Monday, 27 January 2014

Winter Cooking

Provence is a mere memory and winter is biting hard this year in Toronto. In France it is the warmest winter in a century, I was just in Paris and it was warm enough to have a drink on the cafe terraces (with the heaters). Here it is the coldest winter in some time. It feels like the coldest since I first arrived, but my memory for cold is very selective. One big plus is that this bone chilling and pipe freezing -18C weather, yes we still have a heater warming our bathroom pipes, usually means bright sunny days. The photo was taken during a snow storm, but most of time I can sit in my living room bathed in brilliant although not warm sunshine.

I am spinning my wheels waiting for my BITTER book to come back for proofing, so to pass the time I'm cooking cold weather favourites. Last weekend it was cassoulet from Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes. I used haricots Tarbais that my friend Isabelle gave me. These beans, grown around the the town of Tarbes in south western France, are harvested by hand and dried naturally. I was lucky, these dried beans are always hard to find and last year was a very small crop. On top of that, as you'll see if you check out their website, there was a fire at cooperative and there are no dried beans available until after this year's harvest. So I'll have to wait until November to restock. Sure you can make cassoulet with other dried white beans but the Tarbais are special, large, creamy and they holds their shape.

Cassoulet is a perfect dish for winter entertaining. You can make it ahead and as it cooks it warms up your kitchen and fills it with the rich, aromas of duck and sausage. The cocotte goes straight on the table so guests can help themselves. With all those beans, duck confit, pork belly and sausages you don't need much else. I bookended it with a salad of bitter greens and a Campari ice. The bitterness at both ends of the meal was the perfect balance to the cassoulet.

So one way to cheer yourself up when it is too cold to venture out is to make stock, soup, or a stew. All simple and will cook away while you sit in the bright, cold sunshine and read a book, or this blog.

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