10 Hearty Winter Favorites
My thoughts go out to our readers on the East Coast who have been slammed with a brutal blizzard. I wish you all safe passage through this storm. It is hard to imagine the east coast conditions here in Southern California where we are still seeing a very mild winter. We are desperately waiting for El Nino to arrive to replenish our water supply. Still, evening temperatures have dropped into the low 40's, I light a fire during the day for my dogs and need a jacket to go out at night. While hardly a brutal winter so far, our slightly cooler weather puts me in the mood for some heartier winter fare. Here are ten of our favorites:
This garlicky and satisfying recipe falls somewhere between a soup and a stew. In fact, you can adjust the amount of stock to make it more soup-like or stew-like, according to your preference. This is a family favorite as well as a traditional meal I offer at our annual Wine, Cheese and Chocolate party. I like to have something sturdier for people who need a little more than cheese to absorb all the wine they are tasting. This soup is made with French De Puy lentils, also known as "poor man's caviar." Don't substitute other lentils as they simply are not the same as these delicious tiny legumes. You can purchase De Puy lentils here.
This recipe has been on the blog for a long time and my earlier photo did not do it justice. This soup is not the most photogenic, but I hope the new photo is enticing enough to get you to try this delicious soup. Make a double batch and freeze the extras for future meals. I suggest adding a little more stock when you defrost and reheat the frozen soup.
This is an easy entertaining dish that is much more economical to make than Veal Osso Buco. It takes about 30 minutes of active prep and cooking time, and then the oven does all the work. I like to serve this dish when entertaining because all the hard work is done in advance and I can shower, get half-way put together and maybe even enjoy a glass of wine before my guests arrive. Serve it with Lemon and Rosemary Risotto, Kale and Broccoli Caesar Salad and a spicy Zinfandel.
This is an exotic and flavorful lamb dish that doesn't take much prep time and is slow-cooked in the oven. This recipe requires some unusual spices, but I have linked online sources in the recipe to make it easy to shop for. This dish originated in Ahdoo's Hotel in Kashmir and was published in Saveur's September 2014 India issue. I have reworked the recipe to simplify it and to eliminate some of the heat, as it was very spicy as originally written. Serve this lamb with Yogurt Raita with Cucumber and Yellow Raisins to offset the heat and Cilantro Basmati Rice.
This classic French dish should probably be called drunken beef as it requires an amazing two bottles of wine and a half cup of brandy. This wine-drenched, slow-cooked, bacon-flavored beef requires a little advanced prep and a long time in the oven. I've simplified the classic method of making Beef Bourguignon, eliminating a lot of the labor. Serve with this light salad made with French fines herbes and a crusty baguette.
If you can't eat Mac and Cheese in the winter, then when can you eat it? This dish may be my family's favorite comfort food. Based on a dish that is served at Le Bistro d' à Coté, a Parisian bistro, I add peas and sausage in a somewhat futile effort to make this addictive mac and cheese a little more healthy. It's a splurge, but one I think you will find is worth every bite. My son Mikey recently made this dish for the first time with his girlfriend. He substituted some less expensive cheese for some of the Gruyere, as his food budget is limited, saying it was "darned delicious" all the same. The best prices I have found on Gruyere are at Costco and Trader Joe's.
This hearty soup takes about 20 minutes of active prep and then slow cooks on the stove. Loaded with vegetables and legumes, it is flavored with a meaty ham hock and a spent parmesan rind. It freezes well so make a big batch and then you can pull the leftovers out of the freezer for a quick, hearty, no-work meal.
I learned to make this lasagna from my mother back when I was a kid. I've changed it up a bit over the years. I don't cook the noodles and I add extra veggies to the sauce. I always make a double batch and freeze a tray for later.
My son Mikey and his buddy Austin made this lasagna and dehydrated it before a 10-day hike in the Sierras. It was so delicious they gobbled it all up the first couple nights and then had to survive on nuts and dried fruit the rest of the hike.
These savory red enchiladas are what I would call "Mexican comfort food." The spicy chorizo is tempered by the potatoes to create a very satisfying combo. I keep this recipe simple and use canned red enchilada sauce, because we can't always make everything from scratch. I use a sharp cheddar cheese to stand up to the robust chorizo. Serve with green onions, cilantro and a bit of sour cream or Mexican crema. Muy bien!
This Italian soup dates back to the Middle Ages and is a way to repurpose stale bread. Ribollita lore says that the soup was originally made of remnants of meals eaten by the aristocracy. In those days, roasts were served on large pieces of bread instead of platters. At the end of the meals, the servants were either given or pilfered leftover bits of bread. The meat-soaked bread was taken home and became the foundation of the soup, along with cannellini beans and bits of vegetables from their gardens, most notably cavelo nero, a large black kale.
For my version of ribollita, instead of cooking the bread with the soup, I like to add a slice of toasted bread smeared with a bit of pesto and float it on top of the soup just before serving. A purist would tell you that this is definitely not ribollita, which calls for the bread to be cooked along with the vegetables. I like the crunch of the toast soaked in the pesto as it eases its way into the soup.
Vividly spiced, this chicken is slow cooked with apricots, cinnamon and honey in a tagine, or a dutch oven. Serve it over couscous for a delicious mid-winter meal.