If you’re thinking of dishes to cook in bulk in preparation for the coming holidays, you can’t go wrong with meat stews. They’re familiar and uncomplicated to eat, they’re such crowd pleasers and they illustrate what “comfort food” means so beautifully.
That brings to mind a meal that Speedy and I had at my father’s house. Sam was about a month old, we brought her over to see my father who prepared beef sarciado for lunch. For non-Filipinos, sarciado is the generic term for tomato-based meat stews. But there was nothing generic about my father’s beef sarciado. He handpicked the meat as he always did, cut it himself then cooked it long and slow until slicing the meat was like slicing butter. Sam is now 24 years old but Speedy still talks about my father’s sarciado with that dreamy look in his eyes.
But aren’t meat stews so common? In fact, aren’t they peasant food? Meat stews were “invented” to make good use of tougher and cheaper cuts of meat, after all. How can meat stews be special and festive enough for holiday parties? Ahhhh, that’s where you’ll need imagination. A meat stew can be a brown mess in a bowl or it can be a burst of colors to behold and a fiesta of flavors to enjoy. When combined with the right cooking liquid, vegetables, herbs and spices, a meat stew can be s show-stopper.
And the best part? Meat stews can be cooked well in advance. Cook them, cool them, chill them (some can even be frozen!) and leave them. The day you expect guests, thaw your meat stew then reheat gently. Serve it with your favorite carbs. Then, sit back and enjoy the compliments from your guests.
What stews are so special that they are ideal for entertaining? Here are a few of my recommendations:
Vietnamese beef stew – It’s the combination of spices that can be quite intimidating rather than the cooking procedure itself. But if you can get over the prejudice against what Westerners call “pungent” (or “funky”) spices, the cooked dish is just wonderful.
Mediterranean beef stew – Cooked with bacon, chorizo and herbs, this slow cooker Mediterranean beef stew is as meaty as it is tasty. Perfect for chilly days and nights.
Indonesian / Malaysian Beef Rendang OR Pork Rendang – Spicy in more ways than one, rendang has a thick and well textured sauce, a warm color and all the savory goodness that makes you want to pour the sauce all over your rice to make the most of it.
Callos: Beef Tripe and Leg Stew – Callos is Spanish for beef tripe but callos in the Philippines is a stew and tripe is only one of the many ingredients.
Beef bourguignon (beef Burgundy) – A peasant dish that has been elevated to fine dining stature, beef bourguignon, sometimes spelled bœuf bourguignon or bœuf à la bourguignonne, literally translates to beef Burgundy.
Korean beef stew a la House of Kimchi – Once upon a time, I had lunch at The House of Kimchi at the Ali Mall Food Court and I was badly smitten with the Korean beef stew. That was decades ago. I’m not very sure if The House of Kimchi is still there but my memories of that richly colored and spicy stew with its complex flavors remained.
Pork estufado (estofado) – The Filipino adaptation is a fusion of the traditional Spanish cooking method, Chinese seasoning (soy sauce) and Filipino ingredients (saba bananas). The inclusion of vinegar and tomato paste among the seasonings makes this wickedly delicious stew a cross between adobo and afritada.
Beef and apricots stewed in red wine – If you can cook with fruit jam, you can cook with dried fruits. If you think that broth makes a good stew, wine can make a better stew. This beef stew was made with dried apricot halves and red wine. No water, no broth. So good, I had two servings.
The list is too short? Head over to the recipes for stews archive and see what is not in the list above.