Okay, I admit it. This is an exception to my month of fast and simple recipes. Don’t worry—there are plenty of quick weeknight meals headed your way in the weeks to come. I just couldn’t help myself! Last weekend snow started falling in Portland and didn’t stop for four days. While this may not be true winter weather for much of the country, it was enough to keep many Portlanders homebound, myself included. After a few days indoors, this stew was the perfect project to occupy my stir-crazy self. Fortunately this hearty winter stew makes six servings, so it actually is a time-saver in the long run. It’s also delicious and, like most stews, tastes even better after it sits.
For this stew I chose to use my cast-iron pot. If you’re adept at carving meat, by all means buy a pork shoulder and cut it into stew-sized bites yourself. Otherwise, pre-cut stew meat from your butcher will work just fine. It’s important not to stir the meat, but instead to let it sear on each side. Once it’s seared it shouldn’t stick to the pan at all, so if it’s sticking it might not be browned enough yet. This recipe uses chipotles in adobo, which add a little heat and smokiness. Not all brands are gluten free, so read labels carefully. The other potential source of gluten in this recipe is beer. Since I enjoy dry hard cider, that’s my substitution of choice. This time I used Wanderlust from Wandering Aengus, but I also love Anthem’s Dry Hopped Cider because it combines the hoppiness of beer with the lightness of cider.
Before placing the stew in the oven, cover it with a parchment paper lid. This method is a French technique called cartouche. I used the actual lid of the cast-iron pot to cut out a circle of adequate size. Once the stew is in the oven, the hard work is done. All you need to do is standby to add potatoes and shallots after the first half hour, then roasted red peppers after the second half hour. When it comes out of the oven, stir in the fresh cilantro. At the end of cooking be sure to follow the instructions for degreasing! This important step will give you a healthier, more flavorful result.
I will make this stew again and again. The flavors meld together perfectly to create something slightly spicy, smoky, and rich tasting, but not heavy feeling. Just right for a snow-day.
Fine Cooking Issue 121