Resurrection stew

3 Mar

I dedicate this original stew to the gays in my life. Tonight I hosted dinner for four of the sweetest men I’ve ever cooked for. They gave compliments, commentary and constructive criticism freely and genuinely. I spent four fun hours cooking a feast last night, and it turned out quite well. Three winners out of three and wonderful company are about as good as it gets.

I made two oldies, both of which are listed on this site. Quinoa, chayote and red onion salad is delicious, especially with an extra boost of lemon juice and vinegar. A reappearance of shrimp and scallion pancakes from Gourmet was also well-received because I substituted the shrimp for sliced, REAL kimchi. But, the winner of the night was a soup, a concoction of mine that had a long journey and is quite complex, but turned out especially savory.

The wet market was closed when I got off work at 8 p.m. last night. As disappointing as this was, a quick trip to Jusco was pleasant, especially since it turned out that my roommate was hanging around in there, probably looking for promotions, and was present to consult about our premeditated dinner party for the next night that was just then coming together. After 8, most of the produce goes on sale, especially the older stuff. Old stuff’s great for soups, and that just happened to be the centerpiece of the menu.

I bought a bunch of stuff and knew immediately that I had a huge undertaking ahead of me even though I tried to convince myself that I didn’t, especially considering I started on everything around 9 p.m. But eventually, I slowly, distractedly started on the soup, and the 3-hour-later result was spectacular.

I started with bacon and butter. My favorites. I couldn’t decide which would be better so I used them both. I couldn’t recall at the time whether I’d actually seen bacon sauteing in butter, 2 tablespoons of it to be exact. To the butter and not-so-fatty Chinese bacon, not yet cooked through, I added large-dice bell pepper, leeks, and carrots. After the leeks started to break apart, I added about a quart and a half vegetable broth, made with the bullion cubes again, and large chunks of white potatoes and winter squash. I also added, at some point in the aforementioned process, dried basil and oregano, yellow curry powder, salt, pepper, and Spanish paprika.

After realizing that my little brew was quite strange, with its many cubed vegetables and nothing else to hold it together except a liquidy broth, I began to panic. What’s so nice about this soup?, I thought. This looks like something concocted by someone who needs to eat, not someone who loves food. A brief consult session with my roommate later and I realized my soup needed saving. It was on a fast course to being a tasty but strange and apology-inducing liquid-and-chunks flop. As I racked my brain for inspiration regarding how to change my soupy mess, I remembered that I lived in a world of sweet, amidst a people with an eternal sweet-tooth so strong that it influences even the most salty and savory of dishes. Everything is sweet here. Why shouldn’t my soup be just a little sweet, too?

So, I added some sweet chili sauce, which is used all over the place here. That improved the flavor, but the soup was still lacking something in its substance. I thawed some frozen marinated peppered beef that had been hanging out in the freezer. I cubed it, browned those and threw them into the now-stew-like mixture of breaking-down veggies. After around an hour of bubbling, the soup had thickened, and the broth had taken on a thicker concentration. The beef cooked for about 10 minutes before I turned off the soup and let it cool. A day in the fridge later, it reheated in the pot to one of the most savory soups I’ve ever made.

So many things congealed. Perfectly almost-sparse beef chunks and bacon slices were hanging out with large, breaking down, completely saturated pieces of potato, hard squash, carrots and bell pepper. The onions were a backdrop, blending in with the broth. The strength of the broth (I added more concentrate than necessary) and the complexity of the spice mixture combined so well with the chili paste, which was this dish’s ninja. I forgot to tell the boys tonight about that little one, so it’ll remain a secret to anyone who doesn’t read this!

I laugh as I type this because of the extraordinarily large, expanded stomach in front of me, proving that I quite enjoyed myself at the dinner table tonight. Good red wine as accompaniment never hurts, either!

Ingredients:
-4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch strips
-2 T. butter
-4-5 cloves garlic, minced
-2 large leeks, sliced
-2 large carrots, cubed (1/2 inch)
-green bell pepper, chopped (1 inch squares)
-salt, freshly ground pepper
-dried oregano
-dried basil
-2 cups winter squash, cubed
-2 large white potatoes, cubed
-5-6 cups vegetable broth
-Spanish paprika, curry powder
-2 T. sweet chili sauce
-marinated pepper beef, cut into large cubes and browned in 1 T. olive oil.

Directions:
1. Saute bacon and butter over medium heat.
2. Add garlic for 1 minute. Then add leeks, carrot, and bell pepper.
3. Add salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Saute until leeks begin to fall apart.
4. Add broth. When potatoes begin to fall apart, add paprika, curry powder and chili paste.
5. After soup has cooked an hour, add browned, not-yet-cooked-through beef. Let cook another 20 minutes.

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One Response to “Resurrection stew”

  1. gmomj March 3, 2011 at 14:36 #

    Sounds like a good time was had by all.

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