Six Recipes to Get You through the Winter
by: Marianne R. Stanton
photography by: Marianne R. Stanton
If there is one thing the coronavirus has taught me, it is that there is comfort in nesting and self-nurturing in the safety of our homes and cooking delicious meals while we hunker down. Expect a lot more of that as the days grow shorter and New England winter sinks deep into our bones.
It is a lesson worth remembering.
The Zen-like practice of being in the moment while you assemble your ingredients and prepare your mis en place is calming. So too are the motions associated with chopping, slicing and precise measuring. Focusing solely on what you are doing in the moment tunes out the 24-hour news cycle and the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life during a pandemic swimming around in your head.
When I think of cooking dinners for those I love, I am often drawn to one-pot meals in which ingredients are sautéed in layers and flavors develop over time. Soups and stews fit perfectly into this category, and they have the added benefit of usually yielding leftovers for lunch the following day.
Of course, if you are cooking a soup or stew, it should be enjoyed with a well-baked biscuit or scone or a thick slice of fragrant bread, fresh from the oven, served with plenty of butter. I have a preference for Cabot salted butter, straight from Vermont.
Fall heralds the arrival of squash on farm stands and in the marketplace, and I immediately think of preparing a batch of the curry-infused butternut squash-apple soup made famous in the original “Silver Palate Cookbook,” first published in 1979 by Workman Publishing.
Never mind that this recipe is over 40 years old. It’s a classic. Onions are sautéed in butter until they are soft, while good curry powder is added so the heat can release the flavors of the spices and make the curry bloom. Squash and tart apples, like Granny Smith, simmer and soften in chicken stock, with a finish of apple cider.
This dish can easily be adapted for vegans by substituting coconut oil for the butter and vegetable stock for the chicken stock. When the vegetables and fruit are very tender, use an immersion blender or purée in batches in a blender, then season with salt and pepper to your liking. I like to garnish this soup with crème fraîche and grated apple or scallion, sliced thinly on the diagonal.
The recipe is such a part of our culinary library that it is online. Download it at http://silverpalate.com/recipe/storefavorites/curried-squash
Another soup I like to make, this one much less timeconsuming, is a Thai-inspired sweet-potato red-curry coconut soup. After our beloved Centre Street Bistro closed last fall, I was looking for a way to revive the flavor of its red-curry coconut soup. I had some leftover baked sweet potatoes on hand and began experimenting with some flavors and came up with a new soup that I like very much. Garnish this with sour cream or crème fraîche, some cilantro or scallions, sliced thinly on the bias for a pop of contrasting color and flavor, or roasted, spiced peanuts.
If you are looking for something that is truly delicious and warming, for both body and soul, there is nothing like a good chicken pot pie. Unfortunately, many people, put off by the act of making pie crust, miss out on the comfort of a homemade chicken pot pie. If you are not a pastrydough star, this recipe is for you, since it is topped with super-easy-to-make baking-powder biscuits.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are poached, cooled, shredded and set aside. The poaching liquid is strained and saved for the sauce you’ll make for the pie while you parboil your favorite vegetables. Everything is added to the sauce and simmered while you make your biscuits.
A note on biscuit-making: If you want tender biscuits, do not overmix the dough or manhandle it. A light touch means light, fluffy biscuits. The beauty of this dish is that it is all made (except for poaching the chicken) in a castiron frying pan.
A light fish chowder is an easy worknight dinner. I sauté celery, onions and carrots, simmer them in some stock and a glass of dry white wine. Then I add a cup of light cream or even whole milk to heat up just before I add firm whitefish like haddock or cod, to cook in the last five minutes. If I have them, I’ll throw in a handful of bay scallops just when I turn off the heat, so they cook through but don’t become rubbery.
This fall I discovered a heartier, more flavorful version from Jasper White, which relies on the Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes and spicy sausage like linguiça or chouriço. Serve this with crusty bread from one of our bakeries and some good olive oil.
Slow-cookers are convenient, but I have always been suspect of their ability to deliver a dish that has as much flavor in the end, since this kind of flavor profile is achieved by cooking long and slow in the oven. Last winter, however, I saw their value when I decided to try a white-bean soup recipe I found which relied on a slow-cooker.
I changed the flavor profile of the recipe significantly to suit our own tastes, and this slow-cooker white-bean soup has now become a family favorite. Be sure to use dried beans that you soak the night before for the best flavor. Canned beans will turn to mush.
Cornbread is a standard in our house, either made in a cast-iron skillet, which gives it a crusty bottom, or as muffins. Cornbread is great for breakfast or to accompany a chili, soup or stew. The recipe I use is one I’ve adapted from Durgin-Park, that old-time Faneuil Hall Boston restaurant that opened in 1827 and finally closed last year.
Cornbread lends itself easily to mix-ins. Consider tossing in a handful of frozen Maine blueberries for breakfast muffins, or stirring in some sautéed onion, corn kernels and chopped jalapeños for a side to go with chili.
Lastly, brisk winter winds have me longing for a cup of hot tea after a walk in the moors, and homemade scones are my favorite accompaniment. I usually opt for adding in currants and sometimes sliced candied ginger. This fall, however, my appetite wanted something savory, and some diced sharp cheddar and chopped toasted walnuts, along with a dash of mace and some lemon thyme leaves from the herb garden, did the trick. I brought a batch in to work and they were gobbled up in short order. I hope you find something here that is a good accompaniment to your autumn and winter days. ///
Marianne Stanton is the founding editor of Nantucket Today and editor and publisher of The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821. She writes frequently about food, travel and island life.
CAST-IRON SKILLET CORNBREAD
Using a cast-iron skillet gives a nice crust to the bottom and sides of this cornbread, which is cut in wedges. The recipe is an adaptation from DurginPark, a legendary Boston restaurant serving New England fare since 1827. It closed permanently in 2019, a victim of current food trends taking over. This recipe is a family favorite for weekend breakfasts, or to serve with chili or soup.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup medium-grind cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter,
- melted and slightly cooled
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with butter and set aside.
- In a small saucepan melt the butter. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add to the milk.
- Pour milk-egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Mix in the melted butter.
- Pour into the prepared skillet.
- Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Note: This can also be baked in a 9-inch square pan.
CHEDDAR WALNUT SCONES
I like to add fresh herbs to this when I have them, such as lemon thyme leaves for a fragrant touch, or chopped chives for something sharper.
- 2-3/4 cups self-rising flour* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut in to small pieces
- 1 large egg, beaten 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup Cabot sharp cheddar cheese
- cut into 1/4-inch dice, or larger
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
*To create self-rising flour, add 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt to every cup of flour.
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour and sugar. Add butter and combine with your fingertips until it forms balls the size of small peas.
- Beat egg with a fork and add to buttermilk and stir until smooth.
- Pour liquid into flour-butter mixture and stir with a fork until combined.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and pull dough together and pat into a circle about a half-inch thick. With a floured 2-1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out rounds and place on prepared pan.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with softened butter and jam.
SLOW-COOKER WHITE-BEAN SOUP
- 1/2 bag dried cannellini beans
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch chunks 4 ribs celery, sliced
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- Small bulb of fennel, sliced and chopped
- Small handful of cherry tomatoes
- 8 large cloves best-quality garlic
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Several grinds fresh ground pepper Extra-virgin olive oil
- Parmesan rind
- Soak the beans overnight, covering with several inches of water.
- In the morning, drain the beans and set aside.
- In a large cast-iron or Le Creuset skillet, heat the olive oil and add onion, celery, fennel and four cloves garlic, chopped, and sauté until soft. Add cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup wine, 1 cup chicken stock, and cook for several minutes.
- Place drained, soaked beans in the slow cooker. Add sautéed vegetables. Add carrots, rosemary sprigs, four large cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise, salt, pepper, red-pepper flakes, remaining chicken stock and Parmesan rind.
- Cook on low heat for four hours. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper as desired. Add remaining half-cup wine. Turn heat up to high and cook for another three to four hours.
SWEET-POTATO THAI RED-CURRY COCONUT SOUP
This soup is velvety smooth with a little bit of heat from the curry and jalapeno. It can be made vegan by substituting water for the chicken stock.
- 4 sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
- 1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
- Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Tablespoon or so of coconut oil
- 1/2 container – about 1-1/2 to 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 4-ounce jar of red-curry paste
- Salt and pinch of white pepper
- Fresh lime wedges
- Chopped scallions
You could also top with croutons, chopped peanuts or roasted, spiced chickpeas
- Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.
- Melt coconut oil in a large pot, like a Le Creuset. Add chopped onions, garlic and jalapenos and sauté until soft. Add red-curry paste and mix with sautéed vegetables and cook for a minute or two.
- Stir in chicken stock and cook for five minutes. Add coconut milk and mix in thoroughly. Stir in sweet potatoes and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are very soft.
- Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to purée in small batches until completely smooth.
- Serve topped with a garnish of chopped scallions and cilantro or other suggested garnishes.
JASPER WHITE’S PORTUGUESE FISH CHOWDER
Most New England fish chowders are cream or milk based, but tomatoes figure prominently in fish soups which originated from Mediterranean cultures. For over a hundred years, Nantucket cooking was infused with culinary influences from the Portuguese, who came here to work on the water and onshore in the cranberry bogs. This Jasper White recipe, with some modifications, is a nod to their influence.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, mashed and finely chopped
- 2 medium onions cut into 3/4-inch dice
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 4 cups fish stock, chicken stock or water as a last resort
- 2 cups canned whole tomatoes in juice (from a 28-ounce can), cut into 1/2-inch dice, measured with their juice
- 6 ounces chouriço, linguiça or andouille sausage, casings removed and sliced 1/4-inch thick
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 2 pounds skinless cod, haddock or bass fillets, pinbones removed
- 10 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- For garnish: 2 tablespoons coarsely-chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Heat a 4to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bay leaves. As soon as the bay leaves turn brown, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds or until golden.
- Add the onions, bell pepper and allspice and sauté, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until the onions and peppers are softened but not browned.
- Add the potatoes and the stock. If the stock doesn’t cover the potatoes, add just enough water to cover them. Turn up the heat, bring to a boil, cover and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 10 minutes until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the tomatoes and the sausage and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the soup assertively with salt and pepper. You want to almost over-season the chowder at this point to avoid having to stir it much once the fish is added.
- Add the whole fillets and cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Gently stir in the cilantro and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes. The fish will finish cooking during this time. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate. Only cover the chowder AFTER it has cooled completely. Otherwise, let it sit for up to an hour at room temperature, allowing the flavors to meld.
CHICKEN AND BISCUITS
This is one of those soul-warming dishes for a chilly night that can be on the table in a little over an hour.
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small Vidalia or other onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut
- into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup potato cubes (about 1 large russet potato)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine Chicken stock
- Bay leaf
- Light cream Peppercorns
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter for sauce, plus more for sautéing onion
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the pie filling:
- Bring chicken stock, flavored with bay leaf, peppercorns and any other aromatics you want to add, to a low boil. Add chicken breasts and simmer for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove from broth with a slotted spoon. Strain broth through a fine mesh sieve and reserve in a bowl. Set chicken aside to cool and shred into pieces for the pie. Note: While chicken is poaching, you can make the biscuits.
- Preheat oven to 450 F.
- Melt several tablespoons of butter in a large cast-iron pan. Sauté onion and celery until soft. While this is happening, fill a medium saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Place potatoes and carrots in the pot and cook for 1012 minutes, just until tender. Drain and set aside. Add softened onions and celery to the vegetables and pour into a separate bowl while you make the sauce.
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a cast-iron pan. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons flour and cook over low heat for several minutes, slowly whisking to keep it from burning. Add a cup of chicken stock, slowly whisking in, then another cup of stock and cook for another 3-5 minutes until thickened. Whisk in half a cup of light or heavy cream. When sauce is of desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste and fresh thyme leaves.
- Stir in shredded chicken and cooked vegetables. Keep on the stovetop on very low heat, stirring occasionally, while you make the biscuits, if you haven’t made them already.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes 3/4 cup milk or cream
- Whisk dry ingredients together.
- Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fingertips until butter is combined.
- Stir in milk or cream and combine with a fork until just mixed.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured board and pat into a circle about 1/2-inch thick. With floured two-inch biscuit cutter, cut two-inch rounds and place atop chicken pie filling. There will be gaps where the filling shows through.
- Bake in a preheated 450 F. oven for 13-15 minutes or until biscuits are brown and cooked through.
- Sprinkle chopped parsley over the pie where the filling bubbles through. Serve with softened butter for the biscuits.