Winter has officially reached the Philadelphia area, and with winter comes the desire to stay inside and warm, usually paired with some great comfort food. It is no coincidence that the seasonal fruits and vegetables available during the winter in the Northeast lend themselves so perfectly to some of our favorite stews and roasts, and the warmth that radiates from your kitchen throughout your home when preparing these dishes lasts long after the oven has been turned off. While everyone loves to have meals and moments like this, a lot of people are intimidated by the bounty of the season. Winter squashes are accompanied by a thick armor in order to endure the long couple of months in a storage cellar. The hearty greens like Kale come still smelling of earth, bitter to the taste and in need of some care before consumption. Even more discouraging, the deep, pronounced flavors of winter produce stand up best when paired with a robust, carefully prepared roast. At this point, most people are scouring through recipes online, videos of the best way to attack that butternut squash, and slowly pushing their carts in the grocery store to the prepared foods section as opposed to the produce section.
There are few things less depressing to me, than people feeling that they can’t cook and getting overwhelmed. Food is a universal language that can be learned at various different levels, all of which can be improved over time. In this information age, where literally every recipe ever prepared can find its way to your home via a simple google search, the era of the foodie has slowly emerged. While this is exciting as a professionally trained chef (people’s eyes get BIG when they find out I am not just a self-taught home cook), it can also be very discouraging for those who aren’t as confident in the kitchen. All of the sudden pasta night has turned in to “handmade fettucine with a Puttanesca sauce made from fresh white European anchovies from the Mediterranean- night”. While some people enjoy being tasked with making pasta at home, the average home cook is left with a kitchen that looks as if the dough-boy was murdered in it, a dough ball that could be taken on the next bowling outing, and the pizza-man on speed dial. All of the sudden a night in with a home cooked meal has turned in to an open pizza box and every one going in an opposite direction to enjoy their slice in peace (exactly what had prompted your new year’s resolution to cook more in the first place). It’s important to remember everything we master in life is learned over time and gradually improved upon, and cooking is the same way. While, yes, you will have those moments where a can of soup IS the answer, you can also have those equally empowering moments standing proudly over a carefully prepared roast chicken with the fixings. Cooking is at its most basic a life skill, and at its most brilliant, an art form. At all of its levels, however, it is instinct.
One of the most rewarding things about being a private home chef is being able to equip people with information and confidence. Not only can I make those hard-to-tackle family favorites for people when their busy lives inevitably take over, but I can also teach people how to cook dishes they never thought they would be capable of. If you find with this New Year you are need of some help in the kitchen, or simply want to expand your repertoire, please reach out to me.
Below you will find a recipe for a warm and fulfilling winter meal.