Comforting for body and soul, stews are also fairly hard to mess up. That makes them appealing for both an easy weeknight meal and for entertaining, when you want to keep kitchen time to a minimum while pleasing a crowd. Pair these recipes with a salad and maybe some crusty bread or biscuits and you'll have a meal that will make anyone feel cozy on the coldest day.
Read on for three tasty and simple stews to try this winter, with a meat, fish and vegetarian option in the mix.
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A beef stew with Spanish roots
This Spanish stew, layered with rich flavors, is even tastier the day after it's made. It’s a rustic recipe that’s perfect for a crock pot or Dutch oven, says blogger Ayngelina Brogan of the food and travel blog baconismagic.com, who shared her recipe with AARP.
The version is called Chilindron, Brogan says, and if you’re entertaining a crowd, you can make it the day before and reheat it when it’s time to serve.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to use a lean cut of beef in this stew, Brogan says. Fat equals flavor, so look for beef cuts with fat marbled throughout that will melt and tenderize while cooking, adding to the stew’s delicious layers.
- 3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 10 small starchy potatoes, cut in half
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon
- 1/2 cup bacon, diced
- 2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped
- 2 cups yellow onion, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1. Remove stewing beef from fridge, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow beef to come to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
2. Heat cast iron pan to medium-high heat. Once hot, add vegetable oil. When oil shimmers add beef and brown 1 to 2 minutes per side. Cook beef in batches and set aside.
3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add bacon and cook 3 minutes more. Add garlic and cook 45 seconds.
4. Add beef back to pan. Add two cups of red wine, using a spatula to scrape bits sticking to bottom of pan. Bring wine to a boil and cook until wine is reduced by half.
5. Move everything to a slow cooker or Dutch oven, except for potatoes and cornstarch. Add fresh thyme sprigs. Cook on low for 3 hours in slow cooker or at 190°F in Dutch oven with the top on.
6. Add potatoes, making sure they are submerged in liquid.
7. Cook for 30 minutes, then take a cup of stew liquid and add a tablespoon of cornstarch to it. Mix thoroughly back into pot and continue to simmer.
8. Serve after 4 hours of total cooking time, removing thyme sprigs before ladling into bowls.
An aromatic vegetarian stew
Your kitchen will fill with enticing aromas as soon as you start sizzling the initial ingredients of this vegetarian stew, allowing the lentils, fresh ginger and curry to intermingle as they gently simmer away on your stovetop. Depending on how strong you like your flavors, feel free to add more ginger, garlic and curry powder than the recipe calls for. The stew is a meal on its own, but it's also delicious with a side of warm focaccia or naan on a cold winter’s night.
Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon mild curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
- 3/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine
- 1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- Lime wedges
1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté onion until it just begins to brown, roughly 8 minutes.
2. Add finely chopped garlic, ginger, curry power and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
3. Add lentils, tomatoes, 1/2 cup cilantro, salt and 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth.
4. Stir coconut milk thoroughly and add 3/4 cup to pot, reserving rest for garnish.
5. Bring ingredients to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook 20 to 25 minutes, until lentils are soft.
6. Ladle into bowls and top with fresh cilantro, a drizzle of coconut milk and a squeeze of lime.
A hearty smoked salmon and tomato stew
Fish stew recipes tend to vary regionally. This one, borrowed from the church cookbook of the Skagway First Presbyterian Church in Alaska, is easy to prepare no matter where you live, with canned tomato soup and fresh and smoked salmon as a base. “Every time we make it, it’s a little different, because my wife has been experimenting with different combinations of seasonings when preparing smoked salmon,” says the church’s reverend, Ryan Mandeville. “But a creamy tomato soup taste is always at the core.”
Skagway Smoked Salmon Tomato Stew
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3/4 pounds salmon filet, chopped into small cubes
- 2 to 4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
- 2 cups diced tomatoes seasoned with pinch of basil, garlic and oregano
- 2 cans tomato soup
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
- 2 cups cream
- Pinch black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- Salt to taste
1. Melt butter in a medium stockpot over medium heat.
2. Add onions, mushrooms and garlic and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes.
3. Add tomato soup, smoked salmon, tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, dill, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until heated through.
4. Slowly add cream to the soup.
5. Stir in fresh salmon and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Salt to taste and garnish with fresh dill.
Terry Ward is a contributing writer who covers food, drink and travel. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post and on CNN.