Stewing is the principle of cookery where the food is completely covered with liquid while it is cooking. The long cooking process gives a concentrated flavour to the food and the sauce, which are served together as a complete dish.
Generally speaking, items suitable for stewing are those of a tough nature. The cheaper cuts of lamb, beef, veal, pork, game and chicken can be used most successfully. Fish for stewing include fresh water and ocean fish and shellfish. When stewing fish, gentleness is a must. If fish is cooked too vigorously, the flesh will break up and the fish protein toughens. Root vegetables, potatoes and fruit are suitable for stewing. Ratatouille is a vegetable stew, which includes onions, garlic, eggplant, zucchinis, tomatoes and capsicums. Fruits are usually stewed in syrup. Apples, rhubarb, figs, peaches and pineapples can be used. The stewed fruit is often referred to as compote.
Utensils and Equipment
The term for a stewing pan is casserole. They can be made from a variety of metals, but are commonly made from enamelled cast iron. Other types of utensils and equipment used in the production of stews include bratt pan and spiders. Use plastic spoons when stirring stews as metal spoons can discolour the sauce, especially if an aluminium saucepan is used. Take care when handling large containers of hot food. Do not push or pull the pan suddenly or the contents may splash out. Two-handled pans may need two people to move them safely.
Methods of Cookery
In most cases, the food to be stewed needs to be cut into an even size and sealed and browned by shallow frying in hot fat. The liquid can be thickened and flavourings added before the actual stewing begins. Salt should not be added at the beginning because there are natural salts in the meat and vegetables. The addition of extra salt may reduce in the stew being too salty. Food items of a tougher nature are suitable for stewing. The food is simmered on top of the stove or in the oven. It becomes tender and doesn't dry out or shrink. The long cooking time allows for the interchange of flavours between the food and the liquid. When shallow frying to seal the meat some of the meat juices caramelise in the pan. These sediments are important to the flavour and colour of the stew. They are removed by moistening with a small amount of liquid and added to the stew. This process of dissolving the sediments is called deglazing. Red meat for white stews is usually blanched first. It is place in cold water, brought o the boil, then refreshed. The blanching process extracts the excess blood which otherwise may discolour the sauce and make it grey instead of white. Most garnishes required for the presentation of a stew are cooked separately and added just prior to service. This avoids the problem of the garnish breaking up. Other important points to remember are:
Cut the food into 3cm cubes
Brown and seal meats for brown stews
Never boil stews rapidly avoid high heat
Use the appropriate stock and thickening agent
Cover fruit stews with a cartouche
Blanch meats for a blanquette (white sauce)
Control the heat by checking regularly
Use a pot of appropriate size
Season meat before sealing
For fish stews, keep the cuts large and cook gently
If the stew is light brown when it should be white, the stock may be too dark, meat and vegetables allowed to colour too much, and the roux may have overcooked and/or stew burnt during cooking. If the meat it tough there is a good chance that it is undercooked. Also, the quality of meat may not be as good as the recipe timing allowed for. The sauce may be greasy if the stew was not skimmed accurately, the fat was left on the meat, of the stew was left standing for too long before service.
Effect on nutritive value
The presence of acids such as those found in tomatoes and citrus fruits can reduce vitamin C loss. B-group vitamins will dissolve into the...
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