Slow-cooked stews, chili take little effort, but warm the soul

After a long day in a cold season, it’s not unusual to crave a simmering, hot stew. In fact, people have been known to trade birthrights for a bowl of soup. Check out the Jacob and Esau story.

The long cooking gives off delicious aromas that are soothing and inviting. Although some soups and stews take a few hours on the stove or in the oven, the actual preparation time is minimal for the cook.

Here are a couple of easy, yet heart- and soul-warming meals.

Lamb Cacciatore | Serves 8

3 lbs. boneless lamb (shoulder), cut into 2-inch cubes
6 Tbs. flour
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs. finely chopped rosemary
3 sage leaves
3/4 cup veal or chicken stock
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 anchovy fillets

Dredge the lamb in the flour. Shake off the excess flour. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet; add the lamb and brown on all sides. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper and transfer to a 4-quart clay casserole. Sprinkle garlic, rosemary and sage over the lamb.

Pour off any fat from the skillet and add the stock and vinegar. Bring to a boil, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan, and pour over the lamb.

Cover the casserole and cook in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Just before serving, add the anchovies and mash them with 4 Tbs. of the sauce. Add the anchovies to the casserole and mix well with the lamb.

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Chili | Serves 10

4 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. yellow onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 1/2 lbs. unsalted chopped tomatoes
1 cup red wine
4 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 Tbs. coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
2 tsp. dry oregano, ground
1 Tbs. chili flakes, ground
1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. double-concentrated tomato paste
1 lb. black beans, cooked until soft
4 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley
4 Tbs. chopped cilantro

For garnish:
4 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup crème frâiche or sour cream
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the corn kernels, tomatoes, wine, cumin seed, coriander seed, paprika, oregano, chili flakes, sea salt, sugar, pepper and tomato paste. Bring to a boil to remove the alcohol from the wine. Add the cooked beans and place in a clay pot.

Cover and cook in a preheated 375-degree oven for 45 minutes. Check and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, stir in the parsley and the cilantro. Serve the garnish in bowls at the table.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].