The other day I made a really delicious stew. No, I mean REALLY delicious stew. I had been thinking about it for a while before I made it, ever since I rediscovered the hyssop that I had bought at Kalustyan's a long time ago. I had read up on the Mediterranean herb and learned that it was often used as a rub for lamb, as it helps with the digestion of fatty meats. And then I saw my first quinces of the season at the Greenmarket- those wonderful fruits so full of mythology. I kept thinking about a lamb stew with quince and hyssop. I wanted to make the stew before I left for Rome, where I am now, so I went to the market early last week to get all of my ingredients.Partly becuase of the NY Times article on Bill Niman's switch to sustainable goat meat, and partly because there was no lamb, I decided to use goat meat instead. I bought 1 lb of cubes from Patches of Star Goat Dairy and moved on. I wanted to marinate the meat, so I got some garlic, onions, carrots, and celery for my aromatics. And some rosemary and thyme to compliment the hyssop. What would I marinate it in? Red wine did not so like a good pairing with the quince, and white wine did not seem seasonally appropriate for some reason. Then I remembered that I had a bottle of Eve's Cidery Bittersweet in the fridge at home. Cider sounded great with quince, as apples and quinces are feminine fruit friends. It also sounded right for the season. Maybe red wine would be better for the deeper Winter months, but not for an October/November stew. I got sweet potato (the Japanese white kind), parsnips, and more carrots for the stew garnish.
Below you will find the approximate recipe, but if you want to make a stew, you can really trust your instincts for the quantities and specifics. That is the whole fun of stew- the personal nuances of flavor that only you can bring out. For now, let me just skip to the end result. The stew was delicious, 98% local, and very Autumnal. It was a repeat times 10. What I really liked about it was that it was sweet, not because of sweetners, but because of the naturally sweet cider, sweet potato, and quince. Their mellow sweetness further brought out flavors in carrots in parnsips that I had never tasted before. There is a lot of preparation work, but the technique and presentation is a no brainer.Here are the basics for my Goat, Quince, and Hyssop Stew:
1 lb goat meat, cubed
1/2 carrot, sliced in large rounds
1/2 onion, large dice
1/2 celery stalk, large chunks
Few sprigs of Rosemary
Few sprigs of thyme
Pinch of hyssop
1 clove garlic
Hard Cider (about 1 cup, enough to cover the meat)
Splash of olive oil or canola oil
Salt and Pepper
Season the meat generously with the salt and pepper. Put it in a medium-large container. Add all of the ingredients, pouring over enough cider to cover the meat, as well as a dash of oil. Marinate for 8 hours or overnight. If you can, turn the meat over in the marinade, to make sure it is all coated well.
For the stew:
2 tablespoons butter or oil or a combination of the two (you will need more, so keep it on hand)
1/2 quince, peeled and cut into medium sized chunks
1/2 carrot, peeled and cut into medium sized chunks
1/2 sweet potato (depending on size), rinsed and cut into med. chunks
1/2 parsnip, same as carrot
Goat meat drained from marinade
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Hard Cider (about 1 1/2 cups)
Rosemary, Thyme, Bay leaf
Pinch of hyssop (about 1 teaspoon)
Heat the butter/oil in a heavy bottomed pot. I love Le Creuset pots for making stews. Every woman must have one in life. Add the quince, carrot, sweet potato, and parsnip, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they gain some color. Transfer to a plate or bowl.
Toss the goat cubes with the flour and coat evenly.
Heat up more fat in the pot until very hot and add the meat. You only want to add enough meat to cover the bottom of the pan, so that you can brown each side well. Don't poke at it or turn it over too soon, or it won't gain that nice browned edge and create as much flavor for the stew. You can do this in a few rounds. Each time, wipe out the pan and add more fat. You want those little brown specks in the bottom of you pot, because those are caramelized proteins and have a lot of flavor. If you do not wipe out the pot between rounds, those can burn and ruin the overall flavor of the dish. What I do is after each round, I pour off the oil and add a few drops of cider, and quickly scrape up the protein bits (this is called "deglazing"). I pour the liquid over the vegetables or already cooked meat off to the side, and then wipe out the pan to continue cooking the meat. That way you do not waste those extra bits of flavor in between rounds.
Once you have browned all of the meat, deglaze the pot with a drop or two of cider, just enough to wet the bottom. Scrape up the brown bits and then add all of the meat and vegetables back into the pot. Pour in enough cider to just barely cover the ingredients. Add the herbs. Bring the liquid to a bare boil, and then let it simmer quietly for 1- 1/2 hours, or until the meat is falling apart at the touch. Take off the heat and serve with warm crusty bread.
Enjoy your seasonal stew!
This serves 2 people well, with enough for leftovers, but might not be enough for 4 people.
For other recipes using quince, like Quince Jam and Membrillo, check out Simply Recipes.