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Stewing is a time-honored moist cooking technique that transforms less tender cuts of meat unsuitable for quick-cooking methods into melt-in-your-mouth meats. Stewing allows the cook to assemble the dish, boil it and then let it simmer, with little or no attention for an hour or more. A stew usually has smaller pieces of food that may or may not be browned first, and calls for a large quantity of liquid (enough to cover the food). Many "crock-pot" dishes are essentially stewed. Stews can be frozen and their flavors mature as they stand, so they are even better a day or so after you cook them. Vary the flavor profile of the stew dish by experimenting with seasonings (wine, broth, beer and vegetable juices) and different herbs and spices. In the final step, the sauce is thickened either with cornstarch or reduced by simmering. Cuts ideal for stewing are shoulder and pork cubes. In China, stews are usually cooked in a clay pot over a charcoal fire. The stew is cooked for a very long time, producing meat almost jelly-like in tenderness. Yummy! One variation of stewing is red-cooking.

Tips : Hard boiling a stew will render the food tough and chewy.

Red-cooking is stewing with soy sauce; some ingredients needing pre-frying, some not, imparting a reddish tinge to the final product - is a popular cooking technique in eastern China because there is where the finest soy sauce is produced in the China. In the final stage, the food is simmered over high or low heat till the sauce is reduced. Red-cooking is the typical family cooking. Red cooking has the advantage common to slow-cooking dishes that the leftovers keep well and can be eaten cold or warmed over. Cold red-cooked jelly of meat, chicken, etc., is especially good. If you are careful to warm it just to boiling point each time after use, the pot can keep for nearly two weeks!

Clear-simmering differs from red-cooking in several ways. It is clear because no soy sauce is used. Secondly, it is less dry and the slow cooking yields clear soup to serve as drink at the table. Except a few developed dried vegetables such as dried winter mushrooms, most clear-simmered dishes are meat and fish dishes. As soon as boiling starts, very low fire should be used. Any continued quick boiling will make the soup muddy and uninviting. Good Chinese cooks are proud of good clear-simmering, but ordinary cooks hesitate to clear-simmer, since it demands too much quantity, quality, and time. A practical advantage about a clear-simmered dish is that it combines the part of a main dish and that of a soup.



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Last Modified: 11/28/11.