Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday / Leftover Stew

My motivation for this soup was really just to clean out the fridge. At the end of any given week, we have lots of halves of several-day-old, nearly-wilted veggies, which are just begging to be tossed in a stock pot and slow-cooked beyond recognition. This week we also had one left-over chorizo, some chicken stock, and a half bottle of mediocre white wine, so it seemed pretty clear that soup was on the menu. I didn't have the highest hopes for this no-nonsense meal, but I was hankering for an afternoon cooking project, and decided to dive in.

I doubted this stew throughout the entire cooking process. Something seemed a bit off, so I kept trying to compensate by making more additions - wine, salt, tomato paste, herbs - but nothing I did seemed to make it better. Finally, I just decided to stop futzing with it and let it do its own thing. When we heard that Jeff's friends were coming over for dinner, I pulled the pot off the stove altogether, and moved it to the side to make room for preparing the 4-course feast that was to come. The stew sat neglected on the counter all night, and before we went to bed I hastily threw it in the fridge. What I didn't know, was that something miraculous would happen while that stew chilled overnight. When I pulled the dutch oven out to reheat the stew for Sunday dinner, the flavors had melded, everything had mellowed out, and the stew had thickened and become intense in its flavors but not overly aggressive. Served with a bit of herby sour cream and crusty bread, it was a total delight.

In the most recent issue of Diner Journal, chef Caroline Fidanza talks about insaporire; a word Italians use to describe the moment that a dish "opens up and swells" with all the flavors it has been cooking with. She talks about this real moment when "the dish will let you know that it has arrived and will point you in the direction of what to do next." It's not about timing or precision, it's about watching and tasting and trusting your ingredients. I didn't know it when I started, but I think this humble Leftover Stew served a much greater purpose than simply clearing out space in the fridge.

1 comment:

Dave said...

You forgot to talk about the bread. The bread is the best part.