EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: Winter Weary

The Tuesday Night Dinner Project
It’s official: I’d rather cook or stare out the window than write at this moment. A big bowl of comfort food and a spot where sun comes through the window is all I want. Well, maybe a fuzzy blanket would be nice. 
This feeling is widespread, I’m pretty sure. Minnesota has been walloped with winter and people are tired. It’s part of the deal when you live in a place that freezes, thaws, awakens, goes dormant. Even knowing that, winter still wears people down sometimes. I usually like winter but even I find myself wishing things would ease up a little. Soon.
And that’s why last night’s dinner was all about comfort. My daughter-in-law is not a winter person and has been longing to return to Hawaii, where she lived for a year after college. There have been a lot of changes in and around Beka’s job lately and I can see she’s tired. My son Shawn is in the midst of preparing for a big show with his art collective that involves making many, many pieces of art (This is the show: Minimum Wage. Rogue Citizen at Gamut Gallery, Minneapolis. Check it out.). He’s tired. My husband Mick has had one of the busiest academic years he can remember. He’s tired. Camille is simply growing and she takes a nap every day. She’s probably good until someone tells her she has to wear her coat. Then all bets are off.
Anyway. Comfort. Needed. Now. Beka loves the grown-up mac and cheese recipe I use, which is very far away from that stuff in the Kraft box. It’s the dish I fed to my co-editor Oonah and her husband Noel upon their arrival when they visited from England. It’s the dish I made for Camille’s second birthday party. It’s the one dish Beka’s requested from me in the past. Shawn eats almost everything that doesn’t have Parmesan cheese on it (or peanuts due to that life-threatening allergy thing), and Mick and Camille love pasta. So, that was one dish that was going to make it to Tuesday night dinner. But it didn’t feel like enough in this wickedly warmth-free winter.
So, when Camille went down for her nap, I went to work on a crockpot chicken dish called Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic from Slow Cooker Revolution (published by America’s Test Kitchen). Somehow, spending my time peeling 40 cloves of garlic (I have this kind of garlic peeler, a gift from my friend Patricia) and four shallots, sautéing chicken breasts, and deglazing a pan was a great antidote to winter blahs. The entire kitchen oozed warm garlicky aromas. I used all the dry vermouth we had in the house in the sauce and it turned out to be amazing. 
And, at the end of the day, when the house filled up with family again, and we swapped our latest tales of driving on icy roads, that kind of comfort food was just the thing. I think I’m still in a little bit of a food haze today, with zero energy in spite of a morning workout. As I was out on the roads this morning, noting that I haven’t been anywhere since last Thursday without seeing at least one or two cars slide into a big snowbank or another car, I just felt exhausted for everyone.
Good thing there’s some leftover mac and cheese. Now if I can just find a clean bowl, I’ll be all set.

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8 comments

  1. I take great comfort in cooking when I'm feeling blah. My knee has been troubling me and I have been pushing myself to exercise while still taking care of the tenderness.

    The chicken sounds amazing to me. I really want to try this recipe. I've seen it before but my husband says “forty cloves of garlic?” as if this were a bad thing. I guess I love garlic more than he does.

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  2. Oh, beloved mac and cheese. I deviated from the traditional and usual Friday night pizza last week and made homemade mac and cheese. Such comfort and cheesy goodness.

    I am wondering about those FORTY garlic cloves, though. My, that's a lot. Does garlic overwhelm the dish?

    As for winter, I am so with you on your attitude about this longest of Minnesota winters.

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  3. The garlic gets nice and mellow during the cooking. The recipe I used called for sauteing the garlic and shallots before putting them into the crockpot, so the garlic developed a little nuttiness in its flavor as a result. Not overpowering at all.

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