While the weather outside is chilly, thoughts in our kitchen turn to hearty fare. Those dishes that seem too heavy in the bright hot days of summer suddenly seem very appealing. And so, I share with you some of my favorite winter foods.
Probably my single most favorite wintertime cookbook (at the moment this is my favorite cookbook for any time of year!) is Ken Haedrich’s Dinner Pies, which is thoroughly described by its subtitle, From shepherd’s pies and pot pies to turnovers, quiches, hand pies, and more, with 100 delectable & foolproof recipes. And the title doesn’t exaggerate, the recipes really are delectable! My husband and I, who enjoy cooking together, have tried many of the recipes in this book and all have been wonderful. Some favorites are Curried Chicken Pot Pie (such a rich full-flavored filling, topped by irresistibly-flaky pastry), Italian Sausage & Spinach Polenta Pie (a quiche-like concoction that is amazing comfort food), Ricotta Cheese, Spinach & Sausage Quiche, (we make both these sausage recipes with turkey sausage for a healthier result), and a wonderful Kale Spanakopita (though we generally make ours with spinach). The only reason we haven’t tried the Leek & Bacon Quiche is that we already have a Julia Child version that we love. And as I flip through the book, I see more recipes I want to sample — Meatloaf Wellington, Mini Mushroom & Goat Cheese Turnovers, Mini Hot Crab Tarts, Roasted Vegetable Strudel . . . the list goes on!
I also like to turn to my slow-cooker in wintertime (though I use it all year). There’s nothing quite like coming home at the end of a cold winter day and being greeted with the aroma of slow-cooked beef stew, Indonesian-inspired chicken, or other well-developed flavors. My favorite slow-cooker book is Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting by Rick Rodgers, which by its own admission requires more prep time than most other slow-cooker books. If your main goal is quick prep, then other cookbooks will suit you better. If you want amazing flavors, and you don’t mind 45 minutes of prep time, then this is a cookbook you need to try. I don’t often cook with beef (my husband and I are poultry and seafood eaters) but the Bistro Beef Bourguignon is absolutely to-die-for. The Indonesian Stew (his recipe calls for veal; I usually use chicken) is fantastic. There are great recipes for everything from Chili with Corn Dumplings to Pork, Port and Chestnut Ragout. Fantastic flavors, and despite some prep time, these are still easy recipes to produce even on a busy day.
And if you want quicker prep, there are lots of quick slow-cooker (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?) recipe books on our library shelves, such as the large series of Fix-It and Forget-It cookbooks, including the original , the new , and the vegetarian. And you can find specific cuisines covered by today’s slow-cooker cookbooks, such as The Indian Slow Cooker (Saag Paneer, Aloo Gobi, Chicken Curry, and much more) and The French Slow Cooker (Chicken with Figs, Provençal Spinach Meatballs, Bargeman Stew, Butternut Squash Soup). If your tastes stay closer to home, the Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook should hit the spot, with recipes for Hoppin’ John Chowder, Spicy-Sweet Ribs & Beans, and Spicy Sausage Grits.
Hot hearty soups always seem especially appealing in wintertime. The New England Soup Factory Cookbook is one I’ve recently discovered. It has a delicious, wide-ranging variety of recipes, together with appealing commentary. I’ve made a couple of the hearty chowders including the Corn and Roasted Red Pepper Chowder, and am looking forward to trying others. The Sweet Potato, Chicken and Barley Soup has been widely praised in reviews — I can’t wait to try it! Also the Eggplant Parmesan Soup. And most of the recipes come together quickly — under an hour from start to table in most cases.
An old standby in my cookbook collection is Bernard Clayton’s The Complete Book of Soups and Stews. The Potato-Leek Soup is still one of my very favorites. And there are a lot more great soup cookbooks out there — try Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, Soup & Comfort, or Soup of the Day, for starters. Moosewood probably has the most varied recipes of any cookbook out there, from East African Groundnut Soup to Ecuadorian Quinoa & Vegetable Soup, but also including standards such as Cream of Asparagus and Cream of Mushroom soups.
So on these cold, gloomy days, when it seems as if the sun will never shine again, and you’re getting a bit tired of the constant rain, let your kitchen brighten your outlook on life with some great cuisine. All these books, and many more, are available through your library. What will you cook up tonight?