Based on borscht, I chose to use pork ribs as the protein for Yaga Stew for what
should be Obvious Reasons…
My friend Jamie is a poet. Not the tights-wearing, feathered-cap, Courtly type. He’s more Poe-ish and Carroll-esque and darksome and creepy. Last year, he and his Evil Genius friends, musician and producer Kevin Smith and artist and art teacher Ali LaRock, put their three genius heads together to produce Cornerboys, a very creepy and awesome short film based on Jamie’s poem of the same name.
The witch wouldn’t have taken the time, but I built layers of flavor
by caramelizing ingredients before adding them to the pot.
This year, while managing to keep many plates spinning, including a whirlwind book tour to promote his first novel (the decidedly Uncreepy-but-Werewolf-ish and hilarious Barking Mad), Jamie and his Posse have done it again. They’ve produced another short horror film called The House of the Yaga, Jamie’s Even Creepier Than Cornerboys poem based upon the Baba Yaga myth. If you’re unfamiliar with Baba Yaga, she is not the type who flies around on a broomstick and sends flying monkeys after you. She certainly doesn’t take center stage and Sing. She’s not the witch who offers apples. She’s the Cannibal witch whose house prowls around on chicken feet. She is scary and awful and Beyond Creepy. She makes the witch in Hansel and Gretel look like Willy Wonka.
Roasted beets, of course. And roasted parsnips, because they kinda look like bones themselves.
And they add great flavor.
All the ingredients layered into the slow cooker where the magic happens,
courtesy of low, moist heat and time.
Jamie sent me a Sneaky Private link so I could watch The House of the Yaga before its actual release. So, of course I watched it. And I have been so excited for them since then, because the film is pure creepy Magic. Plus, there’s stew. In an email exchange a few weeks ago, I suggested to Jamie that I might be able to come up with a recipe for the stew that bubbles in Baba Yaga’s cauldron. He was all, “Have at it!” So I did. Have at it.
Depending on how disturbing you find this recipe, the color of this stew is
either gorgeous or upsetting.
And while you can watch House of the Yaga on Jamie’s site, here or on YouTube, if you are lucky enough to catch a screening at a film festival (Hello, ValleyCon later in October. We’re crossing our fingers that we’ll see it in February if it makes the Nevermore Film Festival and Retrofantasma in Durham), you will most likely be given a recipe card. And printed on that card will be This Very Stew! I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be attached to this project, even in an after-the-fact Hey, I Can Make Stew sort of way. So, thank you, Jamie, for allowing me to run with this idea. And thanks, Kevin, for your fabulous Sounds and to Ali (One day we will meet, I hope) for your evocative Pictures.
And to my readers, enjoy this stew. Know that no small children, named Alexander or otherwise, were harmed in the making of it and that The Yaga had it kind of right: throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and let it gently bubble away, and you’ll most likely end up with Something Yummy.
- 2 medium beets
- 3 parsnips
- olive oil
- 3 strips bacon
- 1/2 rack pork spare ribs, (about 7-8 ribs)
- 3 carrots
- 1 large onion, , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, , minced
- 1 cup button or crimini mushrooms, , washed and quartered
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, , divided
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1-28 oz can whole stewed tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 oz fresh dill, , thicker stems removed
- 1 oz fresh parsley, , thicker stems removed
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- juice of one large lemon
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, , to taste
- Scrub the beets and cut them in half from root to tip.
- Scrub and peel the parsnips and cut them in half from root to tip. Cut them in half again, cross-wise.
- Drizzle a roasting pan with a bit of olive oil. Place the beet halves on the pan, cut sides down. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt. Roast for 30 minutes at 400F.
- Add the parsnips to the pan, cut sides down. Drizzle with oil and salt, and roast for an additional 20 minutes.
- When beets and parsnips are tender, remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them. Pull the skin off the beets. Slice the beets into 1/4" slices and set aside.
- Cook and crumble the bacon in a heavy skillet. Remove bacon to crock pot or Dutch oven.
- Work a dull knife under the membrane on the bone side of the ribs and then pull off the membrane. Season with salt and pepper, and brown in the same skillet. Remove to crock or Dutch oven.
- Scrub and cut the carrots into large chunks and place around the ribs.
- In the same skillet you used for the bacon and the meat, brown the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Add a bit more olive oil and salt & pepper, as necessary.
- Add the mustard seed. Deglaze the pan with 3 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar and cook until almost dry.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook an additional 2 minutes.
- Remove the onion mixture to the crock or Dutch oven.
- Place the sliced roasted beets and quartered parsnips in the pot.
- Pour in the can of tomatoes and the vegetable broth. Season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
- Stir in the fresh herbs. If using a crock pot, cook on high for 3 hours and then on low for an additional 3 hours. If using a Dutch oven, bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer until the meat pulls easily from the bone, about three hours.
- Stir in the cabbage, lemon juice, the remaining tablespoon of red wine vinegar and honey and simmer until the cabbage is just tender, about ten minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve as is or over egg noodles with a bit of sour cream.
Like all braises, this one really benefits from an overnight chill and then reheating the next day. If you have the time to do this, don't add the cabbage, lemon juice, vinegar or honey until the next day once the stew is again at a simmer. If you don't want to use pork ribs, you can use any beef or pork suitable for braising. Oxtail or shanks would be excellent choices. Just in case you are a witch, here are the directions for you: Fill cauldron with ingredients. Simmer until tender and meat slides uneasily from bone.