If the holiday season is nothing else, it's hectic -- people coming and going, going and coming. It's so nice to have a pot of something on the stove, to be dished out as needed, either to house guests or weary shoppers. Here we have a shellfish stew, a beef stew, an orzo gratin with chicken or ham (or even leftover turkey) and a chili.


(4 servings)

This stew from Lisa Yockelson consists of a soup base that can be prepared a day in advance. Just before serving, the scallops and clams are added to the simmering base. This recipe doubles easily, or can be embellished with small shrimp, chunks of grouper, red snapper, swordfish, haddock or halibut.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 boiling-type potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 small bay leaf, preferably imported

12-ounce can tomatoes, chopped, with packing liquidSTART NOTE do tomatoes come in 12 ounce cans? END NOTE

3 tablespoons dry white vermouth

2 cups clam broth

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

3/4 pound bay scallops, trimmed

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh clams

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a kettle or soup pot, add the onion and cook slowly for 3 minutes; add the celery and carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, thyme, red pepper, bay leaf, chopped tomatoes (and juice), vermouth, clam broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the scallops and clams; simmer uncovered for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the scallops are just cooked through. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into deep bowls for serving.

Per serving: 380 calories, 25 gm protein, 42 gm carbohydrates, 12 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 47 mg cholesterol, 844 mg sodium.


(6 servings)

For traditionalists, for whom Christmas means cold weather and cold weather means beef, here's an adventuresome stew from Nina Simonds that includes red pepper flakes and cinnamon.

3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons safflower or corn oil

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakesSTART NOTE cq END NOTE

4 scallions, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch sections

1 teaspoon anise seeds

1 stick cinnamon


2 cups water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice wine or sake

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)

Trim any fat or gristle from the beef. In a heavy casserole or a Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add a portion of the beef and sear on all sides over high heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon, reheat the oil, and sear the remaining beef, in portions, as directed. Remove and drain.

Reheat the pot and add the dried red pepper flakes, scallion sections, anise seeds and cinnamon stick to the pot. Stir-fry briefly and add the ingredients of the Braising Liquid. Heat the mixture until boiling and add the beef. Return to the boil, then partially cover and cook the beef for 40 minutes over medium-low heat, until it is tender and the sauce has reduced to a third of the original amount. If the meat is tender and the sauce is too thin, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reduce the sauce over high heat, uncovered. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the beef and optional sesame oil. Toss lightly and serve with steamed rice and a stir-fried or steamed vegetable.

Per serving: 596 calories, 46 gm protein, 8 gm carbohydrates, 41 gm fat, 15 gm saturated fat, 147 mg cholesterol, 473 mg sodium.


(10 servings)

This is an less-fattening adaptation by Anne Mullin Burnham of a recipe she found in Gourmet magazine a few years ago. It's good made with ham, chicken or even turkey, and can be served as a side dish to a roast.

1 pound orzo

8 cloves garlic

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves, chopped

3 cups smoked ham or lightly poached chicken, diced

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs

In a large pot of boiling salted water boil the orzo until it is al dente -- about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Meanwhile, boil the garlic in the chicken broth until it is tender. Remove the cloves and peel and mash thoroughly. Return to the broth and add the Parmesan, parsley, orzo and ham or chicken. Mix thoroughly.

Place in well-buttered baking dish that holds at least 8 cups. Melt butter and mix with crumbs. Spread over orzo and bake, covered, in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more or until top is lightly browned and mixture is bubbling gently.

Per serving: 335 calories, 18 gm protein, 40 gm carbohydrates, 11 gm fat, 5 gm saturated fat, 42 mg cholesterol, 1024 mg sodium.


(6 servings)

Here's another recipe, this from Lisa Yockelson, for using up left-over ham, or smoked turkey or sausage. A cup of beer as part of the cooking liquid helps produce a good depth of flavor.

1 pound dried pink beans, picked over and rinsed

3 thick slices bacon, diced

1 large onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 cup light beer

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup bottled chili sauce

Salt, to taste

Place the beans in a large, deep bowl, pour over enough water to cover by at least 4 inches, and let stand overnight to plump up. The next day, drain the beans thoroughly, refresh under cool water, and drain again.

Place the bacon in a large kettle, set over moderate heat, and cook until light golden. Add the onions and garlic; stir-cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano and coriander; raise the heat to moderate and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans, chicken broth, water, beer and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil and boil steadily for 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for 1 hour; stir in the chili sauce and continue cooking for 30 minutes longer. Uncover the pot and cook for 20 to 35 minutes longer, or until the chili is lightly thickened. Season with salt to taste. The chili is best cooled, refrigerated and reheated a day later, or can be frozen to use at another time.

Note: The bacon can be omitted from the recipe, if you wish. Simply saute' the onions and garlic in 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. One cup of diced smoked turkey or ham, or about 1 1/2 cups of grilled and sliced sausage, can be added to the chili on reheating.

Per serving: 182 calories, 10 gm protein, 27 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, .7 gm saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 642 mg sodium.