winter warmers: my favorite cold-weather recipes

Homemade baked béchamel mac ‘n cheese with sriracha

I am not a winter person. I hate the cold, and have vivid memories of my parents using the “double plastic bag” method to keep our feet warm in the winters of the late 1970s.

It went like this: One pair socks, two plastic bags per foot, then snow boots. I would tuck my pants into the boots, hoping against hope. But every time I jumped into a fat Massachusetts snowbank, thinking I was secure against the elements, I’d wind up knocking—panicked—at the door of our home an hour later. The snow would freeze in the tops of the plastic bags, creating glossy ice rings around the shins that would not look out of place in one of today’s adorable vintage punch bowls.

No wonder I became a cocoa person and not a skiing person. But I do admire the effect of the seasons—the way people slow down in the winter, speed up in the spring and fall, and slow down again for the hot summer. There’s something to be said for winter’s indoors-y laziness.

Yesterday I was listening to Nina Nastasia’s “The Long Walk,” and today it’s Nina Simone. And all I want to cook are soups and chili, moles and stews, braises and casseroles. Here are the best recipes I’ve cooked over the last few months.

Nigel Slater’s killer onion tart is far and away my best party trick—layers and layers of slippery caramelized onions with fat cubes of taleggio and wisps of thyme. People freak out about it. Then there’s the cavatelli with sausage and sage from the Frankies cookbook; brown butter is wonderful this time of year. Bon Appetit’s Swiss chard soup is bright and floral with mint and cilantro, creamy from feta and yogurt, and makes a wonderfully warm starter or entrée. I like to strain the leftover soup for the base of some fantastic chilaquiles.

I’m also a big fan of Jonathan Waxman’s chicken-under-a-brick with bacon—that’s chicken butterflied and sizzled in bacon fat, folks—and it will probably be my Valentine’s Day meal. I reckon Molly Wizenberg’s French toast, with nutmeg and vanilla, would be an excellent way to wake up the next morning.

Lastly, I’m totally making Andrew Carmellini’s favorite chili—a recipe from Texas chef Julie Farias—once more before the winter is out. It uses coffee, beer and chocolate, packs a wallop of flavor, and it completely cheered up a sick friend.

We’re not through the season yet, so comment if you’ve got an ace winter recipe—and thanks!

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