As winter wears on, we count on cooking not just to keep the chill at bay, but to lift our spirits as well. Days may still be short and the skies may still be gray, but stirring a hot pot with flavors from around the world can transport your table to balmier, more exotic climes.
A good example is Mediterranean-Style Fish Stew, which evokes images of faraway ports. This ancient hot pot is redolent with garlic and herbs and seafood, a delight. It's signature is an accompanying bowl of a kind of red pepper mayonnaise called Rouille, which is stirred into the broth to create a tableau as pretty as a
I also greet guests at least once or twice this time of year with a braised pheasant laced with herbs and a slug of dark rum. I simmer the tasty but sinewy bird in pineapple juice, which offers a natural tenderizer from its enzyme, bromelain.
Highbrow shiitakes or crimini mushrooms also stake their claim in this upscale hot pot, but everyday button variety mushrooms are fine too.
And I always find it hard to get through the winter without a comforting skillet or two of Spirit Braised Chicken, an updated version of down-home smothered chicken. My twist on the braising sauce features mushrooms, onions, garlic, herbs and a swig of vermouth or dry sherry, surely the making of a warming trend.
Recipes for all of these stylish hot pots follow.
MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE FISH STEW
I first savored this delectable stew years ago in the South of
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1/4 cup olive or grapeseed oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 or 3 green onions (scallions) or 1 leek, chopped
1/2 bulb fresh fennel, chopped or 2 to 3 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
5 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
8 cups fish stock (see note below) or 4 cups clam juice and 4 cups water
3 or 4 coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes, or 1 cup whole canned tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 little neck clams, well scrubbed
1 pound fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound firm flesh firm, such as halibut, cod or monkfish, cut into 3 inch-size pieces
1 pound sea scallops
Crusty bread or biscuits
Grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
Heat the oil in a large kettle or Dutch oven. Stir in the yellow onion and the green onions or leek. Add the fennel and garlic, and saute over low heat 4 or 5 minutes, stirring.
Stir in the saffron, bay leaf and orange rind, and saute 1 minute longer. Add the fish stock or the clam juice and water, the tomatoes, salt and black pepper.
Bring the pot to a gentle boil, stirring. As soon as the liquid is bubbling, lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes, stirring a time or two.
Add the scrubbed clams to the broth, immerse completely, raise the heat a bit, cover and cook until the clams open, for about 4 minutes.
Remove the clams from pot and keep warm. Reduce the heat. Add the shrimp, halibut, cod or monkfish, and the scallops, and cover the seafood completely with the broth.
Cook about 10 minutes or until the fish is tender and opaque in color, gently turning over in the broth once or twice. When done, turn the heat off and set the clams back in the pot on top of the fish and cover tightly.
Meanwhile, warm 4 large serving bowls and a large platter. Warm the bread or biscuits, or slice and toast if desired.
To serve: Using a large slotted spoon place the fish on the warmed platter. Pour the hot broth into the bowls, and pass the bread or biscuits, grated cheese, and the Rouille or
QUICK FISH STOCK
Combine 10 cups water in a large pot with 2 sliced onions, shells from the pound of shrimp, 2 or 3 fish heads, 1/4 teaspoons cloves, 2 cloves of finely minced or crushed garlic, plus 2 teaspoons dried or fresh thyme, a bay leaf or two, and 1/2 cup parsley sprigs. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain and use 8 cups of the stock in the above recipe.
2 cups water
1 red bell pepper
1 small red chili pepper, moderately hot, not habanero or Scotch Bonnet, which are real hot
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs or boiled white potato
2 or 3 tablespoons of the hot soup liquid
1/4 cup olive oil, or as needed
Pinch of salt
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add both peppers and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain the bell pepper, cut open and discard the seeds. Chop both peppers coarsely.
Combine the bell pepper, chili pepper, the bread crumbs or boiled potato, and the hot soup liquid in a blender or food processor and whirl or process until smooth.
Spoon the mixture into a small bowl. Add the olive oil a few drops at a time, beating with a wire whisk until thick and creamy. Stir in a pinch of salt, and serve the sauce with the fish stew.
Makes about 1 cup.
Specialty mushrooms such as shiitake or crimini or morels give this dish real cache, but button mushrooms are fine too.
3 to 3 1/2 pound pheasant, cut into serving pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped sage
2 or 3 cloves crushed garlic
3 or 4 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
1 onion sliced
1/2 to 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup brandy or to taste
1 cup canned pineapple juice
Rinse the pheasant with cold water and pat dry with paper toweling. Sprinkle the bird with the salt, black pepper, cinnamon, sage and garlic, rubbing the herbs and seasoning well into the skin and flesh.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy pot with a lid or in a Dutch oven. Add a few pieces of the pheasant at a time and brown over high heat for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Don't crowd the pan.
Remove the pheasant when browned, place on a platter and continue browning the rest of the pheasant in the same way.
Reduce the heat to medium low, stir in the onion and mushrooms and saute for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring and turning over, or just until the mushrooms take on a sheen.
Returned the browned pheasant to the pan and sprinkle over the brandy, turning over the pieces as needed. Pour over the pineapple juice.
Cover the pot with its lid. Place the pot of pheasant in the hot oven and bake for about 50 minutes, turning over the pieces in the braising liquid a couple times.
Then, reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees, remove the lid or cover, and bake the pheasant 20 or so minutes longer, turning over a couple times in the pot liquid, or until the game is tender and succulent.
Serve with parsley potatoes or au gratin potatoes, if desired.
SPIRIT BRAISED CHICKEN
3 1/2 pounds frying chicken pieces (mixture of legs, thighs, wings, breast, or your choice)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 tablespoons corn or peanut oil, divided
1/3 to 1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry sherry or apple cider
12 small white onions or two large white onion
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme, fined chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth, about
Trim and discard any excess fat and skin from the chicken pieces. Rinse the chicken under cold running water, and pat very dry with paper toweling. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and black pepper.
Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy skillet or heavy pot or Dutch oven that has a lid or cover.
Add a few pieces of the chicken at a time and brown over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Don't crowd the pan.
Remove the chicken to a platter or dish when it is nicely browned and brown the remaining pieces the same way, adding a little more oil if needed.
When all the chicken is browned, pour over the vermouth or sherry or cider and set aside.
Rinse and peel the onions, and pat dry with toweling. If using large onions, cut into wedges.
Add a little more oil to the pan if needed, and stir in the onions, mushrooms, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Saute the vegetables for 5 to 6 minutes, or until softened, stirring a couple times.
Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and cook over low heat, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
Pour in the chicken broth, stirring until the sauce is well blended. Return the chicken with its drippings to the skillet or pot, stirring well. Bring the gravy to a gentle boil, turning over the chicken several times.
As soon as the gravy is bubbling, cover the skillet or pot and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer the chicken, turning over occasionally, for about 40 minutes or until the pieces are fork tender and the juices run golden when pierced with a fork. Note: check chicken breast for doneness after 30 minutes of simmering.
At serving, place the chicken in a warm serving dish and set aside. Bring the sauce to a boil again, and cook for a few minutes, stirring until the gravy is the consistency of heavy cream. Pour the spirited sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
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Stews and Casseroles: Mediterranean-Style Fish Stew, Oven-Braised Pheasant, Spirit Braised Chicken - Joyce White Recipes
(c) 2010 Joyce White Recipes
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