5 ways to stew or braise a delicious winter meal

If the snow and cold has you stuck indoors, what better way to warm the house than with a delicious dinner simmering on the stove? The Calgary Eyeopener's nutrition columnist, Julie Van Rosendaal, shares some of her favourite recipes.

Beef stew, coq au vin among recipes recommended

The Calgary Eyeopener's food and nutrition columnist, Julie Van Rosendaal, shares some of her favourite recipes for braising and stewing in the cold Calgary winter. (Credit: Julie Van Rosendaal)

When the snow and cold has you stuck indoors, what better way to warm the house than with a delicious dinner simmering on the stove?

Stewing and braising are very similar techniques — both methods are typically used on tough cuts of meat, which benefit from a long cooking time at a low temperature.

The combination of heat, liquid and time breaks down tough connective tissues, making meat melt-in-your-mouth tender. Browning your meat first will boost flavour and after that, all you need to do is wait. 

  • Listen to Julie Van Rosendaal chat about braising meat on the Calgary Eyeopener:

Classic beef stew

Beef stew is as classic as it gets. The secret is to simmer the meat first, allowing it to break down before adding the vegetables. Potatoes and carrots only need 30 minutes or so to simmer in the gravy to cook through.

  • 3-4 lbs. beef chuck or stewing beef, cut into two-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canola oil, for cooking
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped (optional)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 bottle red wine (about 2 cups)
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 lbs. small, thin-skinned potatoes, halved
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 300 F. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a heavy, oven-proof pot over medium-high heat, add a generous drizzle of oil and cook the meat in batches without crowding the pan. Brown well on all sides. Remove from the pot and add the onion and celery, if using. Cook for three to four minutes, until soft and starting to loosen the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the vinegar and cook for one more.

Add the stock and red wine, cover and cook for two and a half hours, until the meat is very tender. Add the potatoes and carrots, stir to coat everything well and return to the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Serves six to eight.

Beef stew is about as classic as it gets. (Credit: Julie Van Rosendaal)

Braised chicken in milk

Adapted from famous chef Jamie Oliver, this dish is made with a whole chicken that is usually roasted. However, braising keeps the meat moist, infusing it with the flavours of lemon and garlic — or whatever herbs and spices you decide to toss in the pot. Pull the meat off the bones and serve with the cooking liquid. Any extra can be almost instantly transformed into soup.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil or butter, for cooking
  • Zest of 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1 head of garlic, divided into cloves (no need to peel their skins)
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Pat the chicken dry, season it with salt and pepper then heat a heavy, oven-proof pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and brown the chicken all over, turning it with tongs. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot, cover and bake for one and a half hours. If you like, you can remove the lid for the last half hour if you want to brown the top a little bit more.

To serve, pull the meat off the bones and drizzle with sauce. Add a few cloves of garlic.

Serves four to six.

This dish, adapted from Jamie Oliver, is made with a whole chicken. (Credit: Julie Van Rosendaal)

Braised bison or beef short ribs

Short, stocky beef or bison short ribs are often overlooked cuts and yet they're some of the most simple, flavourful cuts available. All they need is to be browned and braised in cooking liquid of your choice — red wine, beer, tomato juice, stock. A splash of balsamic is delicious, or you can try a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme.

  • Canola oil, for cooking
  • 2 lbs. bison or beef short ribs (about 8)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1 carrot, chopped (optional)
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Beef or chicken stock (or more wine)

Heat a drizzle of oil in a heavy skillet or oven-proof pot and set over medium-high heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper before browning on all sides. Set apart. Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan and cook for a few minutes until they start to soften and loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and cook for a minute, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Return the ribs to the pot with the vegetables. Pour the wine over top and add enough stock to come about halfway up the sides of the ribs. Cover and cook at 300 F for three hours. Serve warm, with mashed potatoes or crusty bread to mop up the sauce. 

Serves four.

Short, stocky beef or bison short ribs are often overlooked cuts. (Credit: Julie Van Rosendaal)

Slow-roasted pork carnitas with orange

Pork shoulder is perfectly suited for braising — brown it, season with chili powder and braise in chicken stock for pulled pork, or try this orange-spiked version, pulled apart and piled on corn tortillas with typical taco fixings. It's perfect for serving a crowd. To crisp your corn tortillas, cook them in a generous drizzle of canola oil in a hot skillet.

  • 2 to 3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder
  • Canola oil, olive oil or lard, for cooking
  • 1 orange, washed and quartered
  • 1 cup whole milk or chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Cut the meat into a few chunks, heat a generous drizzle of oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and brown the meat on all sides. Squeeze the orange wedges over the meat and toss in the rinds alongside. Pour the milk or stock over top then add enough water to come halfway up the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with a tight-fitting lid and braise for three hours, until the meat is very tender.

Break or pull the meat apart into smaller pieces. Remove and discard the orange rind and place the pot directly on the table and surround with corn tortillas, crumbled feta, chopped purple onion, avocado, salsa and sour cream.

Serves lots.

This recipe for pork carnitas serves plenty, making it perfect for guests. (Credit: Julie Van Rosendaal)

Coq au vin (adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, Dec. 2012)

​This classic French dish of chicken braised in red wine is seeing a comeback. It's simple, makes use of inexpensive cuts of chicken and smells wonderful in the oven. 

  • Canola oil, for cooking
  • 10 to 12 chicken thighs and legs (or all thighs), with skin and bone
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cups red wine
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme
  • 1 lb. white button or brown mushrooms, halved or quartered

Preheat over to 350 F. Heat a drizzle of oil in a heavy pot set over medium-high heat and brown the chicken on all sides before transferring it to a plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it browns. Add the bacon to the pot and cook until soft. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for six to seven minutes, until the onion is soft and the bacon is crisp. Stir in one cup of red wine and simmer for two to three minutes. Add the remaining wine and simmer for 15 minutes, until reduced by half. Add the stock, thyme and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Transfer to the oven and cook for one and a quarter hours, until the chicken is tender.

Meanwhile, heat another drizzle of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and saute the mushrooms until golden brown. If you like, remove the chicken from the pot, set it on the stove and simmer until it's reduced and thickened, then return the chicken and mushrooms to the sauce (otherwise, just add the mushrooms to the pot).

Serve hot. Serves six to eight.

Coq au vin is a simple French dish that is seeing a resurgence due to its simplicity. (Credit: Julie Van Rosendaal)

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal shares recipes and cooking tips with the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. The cookbook author explores Calgary's culinary wonders in her column Food and the City.


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