8 Winter Dishes We Can’t Get Enough Of
As thermometers across the country begin their slow (or sudden) descent, we are setting our hearts, minds and slow-cookers on warming meals designed to beat the chill. JS Contributor Emily Saladino tells us where to find the country’s best winter dishes. Dig in.
Chicken Pot Pie
It may seem the ultimate all-American comfort dish, but chicken pot pies date back to 16th century Great Britain and, before that, the Roman Empire. (Moneyed residents of the latter served savory pies with LIVE BIRDS, giving new meaning to the phrase “on a wing and a prayer.”) Thankfully, the contemporary American version is less terrifying. It is a one-pot wonder perfect for cold nights and sweater-wearing, football-watching Sundays.
Where to try it: Call 48 hours in advance to reserve a limited-quantity pot pie from Petsi Pies, a Somerville, MA cult bakery with two cafes in Cambridge. Petsi Pies' seasonal stunner combines tender poultry, diced carrots, skin-on Russet potatoes and fresh herbs baked between not one but two buttery crusts.
In the grand tradition of quinoa and coconut water, bone broth is both an ancient delicacy and modern health craze. The darling of Paleo dieters has a long history in Asian, Caribbean and Jewish cultures, all of whom simmered animal bones in water to create nutrient-rich, stomach-soothing cups of liquid gold (or bronze). These days, chefs such as Marco Canora in New York and the meat maestros at California’s Belcampo have gotten in on the brothy action, doling out steaming cups made with top-tier ingredients like grass-fed cattle and organic produce.
Where to try it: The newest kid on the stockpot is Broth Bar, an all-broth cafe opened by restaurateurs (and sisters) Tressa and Katie Yellig in Northeast Portland. Broth Bar serves two daily rotating broths with optional add-ins such as grated turmeric and kelp.
Canadian ingenuity has given the world IMAX movie theaters, Trivial Pursuit and, perhaps most thrillingly, an acceptable way to enjoy cheese fries coated in rich brown gravy. Served at diners, roadside stands, hockey stadiums and even fast food counters across Canada, poutine is a rib-sticking Quebecois “snack” guaranteed to insulate diners against the chilly winters of the great white north.
Where to try it: Canadian poutine chains of varying repute have opened across the US, but go for broke with the smoked meat poutine at Mile End, a charming boite opened by two Montreal expats in Brooklyn, NY. (They also operate a restaurant in Manhattan). Mile End's version smothers perfectly crisp, made-to-order fries with roasted chicken gravy, traditional cheese curds and shredded bites of smoked meat, or Montreal's answer to pastrami. This is not diet fare by any stretch of the imagination.
In South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry region, oysters roasts are a time-honored winter tradition. Locals harvest superlative bivalves, and gather around DIY fire pits and communal tables to steam, shuck and swill the bounty at raucous outdoor picnic parties. (The region enjoys relatively mild temperatures throughout the season.)
Where to try it: The best place to get your roast on is at a private backyard party. Barring personal invitation (surely someone in your Facebook community lives in South Carolina?), check out Charleston’s iconic Bowens Island Restaurant. A family-owned local gem since 1946, the seafood haunt hosts regular oyster roasts at its low-key, waterfront site throughout the season.
Culinary historians trace the first written recipe for meatloaf to a 5th century Roman cookbook. The version most familiar to modern diners gained popularity with the advent of the meat grinder in the late 19th century, after which home cooks and housewives began baking rich, hearty creations with pre-Atkins aplomb. Contemporary variations span turkey, beef, pork and even vegan-friendly mushroom loaves, all of which are baked, sliced and preferably served by someone wearing a gingham-checked apron.
Where to try it: 24 Diner, an Austin, TX institution serving comfort food around the clock, prepares a homespun loaf rumored to contain some 30 ingredients, including Monterey Jack cheese. Each slice is seared in a cast-iron pan to ensure a crisp crust, and arrives at the table accompanied by whipped potatoes, bacon-studded collards and sweet onion gravy.
If Cream of Wheat were recast as an ancient Mayan delicacy, it might resemble atole. Mexico’s breakfast of campeones is a good-to-the-last-drop blend of masa, vanilla bean and cinnamon. Simultaneously homey and sophisticated, with layered flavors and a pleasingly gritty texture, atole provides the perfect antidote to chilly mornings; but in Mexico, as in college, no one will bat an eye if you decide you want a big bowl of warm cereal as an afternoon snack.
Where to try it: Kakawa Chocolate House, a cheerful adobe confectionary in Santa Fe, NM, serves an array of Pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican and contemporary "elixirs," including a knockout atole made with blue corn masa. Delicately sweet and deceptively spicy, Kakawa's atole combines honey, pure cocoa and Chihuacle Negro chilies in a hand-painted, blue-and-white Oaxacan ceramic mug. Que rico.
This enormously popular street food forged by post-war Chinese immigrants in Japan has become a bona fide American phenomenon. At humble counters and hip noodle bars across the US, new-wave ramen masters serve steaming bowls with traditional ingredients like nori and chashu, as well as their own custom made versions. Devotees wait in epic queues to eat (and Instagram) soul-satisfying shio and tonkotsu bowls year-round, but winter is when a hearty bowl of alternatively spicy, porky, salty and complex noodle soups really hit their stride.
Where to try it: Star-spangled ramen-ya’s abound, but Ramen Shop in Oakland, CA has us California dreamin' on winter days. Opened by three Chez Panisse alums in 2013, the counter joint perfectly captures the medium's multicultural spirit, serving an organic menu of locavore-friendly ramen (think sesame miso broth with butternut squash and king Richard leeks) alongside seasonal starters and craft cocktails.
Ask the Swiss: the ultimate antidote to snowy weather is a big, gooey pot of fortified melted cheese (or chocolate). Hearty brews can encompass white wine, hard cider, gruyere or raclette, all of which are stirred ⎯ clockwise only, s’il vous plait ⎯ and warmed over low heat. Accompanying big dippers might include crudite, kielbasa or bite-sized hunks of crusty bread; and a hearty pour of kirsch certainly never hurt anyone.
Where to try it: Forget national chains slinging mass-produced, melted pots ⎯ fondue is only as good as the curds and whey within it. New York City’s Artisanal Fromagerie Bistro serves the creme de la creme of wintry warmers, accompanying a proprietary blend of gouda and stout with fresh-baked country bread, plus such optional baigneuses as apples, pears, roasted fingerling potatoes and air-dried beef.