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The Cookstr 10: Ten Cold-Weather Recipes

February 15, 2011

There is something about the mere concept of January that begs for comforting, hearty food, even if you live in a warmer climate and it’s not sleeting or snowing of blizzarding outside. And, for lots of us, not only is it sleeting and snowing and blizzarding outside, but it feels like it’s been sleeting and snowing and blizzarding outside for a very long time. Whether you’re trying to shovel out your car or simply not wipe out on the sidewalk, at the end of the day it feels pretty great to get home, and even better when there is a bowl of steaming something beckoning for dinner.

Laura Pensiero's Root Vegetable Gratin

We want hot. We want hearty. We want something that will stick to our ribs. For more options in the vegetarian realm, please check out Ten Vegetarian Recipes for Winter in the archives of The Cookstr 10.

Molly Stevens' Braised Endive

1. Mollie Katzen’s My Family’s Favorite Hot Chocolate. This makes us think of the first line of the song “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music: “Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start!” When the topic is comfort food to take away the chill, it is hard to think of a better place to start than hot chocolate. Whipped cream and marshmallows are optional (yeah, right).

2. Barbara Scott-Goodman’s Beef Brisket with Creamy Horseradish Sauce. One of the many wonderful things about brisket is, like many good cold-weather dishes, it is even better made a day or two in advance and reheated. Which means that while you are thawing out, you can be heating up this tender piece of beef, and then both of you will be ready for dinner at the same time. This excellent recipe gets an extra kick in the pants from a zingy horseradish sauce that will clear your sinuses.

3. Molly Steven’s Briased Endive with Prosciutto. Many of us have encountered endive in salads and enjoyed its bitter crunch. But when braised, it transforms into a different vegetable altogether, still with a bite, but now melt-in-your-mouth lush. The saltiness of the ham is a fantastic contrast to the complexity of the pale lettuce (though you can skip it for a vegetarian version), and then a small amount of cream added at the end pulls all the pan juices together into a luscious sauce.

4. Christopher Idone’s Lamb Stew. This is a very classic lamb stew, filled with all of the ingredients that make stew so lusted after in cold weather. Potatoes, carrots, baby onions, turnips, and very reassuring seasonings–nothing but coziness here.

5. Laura Pensiero’s Root Vegetable Gratin. If you’re looking to cook seasonally, then you have probably found yourself staring at a bunch of knobby, bumpy root vegetables, waiting for inspiration to strike. Wait no longer. Russet and sweet potatoes meet up with rutabaga and are interspersed among layers of béchamel sauce and cheddar cheese for a substantial side dish. Actually, this is so satisfying it could absolutely serve as a main course, and a vegetarian one at that.

6. Joey Altman’s Perfect Carbonara. A dish of well-prepared pasta carbonara is like an Hermès scarf or a pair of diamond studs: effortlessly fashionable, and the opposite of trendy. There are a few schools of thought on what makes a classic carbonara, but this one–with spaghetti swathed in egg yolks, cream, Parmesan, and punctuated with little bits of browned pancetta–does the job just right. The heat from the pasta cooks the eggs and warms up everything else to form that irresistibly lush sauce.

7. Brigit Binns’ Chicken Pot Pie with Cornmeal Crust. Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign included the promise of a “chicken in every pot” for all Americans. He won, but imagine if he had promised a chicken pot pie in every home…talk about a landslide. The lemon-kissed cornmeal crust is a nice twist here, and inside are all the good things you’d expect to find: onions, mushrooms, carrots, chunks of chicken, and a creamy sauce.

8. Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso’s Braised Short Ribs of Beef. Suddenly, winter is very bearable. Unctuous beef ribs are browned and then sloooowwwwly braised in a mixture of aromatic vegetables and seasonings, resulting in meat that is so tender it literally falls off the bone.

9. Sarah Leah Chase’s Black Bean Soup. There is something about a bowl of pitch black bean soup, especially one that is laced with bacon, jalapenos, lime juice, sherry and cilantro, that looks winters squarely in the eye and says, Clint Eastwood-style, “Go ahead, make my day.” P.S. Did you know that January is National Soup Month? Makes sense.

10. Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner’s Bananas Flambèed with Calvados. Plenty of desserts can be warm and comforting, but if you’re really determined to fight the frost, then you can’t get more serious than setting your dessert on fire. The ignited alcohol does more than just provide a showy finale to a meal, it also adds a lot of flavor depth to this simple dessert.

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