M. Andrew Gordon

Archive for the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

Last Minute Substitutions Yield Grand Results

In Beef, Main Dish, Soups and Stews, Uncategorized on March 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm

As I awoke on Sunday morning, I had a hankering for a richly spiced stew, possibly a curry or perhaps some Moroccan-inspired flavors.  That Lena would be coming back from running a 10K in the snow also made a hearty stew seem like a great idea.  Lamb stew really got me intrigued but when I went to the grocery store (I didn’t feel like making a special cross-town trip to a butcher), all of the lamb seemed excessively priced for the cuts available.  Enter the first substitution: boneless beef sirloin filets for lamb.  At this point, my thoughts began to drift back into the curry realm, and I started salivating thinking about beef rendang.  But I am nothing if not stubborn and I decided to try out the beef in a Moroccan-styled stew.

As I started chopping onions and cutting meat, I had every intention of serving this stew over rice.  But when I realized that I had several potatoes taking up space on the shelf, I decided that I’d try my hand at gnocchi.  Substitution number two turned out to be a smart one, as the soft, doughy gnocchi were the perfect accompaniment to this stew.

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Beet Soup

In Appetizers, Soups and Stews on November 16, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Loyal readers of this blog know my fondness for beets.  I think they are a remarkable vegetable that is highly underappreciated and underutilized.  Over the weekend I made a soup that was something like a borscht but that’s probably not quite fair to say.  Besides being loaded with beets, it was also stocked full of butternut squash, carrots, apples, and cranberries.

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A quick and different dinner for a Tuesday night

In Main Dish, Poultry, Soups and Stews on October 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm

A fairly quick dinner for a weeknight, made a little quicker by buying a pre-peeled butternut squash, not something I normally do.  The paprika, chile powder, and chile pepper give this stew a significant dose of heat.  If you’re not a fan of spiciness, I would omit the chile pepper.  This would also be delicious with coconut milk in place of some of the chicken stock.

Chicken-Butternut squash-Chickpea Stew

Serves 4

  • 2 lbs chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 chile pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine half the paprika, chile powder, and cinnamon.  Coat chicken.
  2. Heat half the olive oil in large pan.  Add chicken and cook until browned all over.  Remove to a plate.
  3. Add remaining oil and cook squash until starting to brown and beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Add onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes.  Add remaining paprika and cumin, stirring to combine.  Cook for an additional five minutes.  Return chicken and squash to pan.
  4. Add chile pepper, chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Cover, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Add chickpeas and cook for five minutes.  Stir in lemon zest and champagne vinegar.  Serve with cilantro, salt, and pepper.

Pork, Pumpkin, and Peanut Stew

In Main Dish, Soups and Stews on November 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm

I realized how ridiculous I sometimes sound when I was trying to describe the main course at a beer tasting and I pulled out this line: “it’s a kind of riff on a North African theme.”  What the hell gave me the right to comment on the culinary traditions of North Africa, I thought to myself as I said it.  And in fact, I don’t have any right to be spouting off about this sort of thing.  But somewhere along the way I have absorbed enough ancillary knowledge to understand the constituent ingredients to some dishes from that region.  This disclaimer needs to be said again, however, in that I make no claims that this is indicative of traditional North African cuisine.  It is merely my interpretation.

Yet again I need to pull out several tired themes that come up on this blog fairly regularly, namely squashes and pork.  The former is purely a product of the season – good squashes are still readily available and so I am taking advantage of that.  The latter is a product of taste and costs.  When I can pick up a seven-pound pork butt (shoulder) for somewhere just north of a dollar per pound, it is tough to pass up.  Factor in an appreciation for pork’s versatility and it becomes a staple in the repertoire.  Just to pause for a moment to comment on the versatility of the swine, it seems to me that pork perfectly straddles the world of terrestrial meats.  It is more flavorful and substantive than most fowl (I’ll give the nod to the waterfowls any day) and it is less hearty than beef.  At home in a stew or a roast, grilled or braised, it is just pretty damn good.  I digress.

Because of that ability to buy pork shoulders cheap, I had stockpiled a few shoulder bones in the freezer and I figured this past weekend would be the perfect opportunity to make a pork stock.  Pork stock, you say?  Never heard of it?  I wasn’t sure I had either, but what the hell.  Stock is pretty easy to make but it is time consuming.  For a really good read on it, check out Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food, Version 2.0.  Long story short is that you want to bring water/bone mixture to a boil and scoop out foam as it rises to the surface.  After about five minutes the stock should be fairly clear.  Reduce to a simmer and add some onions, carrots, celery, and black peppercorns.  Cook for several hours, at least four or five.  Unfortunately there is no way to shorten this process which is why making stock isn’t an everyday activity.

I’m not sure how much the pork stock really added to the flavor of this dish and I would think that chicken stock would suffice just fine.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty straight forward, for once.

While almost certainly not what the brewer’s intended, I paired this with Mayflower Brewing’s Thanksgiving Ale, their take on a combination of an Old Ale and a Strong Ale.

Pork, Pumpkin and Peanut Stew

  • 1 pumpkin, quartered
  • 7 lb pork shoulder, bone and skin removed, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon asoefitada
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large kubocha squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups pork stock, or chicken stock
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • Sea Salt, to taste
  • 2 red onions, cut into eighths
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Set pumpkin quarters in baking dish and add a cup of water.  Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes or until flesh is tender.
  2. Place pork in a large bowl.  Combine kosher salt, 1 teaspoon each of the pepper, cumin, paprika, and turmeric, the cinnamon and asoefitada in a separate bowl.  Pour over pork and turn to coat.
  3. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Cook pork in batches until browned and reserve.
  4. Add more oil and cook onion and garlic until soft.  Add remaining  spices and chile powder and stir.  Add pork and any accumulated juices.
  5. Scoop pumpkin flesh into large bowl and stir in two cups of the stock and the peanut butter.  Mix thoroughly.  Add mixture to pot with pork.  Stir in the sweet potatoes, squash, and two cups of stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours.
  6. Coat onions with olive oil and roast in oven for 30 minutes.  Season stew with salt and ladle into bowls.  Top each with some red onion and serve.

A Rather Unusual Dinner

In Main Dish, Soups and Stews on November 7, 2009 at 9:33 am

Yet again I was faced with using some ancillary ingredients and a few things left in the refrigerator and I was dealing with two facts:

1. I would be getting home after work and needing to cook for a couple of people, none of whom were opposed to trying something bizarre. And,

2. Pork shoulder is a great cut of meat but it needs time to tenderize it.

IMG_3065So, before I left the house for work in the morning I devised the basic building blocks here: a slow-cooked pork in a flavorful, ale-based, braising liquid, which by the time I got back to the house twelve hours later it would be fall-apart tender.  I would serve that over a “salad” of roasted pumpkin, cubes of toasted cornbread, and cranberries.

One problem arose with this plan.  Embarrassingly, I have never worked with a raw pumpkin before and assumed I could slice off the skin as easily as most squashes.  In fact, sugar pumpkins have a brittle, hard shell; or at the very least, this one did.  Luckily enough, there was a spare buttercup waiting to be used.

This was an incredibly easy thing to prepare and really seems best as a strategy for using leftovers.  I actually had some reservations about serving but one of the guests allayed those fears when he said upon his first bite, “the only problem with this is that there isn’t going to be any left for seconds.”


  • 2 ½ pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil
  • 1 bottle brown ale
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 red onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 large carrot, broken into 2 inch sections
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried poblano, seeds and stem removed

1. Season pork with salt and pepper and brown, in batches, in hot skillet.  Transfer to slow cooker and add remaining ingredients.  Cook for at least 6 hours.

2. Remove cinnamon stick and carrots.  Serve over cornbread-squash salad.

Corn bread

Jiffy Mix using buttermilk instead of regular milk.  Buttermilk is unnecessary, I just happened to have some I wanted to use up.  I also baked this in larger dish so the bread was thin.  Any not too-sweet cornbread will work fine here.  Cut it into 1 inch pieces and toast in oven for about 10 minutes so that all sides get a little crisp.

Squash, skin removed, cubed, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roasted, 40-45 minutes, flipping squash once to evenly brown.


  • Half medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries

1. Combine liquid ingredients and whisk.  Add onions and cranberries and stir.  When ready to serve, combine squash and corn bread in large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.

Pork Tinga with Guacamole and Gorditas

In Main Dish, Soups and Stews on November 1, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Tinga, a Mexican stew of pork, chorizo, tomatoes, and chipotle, is something I have read about but have never had.  I’m not sure this anywhere close to an accurate representation of the dish but I suspect even with the addition of potatoes, it’s not too far off.  Since I was planning on being away most of the day, I had decided to cook it in the slow cooker and upon returning home, I would make gorditas or tostadas, or in the worst case scenario, use store bought tortillas to serve the tinga.

Everything worked to plan except when I went to grab the masa harina from the shelves, I realized I didn’t actually have any.  So I took a bit of a gamble and mixed together corn meal and flour and tried making the gorditas out of that.  The end result was a rather dense and hard corn disk; the flavors went well with the tinga but it was a little too tough for me.

Pork Tinga

  • 2 ½ pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • ½ pound chorizo, cases removed and crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 6-8 medium-small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle puree
  • ½ stick cinnamon
  • 4 or 5 oregano leaves
  • 1 dried cascabel pepper, seeds in
  • 1 dried New Mexico chile, seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  1. Combine pork and chorizo in bowl.  Combine pepper, salt, chile powder, oregano, and cumin in small bowl and mix into the pork.
  2. Heat oil in deep skillet and cook pork and chorizo in batches until well brown.  Transfer meat and its juices to slow cooker.  Add tomatoes and their juices, onion, garlic, potatoes, and chipotle puree.  Mix together.
  3. Using cheesecloth, make a small bundle out of the cinnamon, oregano, chile peppers, and allspice.  Tie with kitchen twine and place into the middle of the mixture.  Cook on low for 6 hours.


  • 2 avocados, skins removed and diced
  • 1 cherry pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Juice of l lime
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  1. Mix together ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Japonesa Squash + A Few Other Things = Perfect Autumn Meal

In Main Dish, Soups and Stews on October 16, 2009 at 10:07 am

First, I want to say that this recipe was unnecessarily complicated because of a desire to use up some ingredients on hand.  I will discuss how it can be simplified but decided to include the recipe as it was made for the sake of integrity.  While I will try to not often pat myself on the back, this turned out to be quite good.  But what I am most proud of is with this is having created an incredibly flavorful stew/soup without having to add much in the way of spices or herbs.  Instead, all of the flavors come together and complement everything else, needing only a hit of salt and pepper to work.  I have to say I impressed myself.

Besides being delicious and, bacon excluded, not terribly unhealthy, what I like best about this dish is how flexible I think it could be.  It is substantial enough that you could omit the chicken altogether if such were your inclination.  So at that point, it’s only a step or two away from being all vegetables.  If you leave the bacon out, I would add a dash of butter to increase the richness.  Or maybe replace a cup of the stock with coconut milk and a teaspoon or two of curry powder.  You could use carrots if you had them and not parsnips or just use them anyway.  You could replace the squash with any gourd, I suspect, although I would think you might want to add some honey or brown sugar if using something like a butternut.  The japonesa* and kabocha squashes are particularly sweet, so in my estimation they do not need any additional sweetening in a dish like this.  The point in all of this is that this could be a very flexible recipe.

*Japonesa squash are dark green with a warty, bumpy exterior and are related to the slightly more common kabocha.  I can find them at my local market but if they are not available, try a buttercup or butternut instead.  Or even a sugar pumpkin.

The cascabel peppers do a suitable job of adding just enough spiciness to this.  They are a mild chile pepper so not much in the way of heat is contributed to the stew.  If you can not find cascabel peppers, I would look to use a single Anaheim pepper, perhaps. You could omit it entirely but I would strongly discourage it.  As another option, a couple of teaspoons of chipotle puree could also be used in place of the peppers.

IMG_2964As for why I described this as being unnecessarily complicated, it is because of the two different cuts of chicken used.  While some might argue that is a strength, and I would concur, it does add additional steps in the cooking.  Honestly, you can use any piece of a chicken – breast, thigh, drumstick, wings even (though the meat yielded from most wings is insubstantial).  This also could be a good candidate for roasting a whole chicken and pulling the meat off, adding as much or as little as you like the stew.  If you really wanted to save time and effort, you could even just pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket and use that.

In wrapping this up, I am curious to hear how others might define a dish like this.  By definition, I don’t believe this can be considered a stew because the meat is not really stewed, or braised.  It’s cooked separately by two different methods and then added to the rest of the ingredients.  But given the consistency and richness, it simply begs to be called a stew.  Any thoughts out there on this?

Pairing: I found the Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout by Cape Ann Brewing to be quite good alongside this stew.  There is just enough pumpkin flavor and spice to complement the flavors of the squash and sweet potato, but also the expected roasted malt flavors of a stout to offset the richness of the stew.

In addition, we poured a Pretty Things Brewing St. Botolph’s Town with dessert, which may or may not have been an attempt at a sweet apple gnocchi over vanilla ice cream.  No recipe yet, because it realistically needs work.  If anyone has thoughts on how to make apple gnocchi as a dessert, please do tell.  Expect to hear more on this in the future regardless.

Squash and Root Vegetable Stew

  • 1 japonesa or kabocha squash, halved
  • 5 or 6 chicken drumsticks, skin on
  • 2 sweet potatos, scrubbed and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 red onions, one diced and one cut in half and each half cut into eighths
  • ¼ lb bacon, diced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half length-wise and sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cascabel peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.  Place one halve of the squash in an eight-inch baking dish.  Add about 1 cup of water and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until squash is soft.
  2. In heavy pot or dutch oven, heat one to two tablespoons olive oil.  Season drumsticks with salt and pepper and brown in the pot, 4 to 5 minutes.  Place drumsticks on a baking sheet, cover, and place in oven for 40 minutes or until juices run clear.  When cool, pull meat from bones and reserve.
  3. Peel the remaining halve of the squash and chop into ½ chunks.  Combine squash, sweet potato, parsnips, and quartered red onion.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Stir to coat vegetables and place on two baking sheets.  Vegetables should be in a single layer.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning vegetables to cook evenly.
  4. In heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon to paper towel-lined dish.
  5. Cook chicken breasts in the bacon fat until browned, 3 or 4 minutes, and remove.
  6. Add onion, garlic, and peppers and cook until soft and onion begins to caramelize.  Transfer to food processor, scoop out flesh from the cooked squash and add to the processor along with 2 cups of the stock.  Puree until mixture is smooth and pour back into pot/dutch oven.  Alternatively, you could use an immersion blender for this step.
  7. Stir in remaining stock, chicken, and roasted vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper and let simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.

Chef’s Tip If you want this to be even thicker, simmer a little longer as the cubed squash will start to break down and contribute to a thicker consistency.

The Versatile Buttercup Squash

In Desserts, Soups and Stews on October 6, 2009 at 2:38 am

The buttercup squash doesn’t get enough credit.  Sure, everyone sees the venerable butternut squash, with its sleek tan shape, everywhere.  And the acorn squash with its dark green skin and neat ridges is pretty common.  Squash CheesecakeHell, even the hubbard squash for all its bulbous grey-green glory, gets some pub.  But the buttercup – yes, buttercup, not butternut – just seems to be the forgotten gourd.  It is a shame, because I think it’s one of the best squashes.  And so I found myself with a good sized buttercup this past weekend.  TIP: look for squashes that look heavy relative to their size; they should be dense and if it feels light it might be a sign that the squash is getting stringy, which is not good.

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When Peru and Venezuela Meet in Brighton

In Main Dish, Side Dishes, Soups and Stews on September 23, 2009 at 12:52 am

Wanting use up some red potatoes and grilled chicken and not wanting to take the time to stop at the store on my way home, I decided to try to make a stew inspired by a dish I had at a Peruvian restaurant back in February.  It had chicken, beans, and potato sitting in a rich and flavorful sauce.  I realize that red potatoes are probably not an accurate choice for a Peruvian dish, but this was not striving for regional accuracy.  This was just trying to make something quick for dinner.  As the potatoes and beans cook, they break down enough to thicken the stew.  I also used beer as the only liquid added to it to provide some more flavor.  Really, this blog could have been called “Just Add Beer” and it would make as much sense.

While that simmered, I tried a recipe from NYTimes food columnist Mark Bittman.  If you get a chance, his column – The Minimalist – and his blog, Bitten, often have really good recipes.  Arepas, a sort of Venezuelan corn cake, seemed like a good accompaniment to this stew.  In the end, the resulting arepas were not quite what I expected, being more of a hearty corn pancake.  Which I guess isn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I envisioned.

But combined, the two worked well together, the buttery arepas and the thick stew of beans, potato, and chunks of chicken is definitely something I will revisit this fall and winter. Read the rest of this entry »

Thai Coconut Chicken Chowder

In Soups and Stews on September 19, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Last Saturday was a cold and rainy day in the Boston area, leading me to visions of long-simmered stews, chicken pot pies, buttery biscuits, spicy bowls of chili, and roasted butternut squash.  But there was a small part of me that was sad to see summer slipping by and longing for something to serve as a send off to summer.  There seemed plenty of time for all of the things I love about fall and winter cooking.  I settled on making an Asian inspired chicken dish that could be served with lettuce wraps, something along the lines of a chicken with peanut-ginger sauce dish that I really like.

Somehow, despite my desire to stay away from autumnal dishes, I wound up with something that seemed much like a chowder, with coconut milk substituting for dairy, and the bright flavors of a Thai soup like Tom kha gai without the sweetness.  In the end, I created what I had actually wanted: a warm, filling meal for a cold, rainy day.  I thought this was a great dish, one that deserves some fine tuning and another place on the table.

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