by Kendra Murray
Celebrate Your Holiday Roots!
The end of the year is a time for celebration. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s, most of us participate in some holiday festivities during December. Although I do enjoy celebrating Christmas with my family, it also can be a hectic time of year. Online shopping has certainly become a big time saver for me, but there are still many things keeping me busy during the holidays.
In the midst of all of the hustle and bustle, it’s nice to be able to celebrate just having a quiet night in. There’s nothing like a hearty meal, a nice glass of wine, and some good company. (Although sometimes depending on how busy the week has been, solitude is bliss.)
The past couple of years I have been keeping my pantry stocked with local veggies through a fall CSA at Apponagansett Farm in Dartmouth, as well as a winter CSA at Freedom Food Farm in Raynham. You may think the option to eat locally in New England becomes impossible after the fall harvest is over. It’s not; you just need to know where to look. Winter farmers’ markets are popping up everywhere and many farmers offer winter CSAs full of delicious roots to get you through the cold months. Of course, local meat, seafood, cheeses, milk, and eggs are always in season.
With a kitchen chock-full of potatoes, carrots, and beets, I find myself making a lot of heavy stews. One, I have the ingredients, and two, potatoes and starchy foods are comforting in the winter. I’m constantly looking for new ideas and flavors for my winter meals. Over the past few years I’ve collected a variety of cookbooks featuring different cuisines, several of which are linked to my family heritage. In the winter time, I always crack open my Irish cookbook, Real Irish Food by David Bowers. Potato-y, starchy, and hearty meals abound! Despite the bad rap that the UK gets for having bland, somewhat boring food, there’s a lot of really flavorful delicious recipes to be discovered!
My absolute favorite winter meal is beef and oyster stew. I first made it after my grandfather brought me a giant bag of oysters he had harvested on a beach near his home. I’ve been known to slurp down a dozen (or two…) raw oysters, but even I didn’t know what to do with that many oysters. I found this recipe and figured I’d give it a shot.
Oysters lend a briny yet sweet flavor to a traditional beef stew. If oysters aren’t in your budget, you can make the stew with beef alone; it is still very good! Ironically, in the olden days in Ireland, oysters were abundant, cheap, and used to stretch the beef stew further. I wish this still rang true.
I’ve provided the recipe as I tend to make it, which is, as with most things I cook, modified slightly based on my tastes (and what I tend to have in my cupboards). Occasionally I’ll make this recipe without the cubed potatoes in it, and serve the stew over hot, chunky garlic mashed potatoes. Macomber turnips are also a great addition. Tailor it to suit your tastes (and keep it local)!