This story was originally published in the February/March 2014 Issue of Chattanooga Magazine.
When the winter chill is on and the latest polar vortex is sweeping the South, it’s time to pull out favorite recipes of hearty stews.
From some of the oldest written records, recipes for stews have come down through the ages. The earliest surviving cookbook, the “Apicius de re Coquinaria,” written by a Roman in the first century BC, recorded lamb and fish stews. A modified English translation of “Apicius: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome” is available from Dover Publications and is a critical review of that early work by author Joseph Dommers Vehling.
In the early 1300s, French Chef Taillevent, wrote Le Vandier, one of the oldest French language cookbooks. The tome is filled with ragouts and stews of many varieties. Dating much further back there is extensive archaeological evidence that primitive tribes developed the technique of boiling foods together in the shells of turtles or large mollusks. The development of pottery, some 10,000 years ago, made the eating and cooking, of stews in particular, even easier.
Simply presented, the combination of two or more foods simmered together in a liquid, is a stew, and stews are common to all cultures. Irish stew appeared in print in 1814, when it was mentioned in Lord Byron’s “Devil’s Drive.” Variety is assured, since many stews were created from what was on hand in the kitchen, but popular recipes have risen to fame. There is Hungarian Goulash, Coq au Vin, Carbonnades a la Flamande, Beef Stroganoff, Boeuf Bourguignon—all stellar stews representing a broad range of cultural origins.
Lucky Dollar Stew
Bruce Weiss, River Street Deli
If you’ve tried this stew, it was probably available just after the New Year holiday, due to its black-eyed peas and collard greens main ingredients. Owner and Chef, Bruce Weiss, gives it a mind-blowing Louisiana twist that aims to impress the happy diner. On the blackboard at his River Street Deli, overlooking Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park, it’s often called “Pot Licker Soup.” Weiss uses fresh ingredients and reconstitutes the peas from dried ones, although he says, fresh frozen peas may also be used.
1 small smoked ham, cubed
16 oz. chicken stock
2 bags of dried (and reconstituted) or frozen peas
2 Tablespoons dried thyme
4-6 stalks of chopped celery
1-2 medium onions, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 Tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 bag chopped fresh collards or kale
Put on large pot of water (about 1.5 gallons). Saute onion, pepper and celery in olive oil and add fresh minced garlic to mixture. Add peas and smoked ham to boiling water. Begin adding chicken stock, sauté mixture, sugar and vinegar. Add the collards to the mixture. Taste before adding any salt. Simmer until peas are tender, around 40 minutes. Serve with a square of cornbread.
Nathan Lindley, Public House Restaurant
Public House Owner and Chef, Nathan Lindley, found an adaptation of this recipe in an old French cookbook he bought at McKay bookstore years ago. “I’m honestly not sure why, but it turns out perfect every time,” says Lindley. “It seems like a lot of wine, but I think that’s what makes it feel special. I like dishes that seem extravagant, but require very little last minute effort.” Lindley founded Public House, a popular restaurant in Warehouse Row where he serves fresh local foods of consistently high quality at reasonable prices.
3 pounds beef, trimmed of fat and cut into uniform cubes. A roast is best, something like a chuck roast.
1/4 pound slab bacon, cut into cubes. Thick cut bacon works best here.
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Sprig of thyme, sprig of parsley and bay leaf, tied together if possible (or plan to fish them out later).
2 onions, halved and sliced lengthwise
4 carrots, peeled and cut to bite size (like a pre-packed baby carrot, although I try to not use those)
3 stalks celery, peeled and cut to same size as carrot
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bottle red wine. This doesn’t need to be a really good bottle, but it should be something you would drink on its own.
Dry the meat between pieces of paper towel, applying pressure to remove as much liquid as possible. Liberally salt and pepper all sides of the meat. Heat a large pot over medium. Melt the butter, and then add the bacon. As the bacon begins to brown, add the onion. Add the meat, carrots and celery and allow them to brown. Move them around as little as possible to encourage a crust to form on the meat.
When brown, remove the meat, vegetables and bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon. Stir in the flour and continue to stir the flour with a whisk for 3-5 minutes to cook the flour taste out. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the entire bottle of wine, about one cup at a time, constantly stirring and waiting to add more until the last bit has been incorporated. Add the garlic and the herbs.
Bring the pot to a boil and add the meat, vegetables and bacon back to the pot. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending how tender you would like to meat to get. A crockpot may be used. Season with salt and pepper and serve over potatoes.
Susan Moses, 212 Market Restaurant
“My father was Hungarian,” says Chef Susan Moses. “And, Hungary is known for its huge variety of peppers.” The recipe below was one of her father’s favorites and the mid-south region’s wintry weather sends her looking for it each year. Sometimes it’s even on the menu at 212 Market, the restaurant she co-owns with her sister Sally, and their mother, Maggie.
1 3-lb. chicken, cut into serving pieces
1/2 cup flour
2 Tablespoons paprika (Hungarian if possible)
1 teaspoon of salt and pinch of pepper
3 Tablespoons oil—any type you like
2 medium onions, small diced
1 green pepper, small diced
1 tomato, chopped
2 Tablespoons paprika
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
Heat oil in large pot (Dutch oven is great for this). Dredge the chicken in the flour and spice mixture, & reserve the flour for later. Brown the chicken @ 10 minutes, then remove. Saute the vegetables in the same pot, until golden. Return chicken to the pot. Cover with broth and the remaining paprika. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 30-45 minutes until done.
Combine the reserved flour/paprika mixture and mix with the sour cream, plus 1/2 cup of the liquid from the pot. Whisk into the pot and simmer another 5 minutes. This dish should be a pale orange. Serve over Hungarian nokedli (similar to spaetzle).
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
Beat the eggs lightly, add the dry ingredients, then add water. This mixture should be slightly “pourable.” Put onto a plate, and with a wet knife, cut off small pieces into boiling, lightly salted water. You can also use a colander and push the mixture through the holes, as with spaetzle. Remove the Nokedli with a slotted spoon. Cool. Saute in a bit of butter and serve with the Chicken Paprikash.