When I first heard of cream stew, I will admit that I wasn’t very enthusiastic about trying it out. A stew made with milk really didn’t sound too appealing to me… Maybe I was just dismissing this plain looking stew because I was skeptical about its ultra white and creamy color, or because it was always being out-shined in my eyes by curry rice, another prominent stew-like dish.
But, then my sister-in-law made cream stew for dinner one night while I was visiting, and I was hooked! The stew was unexpectedly delicious, with the flavors of all the vegetables and meat coming to the forefront in a tasty, creamy stew that was rich, satisfying, and hearty. It wasn’t overly creamy or rich, and was so easy to eat. Of course, I had seconds!
In anime, cream stew is a popular dish that is seen in so many shows… it’s depicted in Fate:Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya as a school lunch, served in a restaurant/bar in Show by Rock, made for dinner in the Studio Ghibli film The Secret World of Arrietty, and seen feeding large groups of hungry anime characters in series such as Log Horizon, Akame ga Kill, and Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, just to name a few…
About the recipe:
This recipe for cream stew is divided into two stages: the roux and the stew itself. I tried several recipes in preparation for this blog post, and found this two-step method the most consistent and quick to make.
Other recipes I tried out called for cooking the entire stew in a mixture of broth and milk at a low temperature, so as to not to curdle the milk. Unfortunately, I found this method very time consuming to cook, because I just couldn’t bring the temperature up enough to cook all the vegetables in a timely manner.
I finally settled on a two-step recipe, which requires a roux to be made separate from the stew itself. The roux makes it easy to thicken the stew without it getting too watery, and allows the vegetables and meat to cook quickly in a bit of broth.
The main points to remember while making this recipe is avoid browning the vegetables or meat and to stir the stew gently and sparingly. Both these points help ensure that your stew remains white like cream instead of taking on the color of the vegetables in your pot. The kabocha, in particular, can quickly break down and turn your stew orange if cooked for too long or stirred too vigorously.
When adding the roux, try using a ladle filled with a bit of the broth to help dissolve and distribute the roux more easily. Simply fill the ladle with the hot broth, dissolve a tablespoon or two of the roux in the liquid, and then add it into the stew. This will help prevent excess stirring and minimize the chance of your vegetables breaking up into small pieces.
And, like any stew, the type and amount of vegetables you decide to use is entirely up to you. If you like more carrots, add more carrots! If you’d rather have green beans instead of broccoli, go right ahead and customize it to you liking. The recipe for the stew below is more of a guide than an absolute. Enjoy!
About the ingredients:
Shimeji mushrooms are a type of small brown and white mushroom that grows in large clumps. It’s typically found in Asian grocery stores. To use, just cut off the bottoms of the mushrooms where they all connect together. Separate them into individual mushrooms by using your hands to pull them apart.
If you can’t find shimeji mushrooms, I recommend using just regular white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, fresh shiitake mushrooms, or really any other mushroom you might be able to find. You can even use a combination! The only thing to keep in mind when choosing your mushrooms is the color. You want something fairly light in color so that your stew stays creamy white.
White pepper is recommended for this recipe, more so because of its color than its taste. If you have it on hand, use it. If not, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Makes 6 servings
For the roux:
- ½ onion, finely minced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ large bunch shimeji mushrooms, finely minced (about 1/2 cup when minced)
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and white pepper to taste
For the stew:
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 large carrot, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
- ½ a head of cabbage, coarsely cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 large onion, cut into 1/4 inch wedges
- 4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces
- ½ bunch shimeji mushrooms, separated
- 1 piece broccoli, florets cut into 2 inch pieces, stem cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/4 large kabocha cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup water
- 2 chicken broth cubes
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- Parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
For the roux:
- In a medium pan, heat olive oil on medium heat until shimmering. Add finely minced onions and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook onions until very soft and translucent, about 10 – 12 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onions (add a dash of water if necessary).
- Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, and continue cooking until very soft, about 5 – 8 minutes.
- Stir in flour and mix well to distribute it throughout the vegetable mixture.
- Turn heat to low and slowly add milk to the vegetables, stirring well to incorporate the liquid before adding more milk.
- Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 – 2 minutes, while stirring constantly, to cook flour and thicken the roux. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use in stew.
For the stew:
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot until shimmering. Add chicken and cook until opaque on all sides. Do not brown the chicken. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the same pot you cooked the chicken in. Heat until shimmering. Add carrots, onion, and cabbage. Cook until softened, about 5 – 8 minutes. Do not brown.
- Add water, chicken broth cubes, and potatoes to the pot. Stir to incorporate. Add partially cooked chicken back to the pot, arranging it on top of the vegetables in an even layer. Cover pot with a lid, and gently simmer on medium heat until the potatoes are just barely cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Add mushrooms, broccoli, and kabocha to the stew, stirring to incorporate. Cover with lid and continue cooking for an additional 5 – 8 minutes, or until all the vegetables are cooked through and tender.
- Put a bit of the roux in a ladle and gradually blend it into the broth of the stew. Try not to disturb the vegetables too much, so as to avoid breaking them into small pieces. Continue dissolving the roux into the stew a bit at a time until all the roux has been added to the stew. Simmer briefly for a minute before serving.
Serve with rice or bread, and garnish with parsley.