The French know a thing or two about incredible cuisine. Okay, we’ll rephrase—the French know just about everything there is to know about incredible cuisine. Winter stews come as no exception, from slow-simmered Boeuf Bourguignon Stew, rich and full of red wine, to seasoned French Onion Soup, the country’s stew repertoire is well stocked with classics.
Maria Zihammou, author of last fall’s French Bistro, an elegant yet refreshingly accessible cookbook detailing some of France’s finest, let us in on some of her top tips for stewing as the French do. Take the following advice to heart and then try your hand at her trio of classic recipes.
Maria Zihammou’s Tips for Mastering French Stew
1. Always start with fresh, seasonal ingredients, such as root veggies in the fall and winter. Fresh herbs, in particular, are tastier than dried ones.
2. If you are going for a beef stew, such as my Boeuf Bourguignon, prepare the soup one day before you plan to serve. The stew will better absorb all the rich flavors, and the meat will melt in your mouth.
3. Make stew in your oven using an oven-safe pot like Le Creuset. If you don’t have an oven-safe pot, use a sturdy aluminum tray and cover with foil.
4. Always simmer a beef stew on low heat in the oven. The meat becomes juicer, and you can go on to do something else while the stew takes care of itself.
5. I always serve my soups and stews with sourdough bread. Offer guests olive oil or olive tapenade for a delicious amuse-bouche.
6. Serve stew with salad and vinaigrette, instead of potatoes, for a lighter meal. A simple dressing of olive oil, lemon, vinegar, salt and pepper does the trick.
7. Tie a few sprigs of thyme, parsley, bay leaves, celery stalks and leeks with cooking twine. Add the bundle to your pot to add flavor and aroma. When the food is ready, simply fish out the small herb bundle, which has now served its purpose.
8. Finish your meal with some nice cheeses and you will have a true French experience. I love hard alp cheeses or a good brie.