The weather the past few days was such a tease; I know we are completely in the throes of winter when 45 degrees feels absolutely balmy and I go running around with no coat. Of course this did not last. Upon leaving dinner last night the icy fingers of winter scooped us up in their frigid grip and needlessly reminded us that it is still merely January and we cannot truly hope for consistently warm weather until at least May.
Sigh...I truly dislike cold weather. Of course I wouldn't appreciate warm weather nearly as much if we did not have its opposite. Curse you logic!
There are few things about these cold long months that I appreciate, much less get excited about. I do love Christmas in all its celebratory glory, but I always brace myself for the dreariness of the new year. Everything is bare and stripped of life, and every year I wonder if the trees, flowers, and even weeds will stir up the motivation to grow again, casting their vivid contrast to the overwhelming greyness.
What I can appreciate, and in fact look somewhat forward to, are the foods of winter. This is the time of year when I can use the oven everyday without turing the kitchen into a sauna. I can make those long-cooked super-savory dishes that are just too heavy and hot for the summer months. I can braise, I can roast, I can bake, I can long- simmer, coaxing big flavors out of simple ingredients.
I have come to realize during this never-ending month of January that these winter cooking methods lend themselves beautifully to our country's current circumstances. The economy is greatly struggling and money is tight; food prices are ridiculous, jobs are disappearing and companies are folding. These are not filet and porterhouse times; these are short rib and oxtail times. These are the times when those so-called "cheap" cuts of meat shine in all their fatty and flavorful glory.
Over the past few weeks I have made chicken carbonnade (made with chicken thighs, which frankly are much more flavorful and cheaper than breasts), porter beer braised short ribs, and braised oxtails with chorizo. What is also so wonderful about these dishes is that their accompaniments are usually cost-efficient as well: onions, garlic, carrot, celery, bacon, egg noodles, white rice. These meals have been satisfying in so many ways. I appreciate that I don't have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to obtain full, bold flavor. I know that I have supported local farmers by buying their products for my family to eat. Most of all, I enjoy creating these dishes, patiently waiting for them to show their personalities and savoring them with complete satisfaction.