No, it's not winter yet - not even officially autumn. But the winds blew in fall-like weather and we've had our first frost of the season. To me, this is enough to declare the start of emataje season.
I first got this recipe - really a verbal list of ingredients I quickly jotted down on a piece of scrap paper that lives in a pile in our house somewhere - for emataje from a dear friend and fellow food lover. She said it is a Tibetan recipe that her teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, brought from his homeland. She gave few specific amounts and scarce instructions on how to combine them - luckily this is about the easiest stew ever, so it's almost impossible to go wrong. Since then it has been a regular on my fall and winter menu and I never feel totally secure unless there is a decent stock of the stuff frozen in my freezer.
With the heartiness of potatoes and beef, the richness of bleu cheese and the spike of heat from the jalapenos, this stew will warm you on the coldest of nights and leave your tongue buzzing gently.
This week we had our first emataje night of the season - and now have our first quart frozen for the coming frigid months. In an attempt to convince Ava that this stew is worth a regular spot on our cold-weather menu I removed all the seeds from the jalapenos (the soup really does best with a nice kick) and served it with Ava's favorite bread, the Roadhouse Rye from Zingerman's. (I could write a whole post raving about this bread in particular and all bread from Zingerman's in general. Will stacked the car full of Zing's bread on his last trip to Minnesota from Michigan and we are using up our last loaf of Roadhouse Rye. Truly, it may be worth the hefty fee to mail order some more.)
She wasn't quite as convinced as I, but unable to bear the thought of an emataje-less winter I will continue to offer it (they say it can take as many as 10-20 times of introducing a new food, right?) - maybe with some yummy side dish I know she'll like.
I couldn't resist sharing my version of the recipe with you. Please tweak it to fit your own and your family's preferences. The following recipe will make about 4 large servings:
1-2 baking potatoes cut in cubes with skin on
1 large yellow onion sliced in half moons
3-4 tomatoes quartered (more if they're small)
2-4 jalapeno peppers sliced lengthwise (scoop out seeds if you prefer less heat)
1 lb cubed stew meat (grass-fed)
Place the ingredients above in a large pot or dutch oven and add filtered water to just cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off the frothy layer just as the stew begins to boil. Let simmer for at least 45 minutes, but longer if you have the time (the stew will taste better the longer you let the meat tenderize and the flavors marry). Towards the end you will add the following ingredients:
a few handfuls shitake mushrooms sliced
lots of spinach (lots!)
1 moderately sized wedge of bleu cheese crumbled
Sit around the table with your family and friends and Enjoy! And do let me know what you think.