As the temperature drops, my desire to eat stew and soup increases. In the past two weeks I've learned a couple of new techniques. The first is for beef stews. Since reading Jane Garmey's Great British Cooking, I've been cooking meat stews in the oven in an enameled dutch oven. Everything cooks evenly, nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, and clean up is a breeze. Last weekend I took a look at one of her stew recipes and came away with this tip. Layer the ingredients in the pan so that the potatoes are sitting on top. Add liquid (whatever you generally use) only as high as the bottom of the potato layer. Cook the stew covered for the first hour and a half. Remove the lid, brush the potatoes with a little oil or melted butter, and cook for another half hour. The potatoes will develop a nice skin and brown a little. It's a simple technique that adds extra flavor and texture to a humble beef stew.
The other technique is more about mind set when it comes to root vegetable soups. For years I've been making New England Squash Soup from Moosewood Rataurant's Low-Fat Favorites. It's a delicious pureed butternut squash soup. Recently a friend gave me an immersion blender, and with my CSA share I've been getting all sorts of root vegetables. I started looking for recipes for other pureed root vegetable soups, but everything I found involved multiple pounds of one particular vegetable. Then I helped prepare soup for a church event. The recipe we followed had a little of everything in it - potatoes, celeriac, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, and turnip. What a revelation! Yesterday I dug through my stash of assorted root vegetables and just went for it. I sauted an onion in a little oil, and then through in celeriac, parsnips, turnips, and a butternut squash that wasn't going to last much longer. I added water, cooked until everything was soft, and stuck in the immersion blender. It was delicious. It's the kind of "recipe" that will turnout different each time, but that is one of things I enjoy about cooking.