It’s no accident that our kitchens have long been considered the heart of our homes. They can — and should — be a place of comfort and relaxation. With many of us doing a lot more cooking and a lot more staying at home, I’m fairly sure the heartbeat of our home kitchens has never been louder, or more important than now. Even as a chef with two small kids, I’ll be the first to admit it can be a challenge. But cooking for ourselves and our families can also be grounding and deeply satisfying.
With our high desert nights still cool and trips to the grocery store unpredictable, I can’t think of a better time to share one of my favorite recipes of all time — Everyday Southwest Stew.
You can follow this recipe exactly and you will undoubtedly notice smiles around your table, although I have to admit I never actually measure anything when making a stew, but offer the amounts more as a guide. You can also tinker with this recipe and make it work for the ingredients you have on hand. Who knows? Maybe your new version will become a family heirloom, passed to children, grandchildren, and neighbors, a culinary snapshot from this historic moment in time.
Here’s the secret. You don’t have to go to the store for the perfect ingredient, because there are no specific ingredients that are going to make or break this stew. The only requirement is that you trust yourself and let the rest go. I’m considering this a time of invention and innovation in our home kitchens. To start, let’s take a big-picture look at this simple recipe which allows for almost endless variations:
First, start with a big, heavy-bottomed pot. Add a splash of oil or other fat to the pan. This is a great way to use bacon fat (aka bacon butter) leftover from breakfast. In this recipe, I render bacon, remove it when it’s crispy and use the leftover fat to sear the meat. You could also use ghee. The only oil I would recommend not using is extra virgin olive oil, which is best used for salads and finishing dishes.
Once the pan is hot, sear the meat. My favorite stew meat is local buffalo, but you could use almost any meat you have on hand; beef shoulder (aka chuck), beef round, ground beef, pork shoulder, pork tenderloin, sausage, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, and even bone-in chicken if you’re careful to remove the bones before adding the meat back to the pot after cooking. You could also leave out the meat altogether, use beans or grains instead, and skip to the next step.
Now it’s time to add the flavor bomb veggies, roots, and spices that are going to add loads of flavor to your stew, also referred to as mirepoix (meer-pwaa). What does this mean? This is where you choose what direction you want your stew adventure to go. In France, the classic mirepoix is a combination of celery, carrots, and onion. In Italy, cooks will often start with the French mirepoix and add parsley and garlic. Chinese mirepoix consists of green onions, ginger and garlic. If you have a hankering for Thai, try a combo of ginger, lemongrass, basil, and lime zest or leaves. In my house, we often go the Indian route and in addition to the carrots, celery and onion, add red chile, fresh ginger and turmeric, and curry powder or paste. This is the time to look around in your fridge, pantry or produce section of the market and get creative. What looks good, sounds good, and what do you have access to? Do you have any fire-roasted New Mexican chiles hiding in the freezer? I can promise you there has never been a better time to find them. In this recipe, I use herbes de provence because even though the blend originates in the southeastern region of France, it often includes New Mexico herbs like lavender, thyme, and oregano.
After your mirepoix has been hanging out in your pot for a while, now is the time to deglaze! This means add a bit of liquid to get all the caramelly goodness off the bottom of the pot and into the stew. You could add a few glugs of wine. You could add a can of coconut milk or some crushed tomatoes or broth. Scrape the pot with a wooden spoon.
HEFTY VEGETABLES & LIQUID
Now add your hefty vegetables to add texture and substance to the strew. You can add things like potato, cabbage, celery root, beet, squash, fennel, mushroom, radish, turnip, collard greens, daikon, etc. Then add more liquid to cover. This could be more broth or even water.
FINAL SEASONING & DELICATE GREENS
Depending on the meat and/or vegetables you’re using, you will want to simmer over low heat until everything is tender. This could be 40 minutes or four hours. Check the seasoning and see if you want to add salt, pepper, or other spices. For instance, sometimes when I go the Thai route, this is when I add juice from a lime or a splash of fish sauce. Just a bit to brighten it up. This is where tasting and trusting will get you where you want to go. Once everything is cooked and tender, now is the time to add greens and green vegetables. I like to add greens a few minutes (but not more) before ladling them into bowls. You can add greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, peas, rapini, chard, asparagus, etc.
My hope is that by making this stew, you’ll create new scent memories of lavender and roasted chiles.Print
Everyday Southwest Stew
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 2-3 hours
- Total Time: 4 hours
- Yield: 3-4 quarts
- Category: Soups
- Cuisine: Southwest
- 4 slices of bacon, diced
- 3 lb. beef or buffalo meat, excess fat removed and cut into 2” pieces
- 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 1 celery root, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 fire-roasted green or red chiles, peeled, seeded, and sliced
- 1 T. herbes de provence (or a mix of thyme, oregano, dried lavender)
- 3 T. tomato paste
- 1/2 c. red wine
- 3–4 yukon gold potatoes, diced
- 1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, brushed with a dry towel or cloth and quartered
- 8 cups beef broth
- 1 c. green peas
- 1 bunch kale, sliced
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, add bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve to a medium bowl, leaving the fat in the pot.
Turn the heat up to medium-high. Dry the meat with clean paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, sear the meat on all sides until caramelized. Transfer the seared meat to a bowl.
Once all the meat is seared and removed from the pot, add carrots, onion, celery root, garlic, green chile, and herbes de provence. Stir and let cook for around ten minutes.
Add tomato paste, wine, and stir for another few minutes scraping all the caramelly goodness off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Add potatoes, mushrooms, and broth. Bring to a simmer and turn heat to low. Let simmer for 2-3 hours until the meat is completely tender. Check seasoning, and add salt or pepper as needed.
A few minutes before serving, add peas and kale to the stew. Ladle into bowls and enjoy.
Keywords: southwest stew, soups, buffalo, green chile