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Chocolate and Elk Meat Make Prize-Winning Stews

PULLMAN, Wash. — How do you make an award-winning stew? Moscow, Idaho resident Peg Hamlett does it with lean beef, Cabernet sauvignon and chocolate.

Hamlett’s Beef Burgundy Stew, created from all Washington-produced ingredients (except the spices and chocolate), won first place in this year’s Wazzu Stew Cookoff Sept. 28, as part of Washington State University’s Land Grant Day celebration.

“I make lots of stews, but I usually don’t use recipes,” Hamlett said. “I learned that I had to use all Washington ingredients for the contest, and I knew that Washington makes really good burgundies, so I decided to use one for this stew. I went to the Wine Company in Moscow and they recommended a Bridgeman Cabernet Sauvignon; I created the recipe using that.”

The chocolate idea came from a month-long cooking class Hamlett attended this summer in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she learned to cook tamales, enchiladas and moles, a south-of-the-boarder sauce made with chocolate.

“Adding chocolate to stew sounds strange to many Americans, but it’s not sweet (unless you add sugar), and it gives a deeper, more rounded taste to food,” Hamlett said. “There are many different moles–sweet, spicy and some with peppers and different chocolates. There are also sweet moles that include pomegranate seeds, which add color and a fresh taste. The chocolate adds a thick consistency and smooth texture to these sauces.

“For this stew, I used unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa, but you can also find imported chocolate in specialty food shops and even local supermarkets. Ibarra chocolate from Mexico has cinnamon in it, and that might also be good in this stew.” She cautions, however, not to get carried away with the chocolate: a teaspoon or two (added in proportion to other ingredients) is usually enough for a recipe making 4 – 6 servings.

Hamlett’s culinary expertise is not limited to stews — her Olive Cheese Loaf recently won second place (and $100) in the wheat cookoff at the Latah County Fair in Idaho.

“I really enjoy cooking and love to enter food contests. It’s fun to learn something new from other contestants and get ideas for making other dishes.”

In addition to the enjoyment she got from making the stew and participating in the Wazzu Stew Cookoff, Hamlett also won $100 for her prize-winning dish.

The runner-up ribbon went to a nontraditional stew made by another Moscow resident, Kathy Parkins; her One-Pot Elk Vegetable Stew won second place and $50 for originality.

Third place and $25 went to Paula Shepard of Maple Valley, Wash., with a beef stew judged to have excellent flavor and aroma.

(Third-place stew recipe not available. Photos of contest judging and first-place winner available.)

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Beef Burgundy Stew
Peg Hamlett, Moscow, Idaho

2 pounds lean Washington Beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
3 carrots, thinly sliced
20 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley, finely minced
3 cups Washington Burgundy wine
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 chopped tomatoes
2 strips bacon
½ cup pearl onions
1 cup sliced mushrooms

Put beef, onions, garlic, carrots, peppercorns, bay leaf, and parsley in a large stock pot and marinate for at least 3 hours. Drain pot, reserving liquid. In pot, put 2 tablespoons oil, add beef and vegetables and brown (should take only 2-3 minutes). Sprinkle with flour and cocoa; mix well. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and reserved liquid. Transfer to crock pot, add water to cover and cook for 2 hours on low. In small skillet, fry bacon until crisp and remove, retaining drippings. Add into pan the onions and mushrooms. Saute in bacon drippings for 3-4 minutes and drain on paper towels. Stir the onions, mushrooms and crumbled bacon into stew and serve.

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One-Pot Elk Vegetable Stew
Kathy Parkins, Moscow, Idaho

1-1/2 pounds elk steak
1, #1 can (12-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 large carrots, cut in 1/2-inch circles with crinkle cutter
4 large potatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks (oriental cut), with hearts and leaves chopped
1 cup frozen petite peas (add 10 minutes before serving)
3 and ½ tablespoons quick tapioca
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon Accent
2,1-ounce packages au jus mix
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons been bouillon granules
4 cups water

Pound the elk steak to tenderize. Cut into bite-sized pieces, dust with flour and brown in small amount of oil until almost done. Add meat along with remaining ingredients (except peas) to a Dutch oven or other oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bake at 300 degrees for 6 hours. Just before serving, add peas and cook just enough to heat them (about 10 minutes). Serve on a cold Winter day along with baking powder biscuits. Other vegetables may be added.

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