A Wonderful “Peasant” Supper

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    May 21, 2020 12:11 AM GMT
    Beef stew, although for many actual European peasants centuries ago the beef would have been missing. My husband decided to treat me, knowing how much I love it. He said his Italian/Sicilian mother gave him the recipe, but I told him if my own grandmother had served it I would have believed it was an Irish stew. A high compliment from me, an absolutely marvelous dish he made.

    And not difficult, typical of peasant dishes. Stuff thrown throughout the day into the iron cooking pot hung over the hearth. In this case into a covered cast iron Le Creuset Dutch oven, on the oven range top (it can also go into the oven for baking of other dishes). It was cooking for most of the afternoon.

    Consisted of cubed beef, whole baby potatoes, baby carrots (though sliced large carrots are good), sliced white onions, green peas, sliced mushrooms, a can of diced tomatoes, and a small can of tomato pureé. He made a simple gravy of flour, beef stock, and red wine. Also seasoned with salt, pepper, a dash of garlic, plus oregano, parsley, cilantro, and thyme (the last 4 fresh from his herb garden).

    It simmered for hours while it reduced (lid off for the last hour), the gravy becoming thick, the meat & veggies tender. Add the onion late or it dissolves.

    Nothing could be simpler. A slow-cooker crock pot could also work. Accompanied with a red wine, that I get from the Abruzzo region in Italy on the Adriatic where his father was born.

    But even with the Italian spin, I told him it was an Irish stew, like I remembered as a kid. I suppose stew is stew, a comfort food for me. icon_biggrin.gif
  • carew28

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    May 21, 2020 12:52 AM GMT
    Well, it sounds tasty, but it's certainly not Irish stew. Authentic Irish stew doesn't include mushrooms , tomato, or wine among the ingredients, and it often does include parsnips. The stew your partner made sounds like his own invention. He ought to devise a name for it. Maybe 'Sicilian stew.
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    May 21, 2020 11:39 AM GMT
    carew28 said
    Well, it sounds tasty, but it's certainly not Irish stew. Authentic Irish stew doesn't include mushrooms , tomato, or wine among the ingredients, and it often does include parsnips. The stew your partner made sounds like his own invention. He ought to devise a name for it. Maybe 'Sicilian stew.

    Perhaps so. My grandmother’s stew did include parsnips, but I thought mushrooms, no wine, but maybe tomato. But then many European dishes taken to the US have been altered by the availability of local ingredients. I doubt my Nana’s stew was authentically Irish, like back in Ireland. In fact, that side of the family had come to the US 100 years earlier in the early 1850s. But what my guy made sure tasted good, even if not a perfect copy of hers.

    One thing both he and she have in common is that there’s no written recipe. That’s why I didn’t mention the amounts or exact time in my OP. I asked him last night to make sure to write it down, so he could make it the same again. He said he couldnt because he didn’t really know, except for what he used. He just tossed things in until it looked right, and cooked until it tasted right.

    And I think that would be in the peasant cooking pot tradition. Simple people who possibly could barely read, no recipe books, no clocks except for church bells, no standard measuring devices, limited cooking utensils. The ingredients what you were lucky enough to have on hand at the moment, changing with the seasons.

    But I’ll call it Sicilian stew, as he did learn this from his Sicilian grandmother, not my Irish one. Yet as I also said, to me stew is pretty much stew, and when I ate this one it reminded me of the stew from my boyhood, even if not identical. And that memory's a good thing. icon_biggrin.gif
  • carew28

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    May 22, 2020 12:51 AM GMT
    Well, tomatoes were late in arriving in Ireland, and they don't figure largely in Irish cuisine. The Irish peasantry were inherently suspicious of anything new and unusual.Tomatoes, with their bright red coloring, may have been considered poisonous. Unlike potatoes, with their sombre brown coloration, and growing hidden under the ground, which the Irish quickly adopted as their own. When I think of tomatoes, I think of Italy, where they arrived much earlier than Ireland, and quickly became part of the native cuisine. The warm, sunny Mediterranean climate may also have been more conducive to tomato agriculture.

    Actually tomatoes originated in Central and South America, and were first used as food by the Aztecs. But it was the Italians who made tomato cooking recipes into an art. My own Irish grandparents grew tomatoes in the backyard, along with potatoes, and I grew up eating them. But they'd never tasted pizza, which they considered to be a strange, foreign food. I began eating pizza in high-school, and never looked back, and I have it every week now. But although I love fresh tomatoes , or on burgers or in salads, or tomato-sauce on pasta, I still balk at the thought of including them in stew.
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    May 22, 2020 12:37 PM GMT
    carew28 said
    Well, tomatoes were late in arriving in Ireland, and they don't figure largely in Irish cuisine. The Irish peasantry were inherently suspicious of anything new and unusual.

    Potatoes are not native to Europe, introduced by the Spanish during their 16th-Century exploration of South America. And because they’re a tuber many Europeans at first rejected them, having a prejudice against food that grows within the soil, rather than above it, as grains and other plants do.

    I read one author who speculated it was due to fields being fertilized with animal manure. People were reluctant to eat something that had grown covered over in waste, whereas other plants ripened and were harvested in the air above the ground.

    Nevertheless potatoes caught on, especially in colder Northern Europe, largely because of its resiliance to harsher climates. Grain crops might fail in some years, but potatoes were more reliable. That’s a reason it’s a major crop today in northern US states, like Idaho, North Dakota & Minnesota.

    Tragically the Irish became too dependent on a single crop, and when the Potato Blight destroyed the potatoes beginning in the late 1840s there was widespread famine and economic collapse. Causing many Irish to migrate to America, including some of my ancestors.

    But the Irish still love their potatoes, and I was practically weaned on them. And my Italian husband tells me his Sicilian/Italian grandmother & mother both loved potatoes, also, and had them in many of their dishes. In fact, he was taught by them to make Italian gnocchi (a small pasta dumpling) with mashed potato paste rather than a flour paste (pasta).

    Whether that was an adaptation to the US, or something already popular before his grandparents (and father) emigrated here he’s not sure. But enjoying potato dishes is something we share.

    And despite the superb chef he is, I was able to teach him an easy cooking trick for baked potatoes I learned from my years in North Dakota. Where one of the big football events in the town where I lived was the “Potato Bowl”. When your local economy heavily depends on potatoes, they become a big deal in your life.
  • ObscureAndFuz...

    Posts: 1517

    May 22, 2020 2:05 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    carew28 said
    Well, tomatoes were late in arriving in Ireland, and they don't figure largely in Irish cuisine. The Irish peasantry were inherently suspicious of anything new and unusual.

    Potatoes are not native to Europe, introduced by the Spanish during their 16th-Century exploration of South America. And because they’re a tuber many Europeans at first rejected them, having a prejudice against food that grows within the soil, rather than above it, as grains and other plants do.

    I read one author who speculated it was due to fields being fertilized with animal manure. People were reluctant to eat something that had grown covered over in waste, whereas other plants ripened and were harvested in the air above the ground.

    Nevertheless potatoes caught on, especially in colder Northern Europe, largely because of its resiliance to harsher climates. Grain crops might fail in some years, but potatoes were more reliable. That’s a reason it’s a major crop today in northern US states, like Idaho, North Dakota & Minnesota.

    Tragically the Irish became too dependent on a single crop, and when the Potato Blight destroyed the potatoes beginning in the late 1840s there was widespread famine and economic collapse. Causing many Irish to migrate to America, including some of my ancestors.

    But the Irish still love their potatoes, and I was practically weaned on them. And my Italian husband tells me his Sicilian/Italian grandmother & mother both loved potatoes, also, and had them in many of their dishes. In fact, he was taught by them to make Italian gnocchi (a small pasta dumpling) with mashed potato paste rather than a flour paste (pasta).

    Whether that was an adaptation to the US, or something already popular before his grandparents (and father) emigrated here he’s not sure. But enjoying potato dishes is something we share.

    And despite the superb chef he is, I was able to teach him an easy cooking trick for baked potatoes I learned from my years in North Dakota. Where one of the big football events in the town where I lived was the “Potato Bowl”. When your local economy heavily depends on potatoes, they become a big deal in your life.



    One minor correction in an otherwise informative post:

    You are not married to your boyfriend. He is NOT your husband.

  • carew28

    Posts: 1502

    May 23, 2020 10:46 PM GMT
    Celery can also be an ingredient in traditional Irish stew. Maybe in Sicilian, too.
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    May 24, 2020 5:30 PM GMT
    ObscureAndFuzzy said
    You are not married to your boyfriend. He is NOT your husband.

    Being that you’re not even gay yourself, southbeach1500, you’re not in a position to judge.
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    May 24, 2020 5:34 PM GMT
    carew28 said
    Celery can also be an ingredient in traditional Irish stew. Maybe in Sicilian, too.

    He says he didn't put celery in this. The way it stewed for hours I’m not sure celery would remain intact anyway, just dissolve into mush. I can’t remember any in my grandmother’s Irish stew, either. If it’s there I think it becomes more a flavoring, like an herb or spice.

    But that’s the nature of a peasant stew: you throw everything edible you have into the pot. What I guess I like about it. And why it differs a little from place to place, but in some ways remains all the same.
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    May 24, 2020 5:59 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    ObscureAndFuzzy said
    You are not married to your boyfriend. He is NOT your husband.

    Being that you’re not even gay yourself, southbeach1500, you’re not in a position to judge.


    Now, now he is a married homosexual, and not your nemesis Southbeach. Thus has in fact, every right to comment. You just don't like his honesty, in calling you out mate. We know you and Carmine have never tied the knot, or signed a Married Certificate.

    Indeed it was an enjoyable read as well, and I am a married homosexual; gay bash all you want.
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    May 24, 2020 6:13 PM GMT
    I like to start my work days off with Feasting like a King. Lunch I dine like a queen, and for supper I eat like a peasants. Breakfast being my biggest meal 4 the day. Lunch I try to have a main meal. Then end my day eating like a peasant. Left overs, or a sandwich, a very small meal of possibly cheese & crackers, with some pickled produce, fruit, maybe yoghurt. I am in a healthy weight rang.
  • Destinharbor

    Posts: 5263

    May 26, 2020 8:15 PM GMT
    I do a version called Tuscan Stew that is similar but does a couple of things differently. First is black pepper. Lots of it added at three different stages of the cook. The pepper cooks down to flavor and loses its heat so putting it in a three different points does different things to the stew. The other is the red wine. Similarly, the introduction of the wine is at three different points for the same reason. Has an interesting impact because the later the wine, the more acidic it remains but the earlier you add it, the more it infuses the meat. You might tell your guy to look it up. More of a technique thing that he might appreciate. Ya know, the highly respected beef bourguignon is essentially the same thing except at the end of the cook, you extract the meat (and maybe potatoes), strain out the long cooked vegetables, cook some fresh veggies in the now super flavorful broth, add the meat back and reduce the sauce. You get all the flavor of the slow cook with brighter, fresher veggies and herbs. Extra step and pretty luxurious but really great. William-Sonoma sells a bottle of the reduced stock for $24 that cuts out the long prep and is really good.
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    May 26, 2020 9:25 PM GMT
    Destinharbor said
    I do a version called Tuscan Stew that is similar but does a couple of things differently. First is black pepper. Lots of it added at three different stages of the cook. The pepper cooks down to flavor and loses its heat so putting it in a three different points does different things to the stew. The other is the red wine. Similarly, the introduction of the wine is at three different points for the same reason. Has an interesting impact because the later the wine, the more acidic it remains but the earlier you add it, the more it infuses the meat. You might tell your guy to look it up. More of a technique thing that he might appreciate. Ya know, the highly respected beef bourguignon is essentially the same thing except at the end of the cook, you extract the meat (and maybe potatoes), strain out the long cooked vegetables, cook some fresh veggies in the now super flavorful broth, add the meat back and reduce the sauce. You get all the flavor of the slow cook with brighter, fresher veggies and herbs. Extra step and pretty luxurious but really great. William-Sonoma sells a bottle of the reduced stock for $24 that cuts out the long prep and is really good.

    Seems like a bit beyond a simple peasant’s stew. But sounds delicious! Incidentally I love boeuf bourguignon.

    I honestly don’t know at what stages he added his ingredients for this stew. Except for when I’m in the kitchen with him, performing my faux sous chef/incompetent helper duties, I stay out. The kitchen is his domain, and being a small space it’s rather awkward for 2, anyway.

    I do know he browned the stew meat first in a cast iron skillet, he may have added the red wine then. He had me sample the stew at several points, and since I like the gravy thick, I suggested he reduce it down more. But the red wine was very prominent, perhaps also incongruous for a peasant’s dish.

    [Personal anecdote about boeuf bourguignon. Be forewarned and don’t read further if you dislike my stories. When I was in Basic Training in 1969 at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, my parents would sometimes drive down from their home on a Sunday afternoon to visit me. Assuming I had a free non-duty Sunday, along with “post privileges” (meaning I could leave the training company grounds), and twice I was granted a several hours off-post pass.

    So they’d drive me over to the Atlantic shore area, to a nice restaurant they knew. And the one thing I craved from the menu was boeuf bourguignon. Why I don’t know, musta been some kinda reaction to the awful mess hall food served on sectioned metal trays. Only problem was I’d be in an Army open-collar summer uniform, since we had no civilian clothing in Basic, while all the men there were in coats & ties. But I was allowed in anyway.

    So that to this day whenever I have boeuf bourguignon I have flashbacks to 50 years ago, sitting with my caring parents. My head shaved, wearing a crumpled cotton khaki enlisted uniform. But I guess not bad memories, especially being with Mom & Dad, since I still smile when I have that dish even now. icon_biggrin.gif ]
  • carew28

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    May 27, 2020 12:01 AM GMT
    I well remember the sectioned metal food-trays in the Ft.Dix Basic Training mess-halls. I was there the summer of 1974, and they were probably the same trays they'd had in 1969. I don't remember much about the food, but it couldn't have been that bad, otherwise I'd remember it. It was the first time in my life I'd been out of New England, and some of the Army chow was new to me. I'd never had blackeyed peas, collard greens with stewed tomatoes, or brussels-sprouts before. I liked the blackeyed peas & collard-greens with stewed tomatoes, but I hated the brussels-sprouts. I also remember liking the creamed chipped-beef over a biscuit (known as shit-on-a-shingle). They played music in the mess-hall, and I remember listening to "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" over and over again, and wondering if enlisting had been a bad idea,
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    May 27, 2020 1:45 PM GMT
    carew28 said
    I well remember the sectioned metal food-trays in the Ft.Dix Basic Training mess-halls. I was there the summer of 1974, and they were probably the same trays they'd had in 1969. I don't remember much about the food, but it couldn't have been that bad, otherwise I'd remember it. It was the first time in my life I'd been out of New England, and some of the Army chow was new to me. I'd never had blackeyed peas, collard greens with stewed tomatoes, or brussels-sprouts before. I liked the blackeyed peas & collard-greens with stewed tomatoes, but I hated the brussels-sprouts. I also remember liking the creamed chipped-beef over a biscuit (known as shit-on-a-shingle). They played music in the mess-hall, and I remember listening to "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" over and over again, and wondering if enlisting had been a bad idea,

    Ft. Dix, really? I was in A-1-3 (3rd Training Brigade). We had 3-story brick barracks, although for our initial week at the Reception Center we lived in wooden WWII barracks. My guy also did his Basic at Ft. Dix in the 1950s.

    At one point the Army renamed its mess halls as “dining facilities”, but it did nothing to improve the food. I hope they’ve gone back to mess halls. We still had KP when I was a private, and I did my share. icon_razz.gif

    Many mess halls had music. I preferred they didn’t, I never liked most popular music. There were many other reasons besides the bad music when at times I wondered: “What have I gotten myself into?” by volunarily enlisting.

    But in retrospect I’m glad I did it. I was moderately good at it, had entirely too much fun, whereas my talents in the civilian world were rather slim, and my chances for success rather dim.

    By 1974 I was a Lieutenant, and had returned briefly to Dix on some business that summer. I doubt we would have crossed paths if you were undergoing BT, but funny to think we were there at the same time. Thanks for sharing!
  • carew28

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    May 27, 2020 2:03 PM GMT
    I was there for Bootcamp from late May until mid-August. I was in Charlie Company, but I forget which BCT Brigade. You're right, the messhalls were officially called dining-facilities, but everyone, even the drill-sergeants, referred to them as messhalls. The major national event of that summer was Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency at the beginning of August. Our training was mostly completed by then, but many of us were held over awaiting orders to ship out for AIT. We had no access to TV or newspapers, and no one bothered to tell us about it. But all sorts of rumors reached us, nonetheless. The most prevalent rumor was that the president had committed suicide. But I didn't believe it or take it seriously, as Bootcamp is a place where rumors fly around constantly anyway, about all sorts of things. I found out later he'd resigned, which was quite a revelation, as no President had ever done that before.
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    May 27, 2020 2:31 PM GMT
    carew28 said
    I was there for Bootcamp from late May until mid-August. I was in Charlie Company, but I forget which BCT Brigade. You're right, the messhalls were officially called dining-facilities, but everyone, even the drill-sergeants, referred to them as messhalls. The major national event of that summer was Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency at the beginning of August. Our training was mostly completed by then, but many of us were held over awaiting orders to ship out for AIT. We had no access to TV or newspapers, and no one bothered to tell us about it. But all sorts of rumors reached us, nonetheless. The most prevalent rumor was that the president had committed suicide. But I didn't believe it or take it seriously, as Bootcamp is a place where rumors fly around constantly anyway, about all sorts of things. I found out later he'd resigned, which was quite a revelation, as no President had ever done that before.

    We saw no TV or papers, either. But we could receive mail. And I sometimes saw my parents on a Sunday, who’d drive down, because they lived in NE New Jersey, near NYC. If you had weekend post privileges you could go to a PX and buy a newspaper or magazine (just don’t have it in the barracks).

    Although when the first Apollo astronauts landed on the moon in July, 1969, we were marched to a hall. A small B&W TV was set on a little low table, and as we sat crossed-legged on the hard floor we watched the first steps on the moon. I guess that was judged a sufficiently patriotic event for that special exception.

    Regarding the Nixon Admin, I was taking my Military Police Officer Basic Course (OBC, another kind of basic training) as a Lieutenant in 1973. When VP Spiro Agnew resigned in October over a corruption scandal. Our class had a number of foreign officers from allied countries around the world training with us, and they seemed to be more upset over it than we Americans were.

    Plus the fact that Nixon’s own problems were growing daily. I never realized in what high esteem America was held in some foreign countries. We were once what they all aspired to be, the shining democratic example for the world that never had these domestic upheavals and corrupt, lunatic leaders like some other countries do. And look at us today. icon_cry.gif

    Regarding rumors, it’s a perpetual problem in the military. I always did my best to squelch them. In fact, I was once almost relieved of my command over one, about “secret germ warfare” and food poisoning. But that’s another long story.

    To this day I always dismiss and try to suppress rumors. That plague our gay community, as well. When someone tries to tell me some “inside” info I remain chronically skeptical. Another habit I learned in the Army, that I find useful in civilian life, as well.