Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moving on Through Fall!

For your Book of Days:

Record the sounds, sights, tastes, and textures of late October. Include a photo of trees that are changing colors. Think about happy memories that have to do with fall and write about some of them. Especially concentrate on happy memories that have to do with home or family.


Fall is a great time to cook stew. As the weather turns colder, we naturally crave foods that are warm and hearty -- such as stew, soup, or chili. Stew is a particularly inexpensive way to provide your family with that warm and hearty sensation, as well as some healthy nutritional value. It also has a pleasing aroma.

To "stew" food involves cooking meat and/or vegetables slowly in liquid and serving them in the gravy that results from this slow cooking process. The liquid in the stew is generally cooked at a simmering, rather than boiling, point. The longer the stew simmers, the more the flavors combine and work together to create a wonderful taste.

The reason that stew is economical is that it is a suitable way of cooking the least tender and, thus, least costly cuts of meat. There are vegetable stews, as well, which usually depend on some type of inexpensive bean or legume as the main ingredient.

The liquid in stews is often thickened. One way to do this is by coating the meat with flour and searing the meat before adding the other ingredients and the liquid. Another way is to make a roux or a beuerre manie. These involve mixing butter and flour in equal parts. When using a roux, you melt the fat in a pan and add the flour, cooking it so that the mixture will not taste too "floury" in the stew or sauce. With a beuerre manie, you knead the butter and flour together in a ball and then whisk it in the pan. Another way to thicken the sauce in a stew is to add cornstarch. You can also take up a bit of the simmering liquid into a small cup, add flour to the liquid in the cup, and whisk it until there are no lumps. Then, you can add the liquid/flour mixture slowly back into the stew. This last method is helpful if you realize that your stew is too thin well into the cooking process.

A common American stew is made of stew meat (beef), potatoes, carrots, and onions. However, beef is just one of many meats that can form the basis for a stew. Lamb, chicken, pork, and game are often stewed.

In the South, particularly in south Georgia and north Florida, Brunswick stew is popular. Though it was probably originally made with squirrel and corn, today's Brunswick stew is more likely to be made of chicken, beef, and pork or, most likely, some combination thereof. This is especially true if you eat stew made in a restaurant. Sometimes, home cooks also add rabbit or venison. Most recipes call for corn, onion, and tomatoes, and some recipes also add okra or lima beans. Many people serve Brunswick stew as a side dish for a meal of barbecued meat.

Another popular American stew is a fricassee. The name comes from the French fricassée. American fricasse is usually stewed chicken in a sauce thickened with butter and cream or milk. Technically, fricassee can be made with any number of white meats, such as veal or or rabbit. The meat is cut into pieces. Cajun fricassee is darker in color than many fricassees, for it is cooked with a dark roux.

Chicken stew can be served with dumplings, with is a popular American way of topping a stew. Dumplings in stew can either be drop dumplings -- which fluff up when cooked -- or more like thick, wide noodles.

This weeks homework: Find a new recipe for stew, cook it, and record it in your home economics book and/or blog about it. You probably have a few favorite ways to prepare stew already. Most long-time cooks know how to stew without using a recipe. But, try something just a little different this time.


Have you attacked your attic cleaning projects? What about the garage?

Have you planned your Thanksgiving meal? Your Christmas meal? It's not too early to draw up menus for these events. As we've been discussing, it's easier on the budget to start buying non-perishable items you will need. Work them in to your weekly grocery lists item by item. By doing this, you won't have to buy all of the ingredients for large, holiday meals during one budget period.

Happy home keeping!

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