This is a mouthwatering tender, intensely flavored stew with the smokiness of the paprika a perfect foil for the sweetness of the parsnips and butternut squash. Included in the $3.93 per person tab was an array of olives and almonds for a pre-dinner nibble and store bought sorbet for dessert.
Following my earlier post about the value of low cost meals that entice and have people asking for seconds, I dusted off the slow cooker this week and re-worked a favorite stew. I made a couple of variations and the winner- my panel consisted of my son, son-in-law and two grandsons, 7 and 11 -is the following recipe. I have nightmarish memories from boarding school days of mutton stew- gross, I can still taste and smell it! I think stews have often been synonymous with low cost cuts of tough meat 'stewed' until they break down, beaten into submission, fat gelling on the surface. No more. The only non pantry staple ingredient in this stew is smoked, sweet Spanish paprika. It has a smoky, sweet flavor that is very "moreish". Do not substitute a hot paprika or an un-smoked one. You can usually find the sweet , smoked version in the grocery store but often in a tiny, exorbitantly expensive jar. I buy mine online from The Spice House in Chicago. www.thespicehouse.com and this recent batch cost $4.69 for 4 oz ...that's a lot of paprika! I usually share with family and friends.
The prep time on this recipe took me 30 minutes from start to finish and my stew simmered for six hours. It's the kind of dish that you put together the night before and leave to cook while you are at work.
Lorie Marerro from Clutter Diet will agree with me when I say that preparation involves organization and getting mis en place, everything out and lined up, saves minutes of prep time to say nothing of floury hands on cupboard doors and so on. It's also a fail safe way of minimizing 'oopsies' and forgetting a vital ingredient. When my children were small I used to make cooking a part reading and math lesson having them read the recipe and measure ingredients. Check with March www.connectionsforwomen.com for an article on pantry organisation and making sense of labels.
I normally shop farmers markets and local stores but to get the best idea of costs for a shopper in general, I did my shopping at a local Safeway, taking advantage of my member card discounts. Significant on the meat...$2.98 as opposed to $5.98 a pound. I also asked the meat counter server to cut it into chunks for me and trim the fat which he was more than willing to do.
The recipe serves 8 and total cost for the stew and mashed potatoes was less than $3.75 per person. I put out olives and almonds for pre-dinner nibblies and served sorbet and preserved kumqats for a light dessert. Can't break down the cost of the kumquats because they came from the garden but adding the nibblies and sorbet brought the meal to just under $4.00 per person. The opinion of my guests was that it could be served at a fancy dinner party and get rave reviews. I served the stew with a mash of Yukon Gold Potatoes and Yams. To same time you can add potatoes for the last hour of cooking to the stew but knowing I'd have leftovers and not liking re-heated potatoes, I prefer to serve the mash. It's sweetness offsets the smokey sweetness of the stew. The gremolata garnish is the finishing touch that adds not just color but an intense burst of flavor.