BROWN ALE STEW


Here's my recipe for a hearty and warming stew, comforting and warming on a chilly winter afternoon.

It's vegetarian; the meat substitute is seitan, which is wheat gluten. Seitan has a very meat-like texture, and like tofu, it's a good sponge for flavor. By the way, I pronounce it SIGH tin to avoid demonic allusions. Another unusual - to some - ingredient I call for is kombu; it's a variety of dried kelp which can enhance flavor in soups and stocks. The finishing touch is Brewers Yeast, which is yeast harvested from breweries and dried. High in Vitamin B and other nutrients, it will add a nutty accent to the stew. These ingredients can be found in health food stores or new-style supermarkets such as Wild Oats Marketplaces or Whole Foods Markets.

Take care with your choice for beer. Long cooking times accentuate bitterness as beer evaporates. So, for this stew, avoid Irish-style stouts and west-coast-style stouts and brown ales. Rather, cook with a sweeter full-bodied stout (e.g., Clipper City's Peg Leg Imperial Stout) or a British-style brown ale (e.g., Black Cat). The idea is to concentrate the chocolate/molasses/pumpernickel bread flavors from these beers.

INGREDIENTS

Preparation

1. For the herb garni, tie together a few sprigs each of fresh sage, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and dried bay leaves.

2. In a large pot, brown the onion in the oil over medium heat. Reduce to medium-low. Add the garlic, the seitan pieces, and the sugar, and slightly caramelize.

3. Slowly add in beer. (Reserve the final 6 ounces of the 2nd bottle for the chef!)

4. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the peas, arrowroot, and brewers yeast. Simmer for one hour.

5. Add peas. Add more beer if necessary. Cook for another 30 minutes.

6. Remove herb garni and kombu strip.

7. Remove 1/8 cup of liquid. Mix in arrowroot until lumps are removed and sauce is thickened (don't overmix). Slowly add back to stew, mixing throughly.

8. Cook for a few more minutes. Serve. Sprinkle a dash of Brewers Yeast over each portion.





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