What to Eat in a Blizzard

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A meaty stew, because it’s cold outside. And hot dogs. Because you wish it wasn’t. And in between, French toast, because you want to indulge before you grab the shovel.

For Friday night, the stew: lamb, carrots, prunes and pearl onions seasoned with ginger, cinnamon, garlic and cumin (see the photo). A Moroccan tagine of sorts, served with a loaf of whole-grain sourdough, which filled us as we watched the Blizzard of 2013 fill up the driveway.

On Saturday, French toast for breakfast. And hot dogs for dinner: A brainstorm, inspired by cold fingers and sore shoulders. A meal that reminds us of summer and being outdoors. Our first idea was to roast the hot dogs in our wood-burning fireplace, but the fireplace is small and we didn’t want to risk a grease fire. Instead, we broiled the hot dogs and ate them with steamed green beans, baked beans from a can and tater tots. Afterwards, we roasted marshmallows in the fireplace and made s’mores while we streamed episodes of Fawlty Towers.

I’d planned the lamb stew, sort of, earlier in the week, roughly following the method, and some of the suggested ingredients, in a master stew recipe by Molly Stevens in the February/March 2013 issue of Fine Cooking. I already had the leg of lamb, as well as the carrots, prunes, spices, chickpeas, wine and chicken stock. We did not have hot dogs, buns, green beans, or, for that matter, marshmallows. But the small grocery store/farmstand about a mile and a half from us was open, and they did.

Lamb Stew with Carrots, Pearl Onions and Prunes

I made this stew for the first time on Friday, and so some of the measurements may need a little adjusting. But it’s stew, so if you use a little more of this or a little less of that, it will probably be just as good. I might pick up the seasonings a bit next time, and try a dry wine to counteract the sweetness of the prunes. It takes about an hour to prepare before putting it in the oven, then about 2 hours to braise while you go do something else. Originally, I was going to try this in the slow cooker but since I knew I would be home all day, and I had a lot of work to do in the morning, I opted to wait until late afternoon to start it and cooked it in the oven. Serves 4-5

1 leg of lamb, about 2.5 lbs, boned and cut into 1.5-inch chunks and trimmed of fat (or approximately 2 lbs lamb stew meat).
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3  slices of ginger root, about 1/8-inch thick, peeled (I had a wide knob of it, at least 2 inches in diameter. If yours is narrower, you might want to try 4-6 slices)
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 c white wine (I had an open bottle of Gew├╝rztraminer, which is somewhat sweet. But dry would be better.)
2 c chicken stock
1 c water
2 c pearl onions, peeled
2 c carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 c whole prunes
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas
Juice from one lemon
Some chopped parsley (about 1/3 c) to sprinkle on top
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Use a dutch oven, or another heavy bottomed, ovenproof pan with high sides and a lid (I used a 2-quart size). Put a rack in the bottom 1/3 of your oven and preheat the oven to 325 F.

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Dry the lamb pieces, season with salt and brown them in batches, a third at a time, adding up to 1 tbsp of oil and adjusting the heat if necessary so the meat and drippings don’t burn. Transfer the browned meat to a plate.

Pour off all but 1 tbsp of oil from the pan and add the chopped onion and celery. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the onions and celery soften. Add the sliced ginger, cumin, cinnamon, garlic and a few grinds of pepper, and stir for a minute or two until you can smell the spices.

Add wine to the pan and bring to a boil, until it is reduced by half. Add the stock and water, and bring to a boil, then add the meat and any juices back into the pan. At this point, you’re going to put it in the oven for a while. Molly Stevens suggests covering the surface of the stew with a large piece of parchment that you crumple up and then flatten out again (it should be big enough to come up the sides of the pan. I did this, and it does keep the stew moist. Cover the pan and cook for an hour.

Add the carrots, peeled onions and prunes. If too much liquid has evaporated, despite the parchment, add a little more stock or water (I forgot the water initially and added it when I added it during this step. You want enough liquid in the pan to almost cover the meat and vegetables). Cover the surface again with parchment and cook for another hour.

At this point, the meat should be easy to cut with a fork. Add the chickpeas and return the pan to the oven to heat through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle parsley on top.

French Toast

Almost everyone has a recipe for this. But here’s mine. Challah, a traditional Jewish bread made with eggs, is my favorite.

A few 1-inch thick slices of challah bread (2-3 per person)
Some eggs (2 large for every 4-5 slices)
1/4 cup milk per 2 eggs
a dash of vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
unsalted butter

Beat the eggs, milk, vanilla an optional orange zest in a medium bowl. Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold a couple of slices of bread at a time. Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture so it soaks through, and put it in the pan. Adjust the heat so that the surface of the bread toasts slowly and doesn’t burn. When the first side is golden brown, turn it over and toast the other side. The egg mixture should cook enough so that the inside of the bread isn’t soggy.

Serve with maple syrup, or topped with confectioners sugar, with some fruit on the side.