The Weather Outside…

Hearty Soup and Red Wine

It’s almost winter which means it’s time for comfort food. Let’s be real about food this time of year; no matter how low the calorie count, it’s going to add fluff to the body. In my case, winter food seems to be butt-specific.

My favorite of these soul-satisfying winter delights is homemade bread. Especially when it’s being paired with a bowl of hearty, warming stew or soup and glasses of big red wine.

While artisanal bread abounds – and there are great bakeries in Vegas, believe it or not – there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned loaf of bread straight from the oven. Except for homemade cornbread. But I digress.

My favorite styles of stew have just a few ingredients – a wonderful stock, small cubes of meltingly tender beef, carrots, potatoes, onions, herbs, wine, a dollop of tomato paste, and seasonings. Peas if you must. The amount of each can vary from recipe to recipe, of course, but there should always be enough “juice” left for sopping. The traditional beef stew screams for a rich and luscious Cabernet Sauvignon. Yum.

Artisanal Bread

Although I’m all about the whole grains, sprouted whole grains, honey instead of sugar, and other health-food consciousness, there are times when the only thing that will work is a good hearty loaf of white bread. Yes, I said white bread. [Note: I recently read a book stating why white bread is actually easier on the human body than whole grain bread. I’ll find it and share.]

There are several recipes I enjoy when I have a big stew dish. While beef stew with bread for sopping is quintessentially American, there are other soups and stews that love bread. Even if not by the loaf. But before we get to what pairs with what, I’d like to share recipes for homemade white bread.

Bread and butter.

The video is from AllRecipes and it’s an Amish White Bread, which is an easy go-to because it’s quick to make. And delicious. To make it more traditional in style, all you need to do is to use butter instead of oil and add an egg in place of about 1 Tbs of water. Those additions will add richness, texture, and flavor to the loaves.

Beef Stew – ‘Murica!

Cornbread!

Even in the desert, it can get really cold. At least once a year we have temperatures that can plunge into the 20s (-6c), which means that our palm trees, citrus trees, cacti, and other sensitive plants have to be covered as well as exposed pipes.

Chili!

Bowl of Chili

Oh yes, we love chili, although it’s rarely connected with cold winter nights. But the basic genuine chili (NO BEANS – let the battle begin) is all about shredded or ground beef (another battle), tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and enough seasonings to make your eyes water is another soul-warming dish. This time, the sides are usually tortillas, shredded queso, raw onions, and beer. Wine and chili can be okay, but beer is chili’s soulmate. Except maybe Lambrusco. Hm.

What about Vegans?

Ratatouille with a dollop

Although it’s considered a summer dish, Ratatouille, in my opinion, is a year-round treasure. It is rich and hearty, and with the availability of “summer” vegetables now available in all seasons, it is a great winter stew. Whether you serve it cheffy style or rustic style, the flavors are amazing, and pairs beautifully with bread and wine. Of COURSE it pairs with wine. It’s French! The wines in the region of Provence where the dish originates are Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault.

But Wait! There’s More!

And then there’s Phở, the Swiss Army Knife of soups. It’s the only soup that I’ve had all year round and it seems to fit whatever the season. It is ideal for breakfast, even in the middle of summer, because it will keep you satiated until way after lunch.

Phở!

It’s great for dinner because it’s soup! What’s even better is that Phở is anecdotally linked to Pot au Feu, thereby creating the dish and the pronunciation (fuh). Unlike many soups and stews, this soup is not “hearty”; there are no roasted bones or heavy winter or root vegetables. There are bean sprouts, rice noodles, limes, chilis, basil, and probably an unidentifiable veggie or two. Everything is light and fresh, and if the broth is made correctly, it’s incredibly, amazingly, beautifully fragrant. Nosegasms, for sure. The broth is the main event in this dish.

All of that being said, it is still an amazingly warming soup, most likely due to the various spices that are included when it’s cooked, and some of the meats that can be added. The only wine that can be paired with a well-made Phở is Pinot Noir, preferably one that is Burgundian in style, as from Oregon or the Sonoma Coast. I would recommend New Zealand, but so far I’ve had hit and miss experiences with it. That’s a rant for another day!

I hope you find a little incentive in this post. Whether you decide to make your own homemade soups or stews or really get into tackling making fresh bread, now is the time to fill your home with fragrant and delicious goodness!