Stews from Mexico to the Mediterranean, Siberian Food, and Cooking Rice

Hosted by
Clifford Wright is the author of Real Stew: 300 Recipes for Authentic Home-Cooked Cassoulet, Gumbo, Chili, Curry, Minestrone, Bouillabaise, Stroganoff, Goulash, Chowder, and Much More, published by Harvard Common Press.

Ragout of Pork Ribs and Sausages
Serves 5

In southern Italy cooks like to keep pork and pork sausages on the fire for a long time to make wonderfully flavored stews. This is a succulent stew that simmers for several hours. It is flavored with anise, whose aromatic flavor perfumes the dish in its slow cooking. The kind of ribs you want are called "country ribs" that have a lot more meat on the bone than back ribs. This stew is excellent with some baked ziti and broccoli.

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons pork lard
  • 2 1/2 lbs pork country ribs on the bone
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • One 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 1/4 lb hot Italian sausages
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon aniseed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. In an earthenware (preferably) casserole, heat the olive oil with the pork lard over medium-high heat, then brown the country ribs with the onion and garlic, about 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1 cup wine. Add the sausages, dissolved tomato paste, and the remaining 1/2 cup wine, the water, and aniseed, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 4 hours. Serve, saving any extra ragout for a future meal.

Chicken and Butternut Squash Minestrone
Serves 6

Don't let the long list of ingredients deter you from making this robust minestrone perfect for a winter's day. Not only is it a beautiful looking preparation, with the golden colored pumpkin shining through, contrasted with the verdant green of the chard, it is also incredibly healthy, nutritionists will tell you. This minestrone di pollo e zucca is ideal when you make the chicken broth yourself by poaching the whole chicken to make the broth. If this isn't possible use the highest quality chicken broth, canned or concentrated cubes, but if you do, pay close attention to the sodium content. Ditali and tubetti are Italian pastas that are short macaroni, and should be found relatively easy in a good supermarket, but you could also use elbow macaroni. The soffritto, as the Italians call it, is a saut- of finely chopped onions and other vegetables in olive oil. Soffritto means to fry very gently, to under-fry (sotto friggere). A soffritto is often the beginning point of a sauce or more involved dish. The soffritto concept also exists in Catalan cooking, where sofregit means the same thing.

For the broth:

  • One 3-lb chicken
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), washed well
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Bouquet garni (consisting of 6 tarragon sprigs, 6 parsley sprigs, and 1 bay leaf) tied together with kitchen twine
  • 1 large carrot, cut up
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut up
  • 1 celery stalk, cut up
  • 1 leek, trimmed, split lengthwise, washed well, and cut up
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 4 quarts water
For the minestrone:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, very finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, trimmed, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 2 whole dried red chile peppers
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 4 small carrots (about 6 ounces), trimmed, peeled, and diced
  • 3 small parsnips (about 1/4 pound), trimmed, peeled, and diced
  • 3 small turnips (about 10 ounces), peeled and diced
  • 1 cup ditali or tubetti or elbow macaroni
  • 4 large leaves Swiss chard (about 3/4 pound), trimmed of the lowest, thickest part of white stem
  • 2 Tablespoons
  • salt 1 Tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 6 slices of Italian bread fried in olive oil
1. Stuff the chicken with the coriander, season with salt and pepper inside and out and wrap in cheesecloth, tying it off. It's not absolutely necessary to use cheesecloth, but it does make retrieving the chicken later much easier. Place the chicken in a large stockpot with the bouquet garni, carrot, onion, celery, leek, peppercorns, and water. Turn the heat to high and just as the water begins to shimmer on top, reduce the heat to low. At no time should the liquid boil because that will only toughen the chicken. Partially cover and cook until the meat would fall off the bone if you were not using cheesecloth, about 3 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken and unwrap from the cheesecloth. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove all the meat and shred with a fork and knife into smaller pieces. Set the chicken aside until needed and discard the bones and skin. Strain the broth, discarding all the vegetables and reserve the broth.

2. In a stockpot (you can clean the one you just used), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the soffritto of onion, garlic, celery, carrot, red chile peppers, and parsley until translucent and soft, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine and once it is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes, add the squash, carrots, parsnips, and turnips. Toss well with the soffritto and cook 1 minute. Add the reserved broth, reduce the heat to low and cook until the vegetables are al dente, about 30 minutes. Add the pasta, Swiss chard, reserved chicken, salt, and pepper and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 20 minutes. Serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, parmigiano cheese and the fried bread.

Nancy Zaslavsky is the author of many books on Mexican cuisine including A Cook's Tour of Mexico: Authentic Recipes from the Country's Best Open-Air Markets, City Fondas and Home Kitchens and Meatless Mexican Home Cooking. She also leads culinary tours to Mexico throughout the year. You can reach her by phone at 310-440-8877, by fax at 310-471-0163, or e-mail

Serves 4

  • 2 lbs whole chicken thighs, or pork leg meat cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 3 white onions (1 quartered, 2 chopped)
  • 2 lbs plum tomatoes (about 6)
  • 1/2 lb chorizo (Mexican sausage), casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 canned chipotles en adobo chiles, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Sea or kosher salt and black pepper
1. Put the meat, quartered onion and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot with 2 quarts water and bring to boil, covered. Turn down the heat and cook 20 minutes, until meat is just barely cooked through. Transfer the meat to a plate and cool enough to handle. Discard skin and bones. Shred for soft tacos, or cut into 1-inch chunks if the tinga is to be served with rice.

2. Toast the tomatoes until their skins blacken. Cool slightly, peel, core and chop.

3. Saut- the chorizo in a large skillet 3 minutes until brown. Tilt the skillet and remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Saut- 5 minutes. Stir in the meat, tomatoes, chiles, oregano and parsley. Lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Drizzle in the fresh lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

Want more spice? Finely chop another canned chile, add, mix and taste.
Tinga is even better if made ahead. Cool, refrigerate and reheat.
Serve Tinga with plenty of warm corn tortillas, a fresh table salsa, sliced avocados and crumbled queso fresco.
Use the remaining broth for a soup base. Strain, refrigerate overnight and skim fat.
For sopa seca, break vermicelli into 1-inch pieces and saut- 1 cup in 2 tablespoons oil until browned. Pour hot broth over pasta and boil until absorbed and pasta is soft (really mushy, Mexican comfort food). Top with grated cheese.

Sharon Hudgins is the author of Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East, published by A&M; Press.

Mark Bittman is the author of the award-winning How to Cook Everything. He is also the author of the Minimalist column in the New York Times Dining section each week. His latest book is The Minimalist Entertains, published by Broadway Books.

Japanese Seafood and Rice
Yield: 4 servings.
Time: 40 minutes

  • 1 3- to 4-inch strip of kelp (kombu)
  • 5 shiitake mushroom caps, fresh or dried
  • 1/2 cup dried bonito flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 lb cleaned squid, tentacles cut in two, bodies sliced (or use all shrimp)
  • 1 3/8 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen (and thawed)
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon mirin or honey
  • 1/2 lb cleaned shrimp, in small pieces
  • Salt if necessary.
1. Combine kelp with 4 cups water in a small saucepan, and turn heat to medium. If using dried shiitakes, add them. Bring almost to a boil, about 10 minutes (proceed to Step 2 while waiting), add bonito flakes and turn off heat. Remove shiitakes after 10 minutes.

2. Put oil in a deep 10-inch skillet or fairly broad saucepan that can be covered; turn heat to medium high. Slice and add reconstituted mushrooms or sliced fresh mushrooms, along with onions and squid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges of all three are brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring until combined. Add peas and strained kelp-bonito flake water (dashi), along with soy sauce and mirin. Stir, reduce heat to medium low, and cover. A minute later, check that mixture is simmering, and adjust heat if necessary; cook for 15 minutes. Mixture should still be a little soupy (add a little dashi or water if it is dried out).

3. Remove cover, add shrimp and stir; raise heat a bit and cook until rice is tender and mixture is moist but not soupy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.