Simple and savory stew makes hearty fall meal

As the dish cooks, stew flavors deepen.
HYDE PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Stewing is the quintessential one-pot meal.
The slow, gentle cooking produces dishes with tender, melting textures and big, bold flavors, a warm and comforting contrast to chilly autumn temperatures.
To get the most flavor from your stews, follow three basic guidelines.
First, choose assertive, flavorful ingredients. For meats, this can mean well-exercised cuts, such as leg of lamb, beef shoulder or shank, or poultry leg or thigh meat. The slow, moderate cooking of a stew breaks down these sometimes tough cuts into tender bites.
Second, keep it slow.
"Never cook it at a hard boil," explains Lynne Gigliotti, an instructor at The Culinary Institute of America. "Cooking the ingredients hard and fast produces disappointing results, such as tough meat and undercooked vegetables.
"It is best to maintain a mild cooking speed in order to tenderize the meat, cook the ingredients fully and extract as much flavor as possible. One option for many stews is to finish the cooking in the oven."
Add throughout
Finally, flavor, season and garnish judiciously. One benefit of slow cooking is that ingredients are easily added throughout the preparation. For example, already cooked foods, such as beans, rice and some meats, should be added during the final minutes, giving them just enough time to reheat.
And because stew flavors deepen as the dish cooks, seasonings should be added a bit at a time throughout. This offers more control over the finished dish. Waiting until the end could leave too little time for the flavors to develop.
This recipe for rich and hearty lamb and pumpkin couscous from The Culinary Institute of America cooks at a low simmer and delivers a diverse mix of flavors and textures. The recipe is from the college's "One Dish Meals" cookbook (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2006, $35).
1/4 cup olive oil, or as needed
2 cups small-dice yellow onion
1 (3-pound) boneless lamb leg, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
8 cups chicken broth, or more as needed
3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
2 cups large-dice pumpkin or Hubbard squash
1 cup large-dice carrots
1 cup large-dice purple-top turnips or fingerling potatoes
2 cups couscous
Hoshaf, to taste (recipe follows)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and saut & eacute;, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Generously season the lamb with salt and pepper and add it to the onion. Continue to saut & eacute;, stirring frequently, until the lamb and the onions are browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the ginger, turmeric and saffron and continue to saut & eacute; until they have a toasted aroma, about 1 minute. Add enough broth to cover the lamb. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cover the Dutch oven.
Simmer over low heat, stirring from time to time, until the lamb is nearly tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the chickpeas, pumpkin, carrots and turnips or potatoes and continue simmering until the lamb and vegetables are very tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
In a separate saucepan, prepare couscous according to package directions.
Before serving, season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve stew over couscous in heated plates, topped with Hoshaf and chopped cilantro.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 770 cal., 48 g pro., 62 g carbo., 36 g fat, 520 mg sodium, 110 mg chol., 8 g fiber.
(Recipe from The Culinary Institute of America's "One Dish Meals," Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2006, $35.)
24 medium dried apricots (about a 6-ounce package), coarsely chopped
6 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
Soak the apricots in the water overnight. The next day, transfer the apricots and their soaking liquid to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes.
Add the sugar, stirring slowly until dissolved, then return to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
Makes 1/2 cup.
Nutrition information per ounce: 90 cal., 0 g pro., 23 g carbo., 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 0 mg chol., 2 g fiber.
(Recipe from The Culinary Institute of America's "One Dish Meals," Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2006, $35.)
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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