Friday, October 15, 2010

Dead Vegetable and Leftover Stew

I have been craving my Nan's vegetable stew. Given that she's been gone for more than 15 years now, this is a terribly unproductive craving. It's even less productive when I admit that I don't have her recipe. In truth she didn't have one. This stew was designed to clear the fridge of anything that was in danger of becoming unrecognizable or masquerading as a penicillin culture. So it was never the same twice. But it was always amazing. And with the temps finally dropping a bit, I really, really, really want this stew. Now I've admitted before that I follow recipe directions like a champ but am reluctant to forge my own path. But Nan's stew calls for just that courage. Plus, I have been a little more confident in my own skills since I read Jam Today by Tod Davies (read my review) last year and tried going commando then. (Full disclosure, I printed off the recipe I created at the time so I would have a copy of it to follow in future. The whole "old dog, new tricks" thing, ya know.) But I figure if I did it then, I can do it now and so off to the fridge I went.

Now my best advice to anyone interested in the concept of this soup is just to go for it and hope for the best. But in case you have some strange desire to recreate what I did, keep reading and good luck.

Pour opened container of chicken stock into a large pot. When chicken stock stops pouring because the rest is a solid mass, take container and throw away. Pour mold infested chicken stock down the drain and rinse pot out. Pour second opened container of chicken stock (don't ask!) into pot, this time being successful because second container has only been opened less than a week. Dump in two cans of stewed tomatoes, the type that no one else in the family will eat except you and that you really only bought because it was buy one get one free at the grocery store two weeks ago. Open freezer and pull out frozen broccoli that is just this side of freezer burned, approximately 5 cups. Dump into pot. Collect sad looking collection of vegetables and leftovers everyone is beyond tired of eating from the fridge: half a wrinkled red pepper, three ears of corn on the cobb which are now off limits to the kid with new braces, 2-3 stalks plus leaves and heart of limp, bendy celery, one perfectly good onion, about 1 cup of baby carrots whose bag has been left open and are therefore so dry they are merely a pale orange, a Tupperware container of herbed potatoes that weren't as good as you'd hoped (originally boiled and then baked with red onion, garlic, olive oil, basil and parsley), and roast beef billed by the recipe title as the best ever (obviously we disagreed or there wouldn't have been so much leftover) still swimming in it's au jus. Toss all of the above into the pot and stir. Take a last gander into the fridge for anything else and decide to add the seeds of one dessicated half of a pomegranate under the impression that they can do no harm and pomegranate juice is healthy for you. Boil and then turn down to a simmer until everything is either soft or rehydrated as the case may be. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan on top if you have an oldish container of that in the fridge as well.

My Nan must have been looking down on me from above and smiling because you know what? The dead vegetable and leftover stew turned out pretty darn tasty. I would probably skip the pomegranate seeds next time since they don't add anything and contribute a very disconcerting texture when they have been heated. But given that Nan's one big failure with this one was the time she tossed in some green bologna, I figure a slightly wonky texture on occasional spoonfuls is small potatoes. Of course, the fridge is mostly cleaned out (I decided to pass on throwing the cucumbers in sour cream into the pot, deciding discretion was the better part of valor) but this has now generated an enormous potful of stew. So my next question is: Does re-cooking these things re-start their eventual mold development date? Because if not, the freezer's about to look really full again!

This post was written as a part of Beth Fish Read's Weekend Cooking meme in which I contribute very sporadically. Feel free to join in or just to surf through other folks' contributions. They seem more competent in kitchen matters than I do (and less inclined to use questionable ingredients too).


  1. Hahahahahahaha....did you come and check out my fridge while I wasn't home? 'Cause I swear I have most of what you just mentioned in mine right now. Pale orange carrots? Check. Old chicken broth? Check. Wilted celery? Check! Freezer burnt broccoli? Check. Geez....I should try making this stew for supper tonight, although the kids abhor veggies, so maybe I couldn't sneak this one past them...

  2. Hi Kristen,

    Thanks for posting your link on my discussion post at book blogs. I'm now following you :)

    This soup sounds amazing. I'm terrible for just throwing away my veggies when they are about to go off, I should try this out1!


  3. For me any dish made from left overs is good for one night only - but that is based on personal preference rather than any scientific evidence! Sounds yummy though.

  4. The sad thing about this stew is when the family asks for it again and you realize you will never have those exact same leftovers in the house at the same time again. LOL. I'd say what you don't eat in two days should be frozen. But I'm no expert.

  5. I can totally identify with your way of cooking. Coming up with dinner without a recipe has always been difficult for me. One thing that has made it easier for me over the years is remembering what combinations taste good to me. For instance, I know I like onions and bell peppers with chicken. That may seem obvious for some, but there was a time when I would have been afraid to cook them together without a written recipe.

    Good luck on your kitchen adventures!

  6. I'm really Glad i found this web site.Added to my bookmark!


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