If you’re unfamiliar with the soup-stagram, here’s a quick rundown of how it works. McAlee sells homemade soups through Instagram, under the Brothmonger moniker. Each new batch is available for a limited time — she operates with a first-come, first-served model — and you order through her DMs. She’ll typically divulge the release time of the weekly soups beforehand, but catching posts and sliding into her DMs fast enough often requires a bit of luck.
But with an alarm set as a reminder to check my Instagram feed, I managed to snag a quart of her tomato-based lamb stew, paired with a cheddar and chive cornbread.
I’ve never thought of stew as something that belongs in summer. I associate it with cold, winter nights; the hearty, thick broth and heavy mix of beef, red wine, and potatoes, a comfort against grey skies.
McAlee’s stew wasn’t anything like the dense, gravy-like mixture you’d expect. The broth was robust without being overly rich or weighty for the heat. The accompanying vegetables were not dreary, middle-of-the winter vegetables; they were noticeably fresh. Vibrant, deep-orange carrots, juicy, savory mushrooms, and chunks of mellow potato filled out the broth — which McAlee made from additional lamb and other bones, and a blend of herbs and vegetables.
The lamb, which McAlee bought at Salem’s Halal Market & Grill, was marinated overnight in whole grain mustard, garlic, shallots, and rosemary. After rubbing it with grapeseed oil, she cooked it over an open fire for the better part of an hour, until it was charred.
The result was magnificent, so good I’d eat it with or without the stew. I expected, based on the stews of my past, a stringy, tough meat, but McAlee turned the lamb completely tender. It was slightly bitter from the char, contrasting with the soup’s sweeter, fresh broth.
As I soaked up the final spoonfuls of broth in my bowl with her homemade cornbread — a perfect addition of sharp cheese and garlic-flavored chives for the mild broth — I came to terms to what McAlee had clearly proven: stew is a summer food.