Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Winter Recipes: Easy, Delicious, Comforting

Happy New Year Everyone! 

I hope you all had some time to catch your breath, reflect a bit, and think about the upcoming year.  I am not one for “resolutions” but I do like to think about the big picture once in awhile.  For months now, you have read here the ways in which we are trying to scale down our home and our lives.  Well, this will be the year that we hope to wrap up a great deal of that.  We have found a couple good sources for many of the things we think others could be making use of - instead of being “stored” in our home.  More about our efforts as the year unfolds.

I do hope everyone is “winterized”.  It looks now like we are going to actually have a winter.  I admit that we took our good old time getting the garden and growing beds finalized, the outdoor furniture covered, the rain barrel emptied and shut down and all of the rest. Thankfully, we had taken that time off so we did get the final tasks done last week.  Now - Come on Snow! 

I did lots of cooking over the three weeks that I was off.  I had the opportunity to tweak and adapt and generally play around with some great techniques and recipes.  Also, each winter I go on the hunt for different cream of tomato and grilled cheese recipes.  And again I found a couple!

Here are some of my favorites. I think that they are straightforward and delicious.  And they will warm you up and comfort you.  What more could you ask?

Recipe:  Thomas Keller’s Roasted Chicken Thighs - The “crunch” on these delicious thighs are adapted from the technique Keller uses for roasting a whole chicken.  It uses High Heat and Slow Cooking, but do not worry - they will be perfect!

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  If you have the Convection Roast option, preheat to 425 degrees.


2 whole chicken thighs
4 whole garlic cloves - peeled with ends removed
2 pats of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary or parsley or thyme
salt and pepper


Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
Dry the chicken inside and outside
Place 2 garlic cloves under the skin of each chicken thigh
Place a pat of butter and whatever herb you are using under the skin as well
Pull the chicken skin back securely over the butter, garlic and herbs
Place the chicken legs on the prepared baking sheet
Sprinkle salt all over the chicken
Sprinkle freshly ground pepper all over the chicken 
Roast the chicken for 40 - 45 minutes; if you are using a convection oven, check the chicken at 35 minutes
Let the chicken rest for five minutes

Recipe:  Real Cream of Tomato Soup (adapted from Fannie Farmer) - This soup is so rich and delicious.  Another Tomato Soup recipe that will keep you away from the red can forever.  It freezes well, too.


5 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of chopped onion or leeks (I used leeks last time I made this and loved the flavor)
4 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of whole milk
1/2 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (this prevents your milk from curdling and you won’t notice it)
3 - 4 cups of pureed tomatoes (canned is the easiest way to go here.  Buy really good, local if you can pureed tomatoes)


Melt the butter in the soup pot
Add the chopped onion and cook over medium heat, stirring until the onion is soft but not browned
Sprinkle the flour over the butter/onion mixture and continue to stir for about 2 minutes
Slowly add the milk, bay leaf, and salt and continue to cook and stir
The mixture should be slightly thickened
Add the baking soda to the tomatoes and stir a bit
Add the tomatoes to the milk mixture and bring just to a simmer
Heat through and check seasonings.
Serve immediately or reheat on medium low before serving. 

Note:  You can use an immersion blender if you want the soup completely smooth.  If you don’t you will have tiny specks of tomato, which I think makes the soup even more lush and delicious.

Recipe:  Ruth Reichl’s Greatest Grilled Cheese Ever.  I have seen Ruth Reichl demonstrate her favorite way to make a grilled cheese sandwich a number of times - basically this is technique, because in my adaptation, you can use any kind of cheese/s that you want.  Another adaptation here is the use of the mayonnaise - it may sound weird, but you will get the crispiest grilled cheese ever!


Good white bread, medium thick slices
2 scallions for two sandwiches
Cheese of your choice - I always use some cheddar; a smoked gouda works really well; a mild blue in the mix will be delicious.  It all depends on what you like and what you have on hand.  The idea is to mix two or three cheeses together


Grate the cheese on the large holes of a box grater
Dice the scallions - white and green parts
Mix the grated cheeses and the diced scallions together
Mound the mixture onto two slices of the bread
Melt butter in a skillet
Top the mounded cheeses with the other slice of bread on each sandwich
Brush the top breads with a light film of mayonnaise
Turn the sandwiches over into the melted butter in the hot skillet
While they are browning, brush the tops of the sandwiches with the mayonnaise
Press down a bit on each sandwich and then flip the sandwiches to brown on the other side
Press down as the sandwiches brown
When the cheeses are melted and the bread is browned to your liking, remove the sandwiches to a cutting board
Let the sandwiches sit for just a minute and then slice

Serve with Cream of Tomato soup

Recipe:  Homemade Ricotta.  Adapted from Ina Garten.  This is a great use for left over milk and cream.  It is rich, delicious and extremely versatile.


4 cups of whole milk
2 cups of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar


First put a large strainer over a large bowl and line the strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth 
Pour the milk and cream into a heavy pot and stir in the salt
Bring the mixture to a rolling boil
Stir the mixture occasionally as it comes to a boil
When it comes to a full boil, turn it off, remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar
Let that mixture sit in the pot for about 2 minutes - you will see curds forming
Pour the mixture into the strainer over the bowl
Let the mixture drain for at least 25 minutes
The longer it drains the thicker and drier the cheese will be - I generally let it sit of about 40 minutes
When it is as thick as you want it, remove the cheese in the cheese cloth and put the cheese into a container
Pour the whey from the draining of the cheese into another container
Whey is wonderful for making baked goods, risotto, and sauces - don’t waste it!


Cherish Real Food!

Next Up:  Apple and Pear Sauce Breads 

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