January is soup & stew season—warm, comforting foods to relieve us of chills, colds and clashing winds. All over the world, cultures long-simmer their winter harvest to make meals that can be far more filling than any steak, chicken or pasta by itself. But soups and stews alone are merely the most generic terms for a wide array of dishes made by simmering ingredients in liquid.
James Villas' new book Stews, Bogs & Burgoos: Recipes from the Great American Stewpot (William Morrow), presents 150 regional recipes for dishes that are simmered and stirred with care. In America, it is easy to take a melting pot approach to this topic, since so many of these dishes arrived here through our emigrants and native American ancestors—one-pot meals like Cioppino, Chile con Carne, Goulash, Irish Lamb Stew, Fricasee, Posole and of course, the African-American classic, Gumbo. One man's stew may be another's burgoo, so to speak, and Villas explains the differences in some of these terms as follows:
In celebration of soups, stews and their culinary cousins, Le Creuset not only offers its handsome and heavy Soup Pot ($140 value) as this month's Gourmet Guess prize, but it also presents the world's first and only Soup Potline at 888/2-SOUP POT (888/276-8776). Through January, callers can hear recipes, soup-making secrets, tips for quick and easy soup-making and best cookware information from Crescent Dragonwagon, author of "Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread: A Country Inn Cookbook." You can also enter their weekly drawings to win more Le Creuset cookware (French Oven, Stickpot or Bouillabaisse Pot) just by leaving your phone number on their Potline.
What makes for a good soup pot? First, it has to be heavy because of the long, slow cooking, to prevent scorching. Also, thick, heavy pots hold the heat better when serving. Next, it should be nonreactive, meaning it will not alter the taste or color of the foods in it. Many metals react to acids like tomatoes and wine, but enamel-coated ones do not (they're also easier to clean). Finally, I like a curved bottom, so my spoon scrapes along the sides easily without having to battle the hard edges of a typical stockpot. And of course you a want a heavy, solid lid to capture and retain all those layers of complex flavors waiting to fill your kitchen with the aromas of winter warmth and love.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
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Modified August 2007
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