Warm Mixed Vegetable Stew with Baked Goat Cheese

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The combination here is only one of many, though I never use more than seven to nine vegetables, and I never use tomatoes unless they are cherry tomatoes, because they water down the sauce and dominate the flavors. The addition of chopped garlic and herbs just before you bring the stew to the table causes a burst of rich fragrance that perfects the dish.

I prefer water to chicken stock for a cooking liquid—the resulting sauce has a much fresher and purer vegetable taste—and I use either butter or olive oil to finish the dish. If the word ragout comes from the French ragouter, meaning “to revive the appetite,” then this is the dish to do it.

In this version, which I cooked with Jean-Marie Lacroix, I served the stew with a Capriole baked fresh goat cheese coated in fresh bread crumbs, and olive oil garlic toasts sprinkled with sea salt.

Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce fresh, rindless, white goat cheese round
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 12 tablespoons butter (1 ½ sticks)—4 tablespoons melted, 8 tablespoons cold, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 16 small pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh tarragon
  • salt
  • 12 baby red carrots, trimmed, peeled
  • 4 small yellow zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 12 green French beans
  • 2 pounds fava bean pods, beans removed and peeled
  • 8 large green asparagus spears, bottom ½ inch of stem cut off, peeled, cut in half across, halved lengthwise
  • 24 fresh squash blossoms (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, tarragon, parsley), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Dust the surface of the goat cheese with freshly ground black pepper. Then dip the cheese in the 4 tablespoons melted butter and press it into the bread crumbs to coat all over. Put the cheese in an ovenproof dish and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once, until golden brown but not melted.

Put the onions, bell peppers, thyme, tarragon, 1 cup of water, and a pinch of salt in a sauté pan. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; maintain it at a steady boil while adding the succession of vegetables. Cook the carrots in the boiling water for 1 minute, then lift them out and add to the onions in the sauté pan. Cook the zucchini in the boiling water for 1 minute, then add to the other vegetables. Cook the French beans, fava beans, and asparagus together in the boiling water for 1 minute and add to the other vegetables.

Toss, cover, and cook the vegetables for 2 minutes. Make sure there is about 1 cup of liquid in the vegetable pan. Uncover the pan. Add the squash blossoms, herbs, garlic, and remaining 8 tablespoons cold butter. Raise the heat to high and toss the vegetables together until the butter is melted and the sauce thickens a little. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately on a large platter with the goat cheese in the center.

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