo of a popular brand. 

1 teaspoon of ground cumin - This is a spice that adds great smokiness

From the Freezer

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast - cut into tiny pieces - it's easier to cut up boneless chicken when it's still frozen, you can then thaw it out in a baggy in the fridge
2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs - cut into tiny pieces

3 strips of bacon, sliced into tiny pieces OR 1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil

From the Fridge

1 to 3 pieces of garlic, peeled, the tough woody bit at the end removed, and cut into tiny pieces - if you love garlic, use 3, if you're not such a fan, use 1.

Hot Sauce -optional - this is a cheater's trick for adding heat to a chili without having to burn your hands handling fresh chilies.

1 small or medium size onion, peeled and chopped small

From the pantry

1 can of tomatoes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of chili powder

If Ya Wanna Get Fancy

Plain, unflavored Corn Chips

Grated Cheddar or Tex Mex Blend Shredded Cheese

Full Fat Sour Cream


1 pot with lid

1 wooden spoon

Measuring spoons

1 knife and cutting board

Put the bacon in the pot on medium high heat, and stir it around with a wooden spoon until the fat comes out of it. If using oil, heat it until it slides easily around in the pot.

Dump in the onion and stir it around with a wooden spoon until they're soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the chopped garlic pepper and garlic and cook a little more, stirring with the same spoon.

Add the chicken and move it around in the pot until it's brown around the edges.

Dump in a can of tomatoes, a little water, and the adobo sauce.  Add the cumin and chili powder, and salt and pepper, and stir.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. 

Simmer for a half an hour, covered, removing the lid every once in awhile to stir it and make sure the bottom doesn't burn.

Taste it and adjust the flavor with salt, pepper, and if you have a need for heat, hot sauce, but only add a little at a time.

You can now serve it as is, over rice, or cool, as a dip for corn chips.

If you wanna get fancy, top with grated cheese, sour cream, and corn chips and serve.

Serves 4 depending on appetite.  Like all the other stews, it will keep for 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

Chicken Adobo

The word adobo is defined as "a spicy dish or sauce". To Filipinos, it's a kind of meat dish consisting of chicken or pork marinated and then slowly simmered in a combination of vinegar and other flavors, the latter of which no Filipinos I know can agree on. As a result, adobo is a kind of secret, for which the recipe varies from family to family, cookbook to cookbook, and restaurant to restaurant. One thing they all have in common is the fact that they keep very well in a warm climate where there is little access to refrigeration, and is almost always served with rice. That being said, the recipe below was a family secret, but I'm feeling generous, and so...

Without further ado...

Let me share my adobo with you!


From the Store

3 Pounds of Chicken with bones and skin on. This can be a whole chicken hacked into pieces, OR, to make it easier on you, just buy 3 pounds of your favorite cut of chicken. DO NOT GET ANY CHICKEN WITHOUT SKIN OR BONES as the fat and flavor in the skin and bones are essential to this dish

1 piece of Ginger Root - a piece about the size of your index finger should do the job, but if you don't like ginger, use a smaller piece

1 or 2 Bay Leaves - You can buy these whole in packets or jars in the grocery store. They add great flavor to stews, but they're inedible, so either take them out just before serving, or instruct any guests not to eat them.

From the Fridge:

2 Onions, chopped small

3 to 5 cloves of garlic depending on how garlicky you like your food

From the Pantry

2 or 3 Tablespoons Basil or Oregano



Soy Sauce


Sweetener of Choice - Cane sugar is traditional, but I typically use white or brown sugar. You could also use syrup, honey, or even cola, for a subtler sweetness!

3 Tablespoons Canola or Vegetable Oil


Measuring Cup or Cups

1 Large Stockpot (see For The Culinarily Challenged - Choose Your Weapons!)

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Strainer

Measuring Spoons

1 Cutting Board and Knife

Prep your ingredients by rinsing off the chicken and patting it dry with a paper towel or a clean tea towel. In order to avoid bad bacteria, dispose of the paper towel immediately or throw the tea towel in the laundry. Season the chicken with basil or oregano and salt and pepper, though go easy on the salt, as soy sauce has plenty.

Cut the onions and garlic into tiny pieces and put em aside. Peel and slice the ginger and set that aside, too.

Using your trusty measuring cup, measure out equal parts soy sauce, vinegar and sugar and mix 'em together. You should have at least two cups of this mixture. Taste it. If you think it's too sweet, add some soya sauce. Not acidic enough for you? Add more vinegar. Not sweet enough, lay on the sweetener! The proportions are entirely up to you.

Now you can start cooking.

Heat your pot over medium high heat and dump in some oil (about a tablespoon). When the oil slides easily around in the pot, dump in your onions, stirring with a wooden spoon until they soften a little (about 3 minutes), and then add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. You can now dump in your chicken and a bay leaf or two.

Let the chicken cook for a minute or two, and then stir and cook for another two minutes on the other side, and repeat, allowing the meat to get brown-ish on all sides. This process is called browning. When the meat is browned, turn off the heat, and dump the contents of your pot in strainer in the sink and drain for a couple of minutes, see the image below. This will get rid of the excess fat and water in the chicken.

Put everything back in the pot and pour in your soy sauce, vinegar, sweetener mixture. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat just enough to keep the pot bubbling aka bring to a simmer. Let the pot simmer for an hour, stirring every once in a while to make sure the chicken comes in contact with your cooking liquid. When the chicken has taken on some of the soy sauce colour and is falling off the bone, it's ready.

Serve with rice.

Serves 4 to 6 and keeps at least 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

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