James Peterson's French-Style Vegetable Stew

French-Style Vegetable Stew [Photograph: James Peterson]

Much of James Peterson's Vegetables consists of recipes written for single vegetables; it makes for neater lessons, but such recipes can lead to monotony.

In the spirit of mixing things up, it only seems appropriate to tackle his French-Style Vegetable Stew. Peterson's stew takes advantage of more than a few cooking techniques (blanching, boiling, steaming, glazing, and simmering); a good challenge for anyone wanting to test their skill.

Peterson acknowledges that his recipe is complex and finicky ("purposely complicated") as he states, but he does so with good reason. Each vegetable is precisely cut, cooked, and assembled to be as dramatic as possible. The method(s) works. The final stew is a celebration of vegetation.

Why I picked This Recipe: After a week of working with single vegetables, I was ready to branch out and try a complex stew with many components.

What Worked: Each and every component of the stew was cooked to tender perfection, and the final dish was beautiful.

What Didn't: A minor quibble here. The fennel preparation lead to large, unwieldy pieces (especially in comparison to the petite asparagus and beans). I'd slice it thinner next time.

Suggested Tweaks: There is a lot of prep work involved; to make things run more quickly, you can prep many of the vegetables while you're cooking off the first few. Also, Peterson suggests preparing the stew with whatever is on hand. Just keep in mind that the vegetables should be cooked until tender and the world of stews is your oyster!
Reprinted with permission from Vegetables, Revised by James Peterson. Copyright 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.

James Peterson's French-Style Vegetable Stew

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 6
Active time:2 hours
Total time:2 hours
This recipe appears in: James Peterson's French-Style Vegetable Stew


  • 6 fresh baby artichokes or 12 frozen baby artichoke halves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (if using fresh artichokes)
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 4 ounces green beans, preferably haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 24 small or 12 large asparagus tips
  • 12 ounces fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled, or 8 ounces fresh baby peas, shelled, or 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 12 medium spinach or sorrel leaves, stemmed, stacked, rolled up, and sliced into 1/8-inch shreds
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 18 pearl onions, peeled
  • 12 baby carrots, peeled, 1/4 inch of green left attached, or 2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered vertically
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chervil or tarragon (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. 1

    If you're using fresh baby artichokes, trim off their outer leaves and peel their stem. Bring 4 cups water to a boil with the olive oil in a nonaluminum pot. Add the artichokes and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until easily penetrated with a skewer, but not soft. Drain, let cool, and cut in half from top to bottom. If you're using frozen artichokes, thaw and pat them dry with paper towels.

  2. 2

    Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a rapid boil. Cut the fennel bulb in half vertically, then cut each half into three wedges, leaving a section of the core along one side of each of the wedges to keep them from falling apart. Boil the fennel wedges for about 10 minutes, until they've softened but still retain some texture. Remove the fennel with a slotted spoon or spider and let cool on a plate. If you're not finishing the stew right away, rinse the fennel in a colander under cold running water.

  3. 3

    In the same pot, boil the green beans until tender, about 5 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon or a spider, and let cool on a plate. If you're not finishing the stew right away, rinse the beans under cold running water.

  4. 4

    In the same pot, boil the asparagus for 3 to 5 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon or spider. If you're not serving the stew right away, rinse the asparagus under cold running water.

  5. 5

    In the same pot, boil the fava beans or fresh peas (there's no need to boil frozen peas) and the spinach for 1 minute, scoop out with a spider, and rinse under cold running water and reserve.

  6. 6

    In the same pot, boil the garlic for 15 minutes, or until they're easily penetrated with a knife; scoop out with a slotted spoon and let cool.

  7. 7

    While the garlic is cooking, put the onions and carrots in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot with the butter and water over medium heat. When the water starts to steam, cover the pot, and decrease the heat to low. Cook until the vegetables soften but still have some texture when you poke them with a paring knife, about 20 minutes.

  8. 8

    While the onions and carrots are cooking, simmer the mushrooms with the cream in a medium pot over medium heat until the cream starts to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chives, parsley, and chervil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  9. 9

    Just before serving, combine the vegetables in a large, wide pot. Pour over the mushroom-cream mixture and gently reheat all the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve on hot plates.

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: