A Delicious Casserole for Cozy Winter Nights

Sothern Cassoulet

In Paris last month, young American friends, who live and work in the country’s capital, remarked to my spouse and me that they had had a very “hygge” weekend. Confused, we asked what that meant. Oh, “hygge” is the Danish word for cozy, they replied, but it means more than that. They explained that the term denotes being snug and comfortable, and often includes friends, family, and food. Apparently this simple, life-style concept has spread throughout Europe, and the French are swooning over it.

An article in the New York Times shed more light on this Nordic phenomenon. Penelope Green writes that “Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah, like a football cheer in a Scandinavian accent) is the Danish word for cozy. It is also a national manifesto, nay, an obsession expressed in the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures involving candlelight, fires, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, coffee, cake and other people.”

Southern Cassoulet in the skilletIt didn’t take long for me to realize that the recipe I planned to post this week could definitely star in a hygge setting. “Southern” Cassoulet—a dish of braised chicken thighs, white beans, and andouille sausage, finished with a verdant garnish of julienned collards– is the epitome of hominess, a warming, rustic entrée to share with others on cold winter nights. It is redolent of traditional Continue reading

Old Fashioned Pot Roast for Cold Weather Cooking

Old Fashioned Pot Roast with Rich Pan Sauce 1 2757x1910Flying into Boston last week after a long stay in Paris, the first thing I noticed was how much colder it was. Winds were adding a blustery touch to the already freezing temperatures. When we arrived at our son’s house for the night, he had prepared a warming shepherd’s pie of root vegetables and beef topped with mashed potatoes. By the time we got to Amherst the next day, I was craving more robust dishes like this to stave off the cold. Coincidentally, my assistant Barb emailed a welcome home note, and mentioned that she was using a recipe of mine for old-fashioned pot roast, a hearty food to counter the season’s chill.

This pot roast is a favorite of mine. An inexpensive cut–a boneless chuck roast– is rubbed with crushed rosemary, basil, and red pepper flakes for extra flavor, then seared in hot oil. Next, the roast is slowly cooked several hours in the oven in an aromatic mixture of beef stock, red wine, tomatoes, and vegetables. In place of flour, some of those cooked Continue reading

Comfort Food to Comfort a Friend

Barbecued Roasted Beef Short Ribs 1My friend Maddy and I agreed that the best way to comfort a dear friend who had recently lost her mother after a long illness was to invite her and her husband for a home cooked meal. We debated the menu over several emails, but then it hit us. What we needed to serve was cold weather comfort food. When I mentioned barbecued short ribs served with creamy mashed potatoes and a cole slaw with capers and scallions, my fellow host jumped on the idea. She pointed out that our friend was from the South and loved barbecued fare.

If you’ve never roasted short ribs, you’ll discover, that this inexpensive cut takes to slow oven cooking naturally with mouthwatering results. In the following recipe, these ribs are rubbed with an assertive blend of brown sugar, smoked paprika, and other robust spices, then browned and simmered in a barbecue sauce, which conveniently cooks along with them. When done, the meat is fork-tender and bursting with smoky, sweet, and tart flavors. An added bonus is that these ribs improve in flavor when made ahead and reheated. Continue reading