Simple, Hearty Stews to Warm the Soul

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
January 20, 2016 7:33 pm Last Updated: January 21, 2016 1:06 pm

The brutal winter cold is finally here. Warm up with these stews—they’re hearty enough to comfort the soul and fortify against the elements.

An Oxtail Stew Recipe From the Sephardic Tradition

Nir Mesika, executive chef, Timna

Since I can remember, my mother used to cook us chamin, a traditional stew, the Sephardic version of chulent. This dish is an entire meal for the whole family. Traditionally it’s made mainly of oxtail, grains, bone marrow, and root vegetables, and cooked over a very low flame for 24 hours. The smell of the cooking would fill the entire house at night and would not let me sleep. I couldn’t wait for the morning to try it.

I took this traditional dish and the technique of slow-cooking meat, and developed my own—and a little lighter—version of this familiar (and familial) taste. I developed the recipe so it would be better suited for a casual dinner and faster to prepare, so anyone could make it at home. The umami flavors from the mushrooms and meat make the dish very light, yet flavorful.

This dish is great for cold winter days or nights. Personally, I think it’s better to prepare it during the afternoon and let it slowly cook until the sun comes down. That way all the flavors blend together and fill up the house with amazing scents and anticipation. The family can all sit together and enjoy this nutritious meal. Take some nice challah bread, and dig in.

At Timna, Mesika serves the Oxtail Ragout with fresh corn polenta and stewed mushrooms.

Timna Oxtail & Polenta 2 by Michael Tulipan
(Michael Tulipan)

Oxtail Ragout

Serves: 5


  • 3 ounces butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 pieces of oxtail, 3-inch cut (can request this from the butcher)
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 stock of celery, diced small
  • 2 ounces shimeji mushrooms
  • 1/2 pound baby shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 ounces enoki mushrooms
  • 3 chanterelle mushrooms
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 liter chicken stock


Heat the butter and the oil in a large pot. Season the oxtail with fresh black pepper and salt on all sides. When the pot is hot, add the oxtail pieces and brown on all sides. Take the meat out of the pot and reserve.

In the same pot, sauté the onion, carrot, and celery for 10 minutes over medium heat. Then add the mushrooms, thyme, and the bay leaves and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oxtail back to the pot and pour in the red wine and the chicken stock. Turn the heat up to boil for five minutes, then cook on low heat for about 4 hours, mixing the stew every 40 minutes and keeping the pot covered all other times.

The stew is ready when the meat is super tender and falls off the bone. Before serving, season with salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar.

(Recipe courtesy of executive chef Nir Mesika, Timna, NYC)

Jewish-Meets-Mexican Brisket, LA-Style 

Alex Resnick, executive chef, Picnic LA

This easy-to-make stew is a favorite of mine when the temperature decides to drop in LA. It’s a mash-up of my mother’s Jewish cooking and some Mexican influence that’s impossible to avoid around here.

At Picnic, we use all-natural Angus brisket from Aspen Ridge Farms in Colorado, but any fresh brisket will be just as delicious.

Brisket Stew. (Courtesy of Picnic LA)
Brisket Stew. (Courtesy of Picnic LA)

Brisket Stew



  • 1 pound brisket, trimmed and cubed into medium-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl barley
  • 3 tomatillos, husks removed and washed thoroughly
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 8 cups beef stock (can be store bought)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
  • Plenty of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.


Peel and chop the onion and carrots into large chunks, then quarter the tomatillos.

Place all ingredients (except the sour cream and cilantro) into a slow cooker.

Cook on the lowest setting for 6 to 8 hours while you’re busy doing other things. The brisket should be so tender it’s falling apart.

Serve with a nice dollop of sour cream, lime wedge, and cilantro.

(Recipe courtesy of executive chef Alex Resnick, Picnic LA, Los Angeles)

Portuguese Bread Porridge With Shrimp Gets An Update

George Mendes, executive chef, Lupulo

What inspired me to create—or actually reinterpret—this Portuguese classic was the idea to present a dish that has both refined and rustic, peasant qualities to it. Using day-old bread was the start. Getting that soft, porridge-like consistency was the goal—with some crunch and chewiness from the grilled shrimp.

The dish is perfect during colder weather, but is enjoyed year-round. It’s simple ingredients turned wholesome and satisfying.

(Jackie Gebel)
(Jackie Gebel)

Açorda de Camarão 

Serves: 4


  • 3 1/2 cups whole-wheat country bread, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely diced
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 8 fresh shrimp
  • 1 fresh bay leaf, torn
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon pimentón (smoked sweet paprika), plus more to taste
  • Pinch of crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 cups shrimp stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • Maldon sea salt, to taste


Heat the oven to 300 F. Spread the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, dry, and crunchy. Let cool.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium cast-iron casserole over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a big pinch of kosher salt. Add bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and the remaining tablespoon of oil and cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes. Add coriander, pimentón, chile flakes, and a big pinch of kosher salt.

Stir well and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the mixture is thick and the flavors are really concentrated, about 10 minutes.

Gently fold in the bread and let it soak up the juices. Drizzle with oil, add 1 cup of the stock, and fold in gently—you don’t want the bread to shred. Continue adding the stock, half a cup at a time, folding gently after each addition. The mixture will be wet, and the bread will break down a little, but you want the cubes to hold their shape. The more you work it now, the gummier the mixture will become. Discard the bay leaf.

Gently fold in the cilantro and eggs, and keep it moving as it cooks just until the eggs are heated through. You don’t want to actually scramble the eggs, you just want them to enrich the mixture.

Drizzle with oil and garnish with lime zest, or pimentón, and Maldon salt.

Sauté fresh shrimp in olive oil, salt, and pepper in a separate pan and place on top of porridge.  

(Recipe courtesy of executive chef George Mendes, Lupulo, NYC)

The Warmth of Black Beans With a Pop of Sherry Vinegar

(Courtesy of Dean & DeLuca)
(Courtesy of Dean & DeLuca)

Cuban Black Bean Soup With Sherried Onions


  • 1/2 pound smoky slab bacon
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3/4 pound dried black beans
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 small green chilies, seeds and stems removed and the chilies minced
  • 2 quarts water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes


Put bacon, garlic, beans, cumin, chilies, and water in soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for about 2 hours, skimming foam if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While soup is simmering, set the red onion in a bowl to marinate with the sherry vinegar. When soup is ready, ladle into 8 bowls and top each serving with some marinated onion and a spoonful of the diced tomatoes.

(Courtesy of Dean & DeLuca)