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I am participating in a stew cook-off competition with twelve restaurants involved. Rather than adding the raw, cut and prepared, root-style vegetables (red potatoes, celery, and carrots) near the end of cooking to cook and finish, I am thinking of cooking them separately in salted water, draining and adding to the stew along with frozen peas as it is finished (meat tender).

I am thinking the vegetables will retain more of their inherent individual tastes and flavors, rather than absorbing the flavors of the stew and get lost into a homogenous mix.

Any advice is appreciated, thnk you.

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    (side note) Some of the flavor of the stew liquid is from those vegetables, especially the celery and carrots. You'll probably want to cook some with the meat, even if you discard (or puree) them.
    – derobert
    Jan 14, 2015 at 6:56
  • Thanks. I was planning on coarse chopping onions, carrots, and celery and including them from the beginning, then fishing them out at the end.
    – Bascoman
    Jan 14, 2015 at 11:59
  • I also thought about pureeing them, but in this cometition the stew will be presented side by side, making appearance even more important. I'm thinking a smoother, clearer sauce will be more visually appealing.
    – Bascoman
    Jan 14, 2015 at 12:08
  • I thought separately cooked vegetables might retain more original color and be a little brighter looking.
    – Bascoman
    Jan 14, 2015 at 12:11

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I have played around with this quite a bit myself. For me, boiling and then adding does not work. As suggested in derobert's remark, many of the veg traditionally added to a stew are there not just as filling but to give off their flavor to the stewing liquid. Leaving them out during the stew is detrimental to your flavor.

I have gotten my best results by adding the stock vegetables (carrots, unions, celery, garlic) as early as I normally would and then adding some vegetables late in the process to provide a differing texture to the whole. After some experimentation I have found that quickly stirfrying some green veg gives a very nice effect, as it adds some color and a very different texture to your end result. My personal favorite for this is quartered sprouts, quickly fried at high heat and then dunked in icewater.

Purely from a texture point of view you vcan also get nice results with diced root vegetables such as cabbage turnip and turnip-rooted celery treated in a similar way.

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  • Thanks. My reading of the judges from the past indicates that unusual or more exotic items don't work. I'm also torn between a coarse, more rustic cut on the final vegetables, versus perhaps a more even slicing of the celery on the bias, ridge slicing carrots and potatoes.
    – Bascoman
    Jan 14, 2015 at 12:30
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I roast the root vegetables, then add for the last 30 minutes. I find boiled vegetables uninteresting. Roasted vegetables bring flavor and great texture. Trying to time it just right to the meat's doneness is almost impossible. You never know how long the vegetables will take in the stew.

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I would be reluctant to cook the vegtables separately. The problem is that not only do many of the vegetables give flavor to the liquid to the stew, but more bland items absorb the liquid, keeping them from being so bland. In the case of starchy vegetables, they also contribute to the body of the stew.

It's also difficult to give exact times for cooking the vegetables, as there are a number of factors:

  • type of vegetable
  • size and cut of the vegetable
  • acidity of the cooking liquid
  • temperature of the cooking liquid
  • personal preference

Now, all of that being said ... I make a stew in which most of the items are cooked separately. If I roast meat and vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, etc.), and have a fair amount left over, I'll cut up the meat, start it cooking in a pot with some extra liquid (the meat juices, maybe some stock, a can of tomatoes, etc.), then add the roasted vegetables and a grated potato (to replace the starch needed to thicken it), and if I have them, some green beans or peas. Let it all warm through and the grated potato disappear, and you can then either serve or let sit in the fridge for a day or two so the flavors meld.

Based on that, I'd be much more likely to use roasted vegetables before boiled ones. You concentrate the flavors, rather than washing them away. If you use a roasting pan that you can deglaze, you could even rescue anything that leaked out and get it back into your stew. If you roasted each vegetable seperately, you could get the control that you're asking for to ensure that everything's cooked as you want it. (but I'd still give them a little bit of time to mingle)

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    And I should mention that when you mention perfectly cooked vegetables in stew -- filipino menudo. I've never been able to ge it done quite right myself (I don't cook it often enough), but when it's done right (in my opinion), the potatoes hold up on their own but break apart in your mouth; the carrots have texture but aren't crunchy; and the diced bell peppers and peas are just warmed through to brighten it all up.
    – Joe
    Jan 14, 2015 at 14:14
  • Now you've got me torn. I like the flavor addition of roasting the vegetables, but I'm leaning towards the filipino menudo effect you mentioned. I should have mentioned before, but I made a base stock with the classic ingredients and oxtails. I now have this semi-clear, gelatigenous base. Now, for the actual stew, I'm planning on using chuck and hoping to achieve a clear velvety sauce. That's why I thought vegetables that kept their sharp-edged cuts and textures would look better than the more rustic roasted look.
    – Bascoman
    Jan 14, 2015 at 14:58
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    @Bascoman : I think the acid in the menudo (tomatoes + lemon or vinegar) help to keep the potatoes from breaking down, and so they'll retain a bit of a sharper edge ... but I'd think that you ensure you get one, you'd want to make sure they were cut small enough to cook full through (as acid slows that down). You could also experiment with baked potatoes, then cooled, then cubed if you wanted a stark white, sharp-edged cube. You'd need to avoid the tomato to keep your clear stock, but a hit of acid at the end would be nice (or a dollop of sour cream)
    – Joe
    Jan 14, 2015 at 15:07
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I would recommend splitting the vegetables: some from the start for taste and some later for show. The first ones are discarded when sieving/reducing the sauce. The others can be coloured by roasting or glazing in water/butter. You can also shape them the way you want and preserve that shape. This will achieve your twin objective of taste and looks.

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