Brrrr-zee-pants: an exclamation often used in my house as an expression of extreme coldness.
In my house growing up, my dad liked to keep the thermostat at around 60 degrees. The lowest temperature I remember seeing was 56˚. I’d walk around the house in layers, blankets swathed around me like a linen closet beauty queen, shivering. Back in those days, you could usually find me in the Bahamian paradise of my bedroom, space heater on full whack, swim suit, sunglasses and towel. When it was time to forge out into the tundra (the rest of the house), I’d layer up to go on my covert mission, creeping down the stairs in my blanket to the mission control panel in the downstairs hallway. Can’t get caught–Oh hello dear brother. Just walking in the hallway. Where’s dad? Beep beep beep beep beep–think he’ll notice an extra 10 degrees? Let the back and forth heater games begin!
Warmth is a core value of mine, and although my house isn’t cold now–luckily, the Mister and I are compatible on our thermostat preference setting (MFEO, I tell you), my most favorite spot in the house is in my zen den, in front of my space heater. It makes even the most mundane tasks appealing. When I visit dad’s house now, I wear my Antarctic hooded coat, and bring my emergency preparedness blanket. I may have gotten a lot of my creativity and imagination from my dad, but one thing I sure didn’t inherit is his tolerance for cold.
The weather out here in Denver has been bipolar these days. One day it’s 75 degrees. The next, a howling snow storm. On the days I would classify as BRR-ZEE-PANTS, I like to cook something filling and warming. Before I stopped eating meat, I used to love a good beef stew, although it wasn’t really the beef I was after. I was always a vegetable hoarder growing up. Mom would make a pot roast in the slow cooker, with carrots, potatoes and celery, and I’d pass by and sneak forkfuls before dinner. I also have fond memories of making really hearty stews in my early cooking days. My diet has changed substantially since then, and although I don’t crave the beef, I do crave the taste memory of a good beef stew–dark, rich and hearty with lots of vegetables; the kind of soup that warms you up from the inside out.
This stew is perfect for the most brr-zee-pants-iest of days. Melt-in your mouth carrots, parsnips and potatoes suspended in a thick, rich mushroom broth. You can simmer it on the stove, or as I like to do with any soup or stew recipe, sauté the vegetables and assemble the soup completely, and save the simmering step for the slow cooker.
There are still some blustery days to come, so next time you think to yourself, “gee, I feel quite brr-zee-pants right now”, I hope you’ll cuddle up in the Bahamian paradise of your space heater, and try a big bowl of this stew!
Hearty Vegetable Mushroom Stew
Makes: 12 cups, 6-8 servings
- 2 TB vegan butter2 TB olive oil
- 1 1/4 lb small onions such as cipollinis, ends trimmed, peeled and quartered (or use the same amount of yellow or sweet onions, diced)
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch
- 2 med parsnips, sliced 1/4 inch (8 oz)
- 4 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 cup marsala wine or dark beer
- 2 TB tomato paste
- 1 quart mushroom broth
- 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup chopped dried wild mushrooms, woody stems removed
- 1 1/2 pounds fingerling, yukon gold or red potatoes, cut 1 inch x 1/2 inch
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 TB Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce, more or less to taste
- 1 tsp worchestershire sauce (check for vegan if needed)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 TB arrowroot starch or cornstarch, whisked into 1/4 cup cold water or broth
- 1 TB apple cider vinegar
Heat butter and oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onions and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt, and cover and allow to sweat for 3-4 minutes. Uncover and sauté for 2 minutes until softened. Add carrots, parsnips and celery. Cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and fresh mushrooms. Sauté for a few more minutes, . Deglaze plan with the marsala wine or beer, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomato paste. Stir to coat the vegetables.
Add the broths, dried mushrooms, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, liquid aminos and worcestershire sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, but careful not to over-salt because the stew will cook down and concentrate a bit. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, or put in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. Stir in the arrowroot or corn starch slurry. Remove 2 cups of the soup to a blender. Puree. Add back to the soup. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Adjust salt, pepper and liquid aminos to taste.