If ever there were a perfect time to turn inward and enjoy the pleasures of hearth and home, surely it is the short days and long nights of this season. Nothing seems quite so appealing as a pot of soup or a homey stew. And "Sarah Leah Chase's Cold-Weather Cooking" (Workman, $13.95) offers an alluring array of just such winter warmups.
As a year-round resident of Nantucket Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, Chase knows firsthand about the ravages of winter.
"People come up to me all the time and say, 'I can't believe you live on the island all year!' But it has shown me all the nuances of what it is like to feel cold and what to do about it," said Chase during a phone interview.
Clearly, Chase is tuned in to the pleasures of seasonal cooking. She already has celebrated the glories of summer meals in her first solo book, "Nantucket Open-House Cookbook." Before that, she co-authored the immensely popular "Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook." Chase's repertoire of cold-weather food includes the proper comfort foods. Indeed, there are recipes for hearty winter stews, long-simmering soups and bread puddings, one might expect. But she's just as likely to escape to a warmer climate via the stove: Many of the recipes have the warm, strong flavors that suggest sultry island breezes and warm, tropical sun.
"For summer foods, it's a matter of how to enhance simple foods like fresh tomatoes. During winter, there is more of a challenge, a need to infuse care and cheeriness," said Chase. "It's kind of like an underdog cuisine. People think of winter ingredients and say, God! What am I going to do with a rutabaga!' But really, there are a lot of wonderful things that come out of a winter kitchen."
Chase's book is divided not by months or seasons, but by attitudes, which, according to Chase, are far more capacious than a calendar. Cold-weather cooking starts as the last of the summer visitors who descend on Nantucket board the ferry to Hyannis. Then it's time to take advantage of summer's last blast. This is done in the very first chapter, "So Long, Summer."
From there, the book progresses through crisp and clear autumn days to Thanksgiving, Christmas and then "Stormy Weather" and "Magic Mountains" -- "Simmering stews, crackling roasts and mounds of carbohydrates that can be guiltlessly indulged in after invigorating days outdoors." By the last chapter, "Easter Feast," winter is losing its fighting spirit, giving way to a gentler spring.
@Deviled Beef Ribs 1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
2 bay leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 meaty beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch lengths
3 tablespoons coarse mustard
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, garlic, Italian herbs, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Arrange the beef ribs in a single layer in a large roasting pan and drizzle with the oil mixture. Roast, turning the ribs once, until nicely browned all over, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool 30 minutes.
Whisk together both mustards and the wine until smooth. Combine the bread crumbs and the parsley in a shallow bowl. Brush each rib generously with the mustard mixture, then roll it in the bread crumbs, coating all sides. Place the ribs in a clean
roasting pan and drizzle with any pan drippings from the first roasting pan.
Return the ribs to the oven and bake until the crumbs are golden, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Serve at once with plenty of napkins. Makes six to eight servings.
Mr. Power's Broccoli and Mustard Seed Soup 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, minced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large bunch broccoli, trimmed and chopped
6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/4 cup golden mustard seeds
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about ten minutes. Stir in the potatoes and broccoli, cover with chicken broth and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are very tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
Add the cream and puree the soup (in batches) in a food processor. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the mustard seed and Parmesan. If the soup is too thick, thin it with some milk. Reheat the soup if needed and serve hot.
Makes six servings.
Apricot and Ginger Cream Scones Dough:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried apricots, slivered
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely minced
1 1/4 cups heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Prepare the dough: In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in the apricots and ginger. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the cream to form a sticky dough.
Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and shape into a circle about ten-inches in diameter. Sprinkle with a little more flour if the dough seems too sticky. Cut the circle into 12 pie-shaped wedges and arrange about one-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
For the glaze, brush a thin coating of cream over each scone and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 scones.