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Winter Warmers

Posted On January 5, 2023

Cozy Culinary Treats to Conjure up this Season

If comfort food is like a big hug, the below lineup of lush, winter-inspired recipes will give you all the feels. For those who often ask, “where’s the beef?” the answer is: thinly sliced on a crusty baguette with earthy mushrooms and tangy Italian cheese. Next, grab your deepest bowls for classic beef and barley soup, then get out your favorite fruity red for a rich, meaty ragu that clings to wide ribbons of pappardelle pasta like a pro.

Even if you’re not an early riser, these brown sugar and spice carrot muffins will transform you into a morning person. Tart green apple shreds are the secret to keeping things expertly moist. Next up, my foolproof basil pesto—an all-purpose, perfect all-year-round spread I guarantee you’ll find a dozen ways to cozy up to this season. For the showstopper, a Provençal staple that will change your life. But don’t let that intimidate you. Bouillabaisse originated as a “poor man's fish stew” so it’s more bashful than meets the eye. It’s also hearty, satisfying and easy to scale back since the seafood selection is chef’s choice.

Psst. That’s you. Now pack your knives and go…to the kitchen.

  • Wild Mushroom Crostini with Steak & Taleggio 
  • Classic Beef & Barley Soup
  • Pappardelle with Ragu & Pecorino
  • Brown Sugar & Spice Carrot Muffins
  • Velvety All-Purpose Pesto
  • Provençal Seafood Stew

Provençal Seafood Stew

Yield: 4-6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup chopped leeks, white and light green parts only 

1/4 cup sliced fennel (about 1 small head), fronds reserved and chopped for garnish

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads crumbled

3 2-inch-wide strips of orange peel

2 dried bay leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups seafood stock (storebought or homemade)

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 pounds boneless white fish filets, chopped into 2-inch pieces

1/2 pound jumbo shrimp (21/25 count) in shells

1 pound clams and mussels, scrubbed (mussel beards removed)

Place a Dutch oven over medium-heat and add the oil. Add the onion, leeks, fennel, carrot and potatoes. Sauté, stirring occasionally until the veggies begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes, and then season with the salt and pepper. 

Add the garlic, saffron, orange peel, bay leaf and thyme, and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the tomato paste, coating some of the veggies, and cook for 1 more minute. Deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom as you pour, with the stock and tomatoes.

Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until it’s slightly thickened and the potatoes are almost tender, about 8-10 minutes. Reduce the heat to simmer.

Stir in the thickest pieces of fish, the clams and the shrimp, and cover the pot. Simmer for 2 minutes, uncover, and then stir in the mussels and remaining smaller pieces of fish. Cover and simmer until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Season the broth to taste with additional salt if necessary and remove the bay leaves, orange peel and thyme sprigs.

Divide the bouillabaisse among bowls and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and thyme. Serve with croutons for a crunch or crusty French bread for dipping. For an even more traditional garnish, dollop each bowl with a spoonful of rouille (peppery garlic mayonnaise).

Wild Mushroom Crostini with Steak & Taleggio

Yield: 24 crostini

1 baguette (18 inches long), cut crosswise into 24 equal slices 

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3/4 teaspoons coarse salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola)

1 1/2 pounds steak about 2 inches thick (such as ribeye or sirloin)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups sliced wild mushrooms (such as shiitakes or oyster mushrooms)

1 small shallot, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine or beef stock

8 ounces Taleggio cheese, softened

Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Spread out the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle all over with the olive oil, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat. Bake until lightly golden brown, flipping once halfway through, about 8-10 minutes.

Heat the neutral oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and then season with the rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and remaining pepper. Sear on the first side, without touching them, until they have a deep golden brown crust, about 6-8 minutes. Flip and cook until they’re done to your liking (about 6 minutes on the second side for medium rare). Allow the steaks to rest for several minutes and then thinly slice against the grain.

Reduce the skillet’s heat to medium-low and add the butter. Add the mushrooms and shallots. Season with the remaining salt and sauté for 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine or stock and then simmer until the liquid has evaporated.

To assemble the crostini, evenly spread each toasted baguette slice with a small amount of Taleggio and arrange on a platter. Distribute the mushrooms over the cheese, top with slices of steak and garnish the platter with the chopped parsley.

Classic Beef & Barley Soup

Yield: Serves 4

3/4 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola), divided

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

1 cup chopped cremini or white button mushrooms

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup dry red wine

3 cups low-sodium beef stock

1/3 cup pearled barley

Pat the beef dry and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the beef to the pan and sear until golden-brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef pieces and set them aside on a plate. 

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, remaining salt and pepper, thyme and rosemary. Sauté until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and bay leaf and cook for 1 more minute. Add the beef and its juices back to the pot.

Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping to release any brown bits from the bottom, and then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the beef stock, bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook until the beef is tender, about 45 minutes.

Uncover the pot, stir in the barley and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer again, stirring occasionally until the barley is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and remove the bay leaf.

Divide the soup among bowls, garnish with the thyme and serve with crusty bread.

Pappardelle with Ragu & Pecorino

Yield: 4 servings 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small shallot, minced

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground beef

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/4 cup fruit-forward red wine such as Merlot or Chianti 

1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 pound pappardelle pasta

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup pecorino cheese, shaved or grated

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

In a large deep skillet or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, celery, carrot, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook until the veggies have softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. 

Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the ground beef. Season with the oregano and remaining salt and pepper and sauté until browned. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir until thoroughly combined. 

Add the wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions (reserving a bit of the starchy cooking water before draining). 

Add the cooked pappardelle to the ragu and toss with the ricotta and half of the pecorino, using the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if it’s too thick. Season to taste with additional salt, divide among plates and garnish with the remaining pecorino and parsley.

Brown Sugar & Spice Carrot Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups grated carrot (about 3-4 medium)

3/4 cup peeled grated Granny Smith apple (about 1 medium)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a standard 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray (or line with paper baking cups).

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a whisk to cream the butter and brown sugar together until soft and fluffy. You can also use a stand mixer or hand mixer. Beat in the oil. One at a time, beat in the eggs, and then add the vanilla until light and airy. Fold in the grated carrots and apples.

Fold the dry mixture into the wet a little at a time, mixing until just combined.

Spoon even amounts of the batter into the muffin cups. Bake until the muffins are golden brown on top and a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean with a few wet crumbs sticking to it, about 25-30 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve warm with butter.

Velvety All-Purpose Pesto

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1/3 cup pine nuts

3 large cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste

4 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (about 3 ounces)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed

Place a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and stir occasionally until golden brown and toasted, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to the food processor.

Add the garlic and salt to the food processor and pulse until you have a chunky paste. Add the basil, parmesan and lemon juice and pulse until finely minced. 

With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the pesto is smooth and velvety, adding 1-2 tablespoons more as needed if it is too thick. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.

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