Warming stews are a must-have here in Reno, Nevada. It gets dark sooner, and the nights are colder, dipping into the 20's. That's why a beefless, yet 'beefy' stew - with plenty of vegetables - is essential. Even if you're plant-based. Today's marketplace is filled with perfectly tasty stand-in's for meat, and if you have ventured further than Beyond Meat, then you have delicious surprises awaiting.
My freezer always has a good supply of the Gardein products - the meatless Chick'n, porkless sliced Italian sausage (which we LOVE!), and the 'beefless tips'. These products are so incredibly handy, I can reach in, grab enough for dinner, re-seal the bag and move on. And, in this sense, they're also an excellent value. Nothing to go 'bad'.
The other day, my husband was pining for a hearty stew, and since I had a good stockpile of root vegetables (always!), celery, onions, and garlic on-hand, it took no time at all to whip up a pot of rich, satisfying stew. It gets better over the next few days, and you can change it up by serving it over pasta (think 'bowtie'), whole grains from your Instant Pot, alongside baked squash, or with a big salad.
Even better, I had a Mason jar of homemade vegetable broth in the fridge, just begging to be used in something rich and delicious!
I got all the ingredients out and assembled. You might notice how I store my fresh herbs, like parsley. In a Mason jar, with a folded paper towel in the bottom, and a bit of water. Treat your fresh herbs like you'd treat fresh flowers. Cut off the dried stem ends so they can better soak up water. Then I put one of the goofy 'shower cap' food covers over the leaves to keep them drying out in the fridge. The parsley (cilantro or what have you) stays lovely and fresh for at least a week - or more - with this kind of care.
Let's start talking about specifics on ingredients, then, shall we?
1 each large carrot and parsnip. Or, two carrots, if you prefer. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
1 medium onion, diced.
1 large Russet potato, diced into bite-size chunks.
2-3 stalks celery, cut into bite-sized slices.
4-6 large mushrooms, torn into pieces.
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced.
Tomato paste - probably about 2 tablespoons.
About one quart of broth - you'll take about one cup of this to make a slurry in order to thicken your stew. If you don't have homemade broth, I recommend the Better Than Bouillion No Beef. You'll want about 4 tablespoons of Maggi Maizena Roux pour Bechamel, or flour to make the slurry to thicken the gravy.
And, about two cups (+/-) of the Beefless Tips.
Seasonings: Celery seed (about ½ teaspoon), red pepper flakes (about ½ teaspoon), some sweet paprika (about a teaspoon), I used about 1 tablespoon of Bouquet Garni herb blend. I also added several grinds of Everything But Salt blend from Reno's own, Salty, Savory, Sweet Spice &Tea Shoppe (they ship!). Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
You might notice that I don't always cut my carrots and parsnips in the predictable 'coins' but prefer a 'roll cut'. I simply think it's more interesting.
And, I 'tear' the mushrooms so they're more 'meaty' looking.
And, if you're still opening a small can of tomato paste, and then wondering what to do with the rest of it, stop that. Buy the tubes. Use what you need, and put it back in the fridge. I usually buy four to six at a time - I like the Cento brand - over at our Winco.
And, another of my favorite seasoning is the Maggi Arome. It's kind of like Worcestershire sauce or Soy sauce, but less of a 'sodium hit'. I actually use it in place of soy sauce. It's a French product, but you can get it on Amazon. It just has a flavor profile that appeals to me. I've used it in France and got used to it.
Time to get cooking!
Sauté the onions and garlic in a bit of broth. Just enough broth to keep things moving and not sticking. No, you don't need oil. Trust me. When the onions are becoming translucent, add the mushrooms. Sauté a bit more. A couple minutes. Then the celery, carrots, parsnips, and potato. Seasonings, too. I also add parsley, reserving some to garnish with at the end.
Give it all a bit of love along the way with a pinch of salt. Or, two.
When you've added all your vegetables, add the rest of the broth, and simmer until the vegetables are al dente when you pierce them with the business end of a sharp paring knife.
Now, you can add the beefless tips, and your slurry to thicken the gravy. Very briefly, bring it up to a boil, and stir. Reduce the heat back to a simmer. Is it looking thick enough for you? If not, add a bit more slurry. A splash of red wine doesn't hurt anything either. A good Beaujolais rouge, perhaps?
Let it simmer on the lowest possible setting for about an hour. This is what you're angling for. Taste. Adjust your seasonings. I always add more ground pepper. Maybe another splash of Arome or the red wine.
It's great just in a big bowl with hearty, gutsy bread, and a salad. Or, over pasta. With a nice glass of red.
This button will take you to PayPal where you can securely pop a bit in the 'tip jar'.