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High IQ Irish Stew

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    Bay Area s Climate Cries Out for Stews David Steinberg, Chronicle Staff Writer San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday, May 5, 1999 For many, stews are the ultimate
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 1999
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      Bay Area's Climate Cries Out for Stews

      David Steinberg, Chronicle Staff Writer
      San Francisco Chronicle
      Wednesday, May 5, 1999

      For many, stews are the ultimate comfort food. One good thing about living
      in Boston in winter was coming in from the miserable sleet and freezing
      rain into a kitchen redolent with the smells of a long- simmering stew.
      Curling up with a steaming bowl and a hunk of crusty bread could (almost)
      make me forget the soul-numbing chill.

      Those days are (thankfully) past but I still love stews, so trying out the
      recipes in ``Stews: 200 Earthy, Delicious Recipes,'' by Jenna Holst, was a
      wonderful chance to explore these comfort foods.

      Even though there's no snow here, in many ways the Bay Area has the perfect
      stew climate: Long after winter has passed, cool nights are common enough
      to encourage experimentation with these quick-and- easy meals. What's more,
      the leftovers let us take full advantage of the nice weather without a
      whole lot of cooking. Holst is out to convert you to thinking of stews as
      something that doesn't have to be heavy, fattening meals-in-a-bowl. With
      this book in hand, it's easy to agree. Plus, the book is as useful to the
      cook who needs to follow a recipe to the letter as it is to those who can't
      help modifying a recipe even under threat of bodily injury. Holst also
      accompanies each main recipe with suggestions for accompanying side dishes
      and gives recipes for them later in the book.

      The introduction is as integral to the book as any recipe. It is here that
      Holst develops her philosophy of stews: what can be substituted where
      (types and quantity of fat) and what can't (fresh seafood).

      Nowhere is this more evident than in her recipe for High-IQ Irish Stew. Her
      directions are simple, clear and have ample room to personalize this lamb
      dish. The result of following her recipe -- without modification -- was
      hearty, delicious and as easy as chopping the vegetables. But simple
      additions or substitutions can just as easily transform it into your
      personal signature recipe.

      The book is filled with unique recipes like Turkey Sausage and Roasted
      Peppers under Mushroom Polenta. Holst includes this hearty recipe in a
      section labeled ``Stews Under Cover,'' which includes updates of such
      standbys as pot pies, casseroles and polenta.

      She says this wonderfully colorful, intensely flavored dish is based on a
      northern Italian casserole, but it is far more like a polenta lasagna, and
      a define crowd-pleaser, even for those who don't like polenta. This recipe
      reheated beautifully and was delicious even when served cold.

      Yet another unusual application of stewing is Holst's desserts like Pears
      in Ruby Port and Vanilla. While the preparation is very simple, the results
      are elegant. Recipes like this give the book powerful appeal. A good friend
      saw my copy of the book, asked to borrow it and held it hostage. After I
      wrested it from him, he immediately went out to buy it.

      In this user-friendly book, Holst has combined imaginative recipes and
      clear, straightforward directions with winning results. So just because the
      weather is balmy, you can still have stew; they're not just for winter

      ``Stews: 200 Earthy, Delicious Recipes,'' by Jenna Holst (Macmillan, 1998,


      -- 1 tablespoon butter
      -- 2 medium leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
      -- 2 pounds trimmed boneless lamb from leg or shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch
      -- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
      -- 3 medium carrots, coarsely sliced
      -- 1 medium turnip, about 4 ounces, coarsely chopped
      -- 2 large potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cubed
      -- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
      -- 1 teaspoon salt
      -- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
      -- 2 cups water
      -- 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

      INSTRUCTIONS: 1. In a stew pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the
      leeks and cook, stirring, until the leeks are soft- centered, about 5
      minutes. Transfer the leeks to a plate and set aside. 2. Add the following
      to the pot in layers: half of the meat, half of the onions, half of the
      carrots, half of the turnip, half of the potatoes, and half of the leeks.
      Top with all the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Do not

      3. Repeat the layering. Pour the water into the pot, but do not stir.

      4. Cover the pot. Over medium-low heat, simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until
      the lamb is tender. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.

      Note: The dish may be made ahead and reheats well. Like some stews with
      potatoes, I do not recommend freezing because the potatoes get mealy.

      Serves 6.

      PER SERVING: 385 calories, 42 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat (6 g
      saturated), 134 mg cholesterol, 506 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

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