Southern Vegetarian Stew Recipe — That Tastes Meaty?
By Kelly Dean
This is a great teaching recipe, because it covers so many basic kitchen moves for adapting and skewing meals in different flavor directions. It doesn’t rely on meat for its flavor, so playing with it can teach one a lot about enhancing taste, with or without meat in the recipe.
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 onion (chopped)
1 half-head of celery (chopped)
3 Tbls salted butter
2 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls Worcestershire sauce (or ¼ cup red wine)*
2 Tbls (heaping) wet, minced garlic
28 oz. bag of mixed stew vegetables (corn, peas, onions, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, potatoes, etc.), or drained from can — or hand cut, small
8 oz. can of tomato sauce (or 14.5 oz. diced, or 8 oz. tomato juice)
8 cups of water
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/8 tsp black pepper (to taste)
1/8 tsp of ground rosemary
1/8 tsp of ground thyme
1/4 tsp of rubbed sage (1/8 if ground)
In the bottom of a quality stew pot, place butter, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and celery. Sauté on medium low heat, stirring frequently. Sauté ingredients until mushrooms are soft and brown, onions are getting transparent and caramelizing and celery is soft. Stir and add splashes of water as needed to keep ingredients from sticking or over-browning. This mixture creates a savory broth base when reduced and should produce light browning on the bottom of the pan when sauté is complete.
Once sautéing is done, add 1 cup water and use a potato masher against the bottom of the pot to “pressure” the sauté contents to release juice flavors from the veggies but do not pulverize. Stir, then let simmer a couple of minutes to mix veggie flavors. This should yield a veggie-chunky, sticky, low-fat, brown, roux-esque base reduction.
Add soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, salt, 1/2 the water (4 cups), and mixed stew vegetables into the pot. Any redundancy in sauté veggies and stew veggies is okay because the former was strictly for base-making. Raise stew ingredients to a hard boil, then immediately lower to a low boiling simmer for 30 minutes. Add the rest of the water (3 cups). Simmer 10 minutes more. Then add tomato sauce last (acid impedes other veggie cooking), let cool and taste. The color should be a rusty brown.
This makes about 8+ cups of vegetable stew, with a buttery, savory broth. You can stretch the recipe with another cup of tomato juice or another couple of additional cut potatoes (recommended). You can skew the recipe toward Italian by adding a teaspoon of basil and oregano to the other spices.
*Technically, Worcestershire sauce contains some anchovies. One quarter-cup of red wine can substitute, if needed.
You won’t miss the meat.