By Erica Gagne Glaze
Regardless of the weather, there is a certain point in the season when comfort food becomes mandatory. There is a time when something in the body just clicks and demands nourishment and warmth. There must be some cellular clock that says fatten me up for the long dark days ahead.
Rather than reaching for the junk food, reach into your winter stockpile and dish up a meal that feels like your favorite sweater or a long-loved friend.
My favorites are cheese, soup, and amazing crusty doughy bread. Here are a couple of recipes highlighting my winter favorites — grilled cheese and soup.
Grilled Cheese — sounds a bit simple perhaps? This isn’t your childhood Wonderbread and American cheese. I’m talking grilled cheese for adults, and considering we’re using Longview Creamery’s Funkwerks cheddar, you may want to card your dinner guests.
It’s all in the ingredients. Start off with your favorite fresh baked bread. I recommend the spinach garlic loaf, a local favorite from Ingrained Bakery in Wellington. Don’t forget to get a square of their fresh churned butter. Then, if you like a little local craft flavor, grab a block of Funkwerks cheddar from Longview Creamery. Not into a sudsy flavored cheese? There are a number of local cheese options out there to suit your taste.
Grab your cast iron pan and melt up a generous dab of that fresh churned butter. Take your first piece of bread and rub it around into the buttered up pan. Layer your cheese and any other extras you’d like (tomato, bacon, green chilies) and place your second piece on top. I cook low and slow to make sure that cheese turns into melty goodness and warms up the additions I layer in. For the first minute I cover the pan to help with the melting, then I keep flipping and adding butter to the pan until I have crispy golden perfection.
And, what goes best with grilled cheese?
That would be soup.
1 ½ lbs of acorn squash, peeled and chopped into chunks (or any winter squash you have sitting on the counter)
1 lb. carrots (Native Hill Farms carrots are exceptionally good this time of year), peeled and chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves (or more), chopped
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbs. basil, chopped
1 tbs. parsley chopped
Sea salt and ground pepper (Old Town Spice Shop has a great selection of salts and peppers!)
¼ cup olive oil
4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade (and extra for thinning)
6 oz. chopped bacon, thick cut, hickory smoked
In a preheated 425 degree oven roast the squash, carrots, onions, garlic and herbs with 1 tsp salt and pepper, and drizzled with the olive oil and tossed to coat. Roast about 45 minutes, stirring a couple times during roasting.
Once the veggies are done roasting, let cool and discard the thyme sprigs. Transfer to a pot and add the broth. Either using an immersion blender or your normal blender (in batches) puree the soup until smooth. Add more broth as needed to obtain your desired consistency. Cook over medium-low heat, about 10 minutes, until your soup is warmed through.
In a separate pan cook up the bacon pieces until crispy (not burnt, crispy). When done cooking, pat the excess oil off the bacon chunks and use for garnish when soup is ready to eat. Feel free to add a little olive oil drizzle to the soup as well.
Then enjoy these two wonderful dishes together. Warning: slightly euphoric and sleepy feeling may follow.