I don’t mean just checking items off the ever-growing “honey-do” list. I mean getting in the kitchen and trying something new, something satisfying.
Although I spend a great deal of time in the kitchen all year, for me the winter months are a great opportunity to try something new, write recipes and perfect some old ones.
These are the days when you might try your hand at making fresh pasta or homemade sausage, baking a pie with a homemade crust, or just leafing through a cookbook until you find something that catches your eye and then whipping it up.
As much as I love summer, the late fall and winter months just might be my culinary favourite, with comfort foods, low and slow braises, long-roasting, deep and complex flavours and satisfying dishes that just might take all day to make.
If you find you have some quality time inside this winter, give the following kitchen projects a try.
Make a Weekend Roast and then Bone Broth
Weekend roasts should be a thing, a family-centred meal that is deeply satisfying to make and eat. You can also set yourself up for success for weeknight meals as well. Try my recipe for the perfect prime rib. I love this recipe for lots of reasons. Prime rib slow and low roasted to medium-rare perfection is just the starting point. Hopefully, there is some leftover roast for some peppered beef stroganoff, but, most importantly, you have some bones to make bone broth. Bone broth is unlike regular stock that uses bones just for flavour. Bone broth uses a super-long cooking time – 36 hours to be exact – to extract as much flavour and nutrition out of the bones as possible. The difference between homemade bone broth and store-bought stock is immense. It can be immediately seen in colour and consistency, but also in taste and nutrition. Don’t let the long cook time intimidate you. All the work is done in a slow cooker and the recipe makes a large enough batch for some broth to be frozen for future uses. Bone broth can also be made with chicken, turkey or fish, so save all of those carcasses in a freezer bag in the freezer until you are ready.
Bake a Pie from Scratch.
I remember the first time I made my family’s favourite sugar pie from scratch. It felt as though my grandma was smiling down on me. There is something rewarding in getting a pie crust just right.
Braise Something, Anything
I find few meals as comforting or winter-worthy as braised dishes. Braising is a technique that creates super-flavour dishes that are mostly hands-off and are really foolproof by combining both wet and dry heat. You can create restaurant-quality short ribs, pork shoulder and lamb shanks and make yourself a weekend hero in the kitchen. Follow the four simple rules of braising: sear your meat, sauté your vegetables, de-glaze the pot and braise it all.
Make Fresh Pasta.
Making fresh pasta isn’t difficult and requires just a handful of ingredients, but it has weekend project written all over it. Once you have fresh homemade pasta, it is really difficult to go back to the dry stuff. Try my recipe for homemade pasta and top it with your favourite sauce, slow-simmered tomato and meatball, or a hearty creamy mushroom ragout. Make a double batch of fresh pasta and freeze some for weeknight meals when time isn’t on your side.
Search out an Intimidating Recipe and Make It.
It’s time to flex some cooking muscle. Find a recipe that might intimidate you or seem too time-consuming for weeknight eats and dive right in. On a weekend, when you might have a little extra time on your hands, attempt things like making a layered birthday cake, trying an international recipe, baking some bread, making a lasagna, or getting the entire family together to make some pierogis. A lot of times the extra effort required to go into a recipe is entirely worth it. Get the family involved and make a day out of it.
We all look forward to our weekends or when we have nice long breaks from work.
It is a perfect time to enjoy family, catch up on some cleaning or a TV show, or get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. But why not challenge yourself in the kitchen with a day-long – or two – project?
As firefighters, we are always looking to better ourselves, and the winter months and blustery days are a great opportunity to take your cooking game to the next level. Give some of these projects a try and, as always, let me know how they turn out.
You can message/tag me on Instagram @stationhouse_ or Twitter @StationHouseCCo.
Eat well and stay safe.
Beef Bone Broth
- 3 pounds beef bones and pieces
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 large onion, peeled and halved
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 3 quarts filtered water
- Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place the bones in a colander, rinse under cool water, and pat dry with paper towels.
- Arrange the bones in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until golden-brown, about 30 minutes.
- Transfer the bones to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Add the water and vinegar and stir to combine. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Turn the slow cooker to the high setting and bring the broth mixture to a simmer.
- Check the slow cooker occasionally, skimming off any foam that collects on the surface the first hour and adding additional water as needed to keep the ingredients covered. Keep the broth at a simmer on high for 24 hours.
- Add the carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns and continue to simmer on the high setting for 12 hours more, adding more filtered water as needed to keep the bones covered. The broth is done when it is a rich golden-brown and the bones are falling apart at the joints.
- When the broth is finished, strain and cool the bone broth as quickly as possible. Set a strainer over a large pot or even a stand mixer bowl and line it with cheesecloth if desired. Carefully strain the bone broth into it. Discard the spent bits of bone and vegetables.
- Prepare an ice bath by either filling a sink or basin with cold water and ice and set the pot of broth inside the ice bath. Stir regularly until the broth is cooled, about 15 minutes. Transfer the broth to airtight containers or jars. Refrigerate or freeze.
- About 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- 4 eggs
- About 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well and add the oil. With a fork, lightly beat the eggs and oil, gradually mixing them with the flour. When the dough becomes too thick to work with the fork, continue with your fingertips and then your hands. Do not use too much flour. A few tablespoons may be left over, or there may not be quite enough, depending on the humidity level and the size of the eggs.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. The dough will become smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticky, dust it lightly with flour and continue kneading.
- Let stand for 30 minutes before rolling. If rolling the dough by hand, use a pasta rolling pin and roll it very thin. Cut in 1 cm strips for fettuccine.
- If you have a pasta roller or machine, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for rolling and cutting. Congratulations you just made homemade pasta.