Winter brings just a few things I like, the most important of which is winter stews and long-cooking roasts. I didn't enjoy slogging through the slush of melting snow to flip the car over to the other side of the street, but I rewarded myself with a trip to the grocery store to see what could be had for dinner, and was rewarded with a pair of nice lamb shanks. A couple of handfuls of root vegetables (a big meaty parsnip, a turnip and a couple of potatoes), plus the mushrooms I have in the fridge and some of our "bone-bag" stock*, and there's dinner! It won't take as long as it's taking to write this as it will to brown the shanks in our big cast-iron pot, add the stock and vegetables and throw it in the oven (400 deg. for 40 minutes or so, then drop it down to 250 for 2 - 3 hours more). When Karen gets home, it's a one-pot dish that cost me 15 minutes for well-under $10, and earns me lots of smiles.
*I know, I've got to explain the "bone bag"! We keep a great big ziplock gallon bag in the freezer with whatever bones (chicken, beef, lamb, WHATEVER) get left at the end of a meal. Every 2 - 3 weeks, the cast iron pot gets filled with water and the bones, and slow cooks on the stove for at least 24 hours, preferably longer, at the lowest setting the burner can handle. It can go into ice cube trays for smaller portions, and a few cubes in anything we're cooking makes a quick dinner into a small bit of heaven.
Since we're right in the middle of auditions for the summer program, our lives get hijacked over the weekends and we find ourselves eating out or eating late a lot. Now I LOVE to eat out, but I get so much more therapeutic bang-for-the-buck by cooking for us at home. And no 300-400% mark-up on the wine!
Speaking of restaurants, I just had a flashback of one of the best meals in recent memory, over the holidays at Blue Hill Restaurant in Greenwich Village. "Farm to table" philosophy dominates, with fresh ingredients, simple but elegant preparations. I should have written down the entire meal in a food-diary right then, like Karen and I did on our delayed honeymoon to Bavaria a few years ago, but since their menu changes often, you'll probably never see the same thing twice. Don't miss a chance to check out this wonderful place....the decor is extremely understated (but elegant), and the service is friendly, unobtrusive and unpretentious.