There’s a fall tradition we accidentally started ten years ago. My husband and I were living in Oregon and by coincidence a number of friends had traveled to visit on the same week. We invited all of them over one day and started a big pot of stew. The stew, accompanied by beer and candy filled our bellies and we lazed the rest of the day, playing poker and goofing off.
It was just an impromptu get-together, but apparently it left us with warm enough memories that we tried to repeat it the following year after we returned to Idaho. Then again the next year. Each year, we invited more and more people. Each year, there were new activities – pumpkin carving, puzzles, dancing, flag football, hula hooping, a nintendo tournament – but the two elements that have stayed firmly in place every year are brew and stew. Hence the name.
Because 50+ friends come through the door, we ask that our guests bring either a stew in a crockpot, drinks, or snacks and sweets. I try to sample at least five stews. As of late, there have been around 12-15 crockpots squeezed onto a table at one time. Usually when one guest leaves with a crockpot, another arrives. The diversity of stews is a beautiful thing. There are vegan stews, venison stews, gourmet stews, incredibly spicy stews, stews that aren’t stew but actually chowder or soup or chili. The brew is surprisingly diverse too. Microbrews and cheap domestics; heavy stouts, seasonal ales, hoppy IPA’s, and hard cider; and guests have shared their home brewed, fermented, and distilled beverages.
Brew and Stew feels like a holiday. It’s long and exhausting and takes days to prepare for, but it’s not the kind of event you can just cancel or would ever want to. The anticipation builds as leaves start to fall and we know the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner.
This vegetarian stew is rich and hearty. It is a nice mix of interesting flavors and familiar comfort food; making it perfect to add to the mix of choices for Brew and Stew.
Chestnut & Wild Rice Stew
1/4 cup butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 cup uncooked wild rice
1 parmesan rind
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely minced
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
10 ounces roasted and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
In large pot melt butter on medium heat. Sauté onions, carrots, celery, and butternut squash on medium high heat until vegetables are softened. About 10 minutes. Rinse wild rice and add to pot. Add rosemary, bay leaf, parmesan rind, salt, pepper, broth, and chestnuts. Bring to a low simmer and cook for about 45 minutes. Cover pot if liquid begins to evaporate too much. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaves. Finish with heavy cream. Careful to not boil stew after cream is added.
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts stew