Must-try hearty stews and braises for wintery days

11 Recipes
An overhead view of a pot of kabocha squash stew made with peppers, tomatoes and garbanzo beans.
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

Must-have cold-weather food to warm hearth and soul

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When temperatures drop, skies turn gray and precipitation threatens — or falls — I take to the kitchen and turn to the stew pot. I’m not just after the promise of a hot, hearty meal but also a day of simmering, stirring and enticing aromas that inspire me to step away from my desk for a break while working from home. While I tend to favor long, slow-cooking stews and braises, many of these stove-top dishes can be made in an hour or less, consolidating the cooking experience while still delivering on that promise.

Sumaqqiyeh (Oxtail Stew With Chard, Sumac and Tahini) is the kind of dish that you start prepping in the morning. The oxtails are seared and then aromatics and spices are added. It needs a good five hours on the stove before it will be ready for the finishing touches. You can tinker as much or as little as you would like as the aromas fill your senses and your home. At the end of the workday, you will be rewarded with steaming bowls of meltingly tender oxtail meat, garbanzo beans and chard in a rich sauce that tastes of the Middle East.

A little less saucy and a bit more straightforward to prepare, French Onion-Braised Lamb With Garlic and Rosemary will fill your home with an aroma that’s just as heady, and the lamb (you can use leg or shoulder) will be falling off the bone as you serve it with the caramelized onions and garlic that cooked with it.


This Lamb Tagine With Melting Tomatoes and Onions will fill the air with the sweet scent of Moroccan spices for a good three hours. When you sit down to eat, the complex flavor will far outdo the aroma. This recipe substitutes wheat tortillas for Moroccan flatbread, but if you have access to a Middle Eastern Market, you may want to give the flatbread a try.

Novo’s Thai Green Chicken Curry is everything you would anticipate from a Thai curry. It is rich and creamy from coconut milk with undertones of lemongrass, the salty funk of fish sauce and, yes, spicy heat from serranos and jalapeños — though you can control the level of heat.

Believe it or not, Chicken in Garlic Bread Sauce does not require you to assemble the garlic bread first, and it calls for way less garlic than you would think. Big on flavor and texture, it is even simpler to prepare than the name implies.


For the vegetarians at your table, the heartiness of this stew of Kabocha Squash With Peppers, Tomatoes and Garbanzo Beans belies its simplicity. A splash of good vinegar is all you need to brighten the flavors. Braised Greens and Potatoes With Lemon and Fennel may be humble in name but it is huge in flavor (and it’s a great way to use up those remaining few leaves of whatever greens are lingering in your crisper drawer).

If you want to minimize time in the kitchen, try this White Bean and Shrimp Stew With Dandelion Greens, which can be ready in 45 minutes. The sharpness of the greens provides a nice contrast to the delicate shrimp, and you definitely don’t want to skip the sherry vinegar to round out and balance those flavors.

Nikujaga (Braised Sukiyaki-Style Beef With Potatoes and Onions) draws its refined flavor from dashi augmented with sake, mirin and soy sauce. A spice blend that includes cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamom, coriander and turmeric helps make the flavor of Clay Oven’s Spicy Habanero Lamb Vindaloo as assertive as Nikujaga’s is delicate. If heat is not your thing, tame it with chiles that rank a bit lower on the Scoville scale, such as cayenne, serrano or jalapeño.


Back in the no-heat zone, Chicken Braised With Fennel, Mushrooms and Olives is a light, easy dish that uses ingredients and flavors shared by Californian and Mediterranean cuisines. It’s great for one of those days that starts out blustery and ends with the sun shining.

Rain or shine, these delicious stews make enough to feed a crowd and will leave you with leftovers that will taste even better the day after.

Sumaqqiyeh (oxtail stew with chard, sumac and tahini)

This spicy oxtail stew is rich with tahini and chickpeas and gets freshness from chard and chiles.
Time 5 hours
Yields Serves 4 generously

French Onion-Braised Lamb With Garlic and Rosemary

Vinegar- and rosemary-infused caramelized onions surround this hearty braised lamb dish for Easter.
Time 4 hours
Yields Serves 6

Moroccan lamb tagine with melting tomatoes and onions

This melt-in-your-mouth dish conjures up the almost mystical quality of Moroccan tagines — fresh produce and succulent meat in a rich, unctuous sauce.
Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Novo's Thai green chicken curry

Novo Restaurant was happy to share its recipe for this wonderfully rich and flavorful soup-like curry, which it serves with rice and chapatis.
Time 2 hours
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Kabocha squash with peppers, tomatoes and garbanzo beans

The splash of good vinegar is key for eliciting bright, full flavor from this slow-simmered stew of kabocha, red peppers, tomatoes and garbanzos.
Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Chicken in Garlic Bread Sauce

The sauce comes together from things you have on hand — bay leaf, garlic, chicken broth, milk, red wine vinegar and butter.
Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yields Serves 3 to 4

Nikujaga (braised sukiyaki-style beef with potatoes and onions)

Nikujaga is a Japanese beef stew made with dashi.
Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 2 to 3

Chicken braised with fennel, mushrooms and olives

This California-Mediterranean-influenced chicken stew with fennel, mushrooms and green olives will taste better the second (and third) time around.
Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Clay Oven's spicy habanero lamb vindaloo

If you love spice, you can't go wrong with this vindaloo, which packs more than a little heat.
Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 4

Braised greens and potatoes with lemon and fennel

This soupy stew has a depth of flavor that comes only from careful, long cooking. It's a great way to use odd scraps of greens in the crisper drawer.
Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 4

White bean and shrimp stew with dandelion greens

Add a shot of vinegar to this humble stew of white beans and shrimp and the seemingly simple, earthy flavors suddenly gain definition and complexity.
Time 45 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8