I know a lot of people like Spring because of the flowers and warmer weather and I know a lot of people like Summer because of the long days and flip flops and Fall's great because of the crisper air and football and pumpkins...but to me, the best season of all is Winter.
I've loved Winter since I was a kid. I can't really explain why I've gravitated to cold stark Winter. Maybe it's because I love cold weather and snow (just maybe not in almost mid-March). Maybe it's because I like rooting for the underdog and liking things most people overlook (and lets face it, around these parts most folks are all about flip-flops and nine o'clock bedtimes). Maybe it's because I love comfort soups and stews and I can get by with cooking them more in the winter (The Husband is not as big of a soup and stew fan, but there is one I make every Saturday night that he absolutely adores: Shrimp Chowder. Recipe to follow). Maybe because it's so festive with Thanksgiving (my personal fave) and Christmas and New Years (and my birthday). Who knows? Maybe I'm just wired wrong or something.
Now that I'm grown (yikes!) and have started farming Winter brings a whole new meaning and I think I love it even more. We close the farm at the end of fall and let out a collective deep breath. I like to marinate on what we did this past year until after Christmas, and then we start planning. It's the calm before the storm of Spring where we can decide what we want to do and what we want to add and plan it all on paper and have this wonderful idea of how we want the year to go before real life and the weather and time constraints mess it up. It's the time where we can do a bit of traveling (mostly to meetings and conventions but it's traveling just the same. This year we got to go to Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe!). It's the time where we can make plans with our kids and family without it having to revolve around what's happening at the farm this week. It's a time where I can catch up on housework and cook things that take longer than thirty minutes. It's a time of renewal and a time of hope.
|"What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?" John Steinbeck|
Well, we have some exciting changes coming to the farm and a few new things we want to try and it all looks good on paper right now and we're very hopeful it's going to be great. Now it's time to take that collective breath in, because we're in the last gasp of Winter here and Springs coming fast, and that means it's time to get out and get to work!
|"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." Rachel Carson|
As promised, here's my Shrimp Chowder recipe. It's loosely based on one I found here by Sara Moulton (I'm a PBS nerd). It's super easy and pretty quick to make, filling yet not heavy, and perfect for Saturday evenings at home.
Shrimp Chowder (I’d say it makes enough for a family of four or two very hungry adults. If you’re feeding a crowd, I’d double.)
1 pound of shrimp (I go Atlantic Seafood on Royall and get the bag of already peeled and de-veined ones, because I’m lazy like that)
1 pound bacon (I really like Heritage Farms bacon even though it’s pricey. It has amazing flavor. Of course, any bacon will work.)
2 t butter
4-6 good hand-sized potatoes, I like the red ones.
2 stalks celery
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 tablespoons of flour, depending on how thick you want it.
2 cups of stock (I’ve used chicken, vegetable, or seafood, but currently I’m obsessed with making my own chicken stock so I’ve been using that. I’ll include that recipe too.)
1 cup water (if I was using broth instead of stock I’d use 3 cups broth and no water)
2 cups milk
1 cup half-n-half or heavy cream, whatever you have.
Old Bay to taste
2 good pinches of dried thyme.
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the bacon, I’ve done it all in one pot but I like to use a separate pan because the bacon grease can scorch if you have your heat too high and then you’ll have black bits in your white chowder. Set the bacon aside and pour half to ¾ of your drippings in your soup pot and add the butter. Once it’s melted add your chopped celery and onions and a good shake of salt and pepper. Since I don’t like celery and onions and will pick them out I leave them big but you can cut them as small as you want. Soon as they’ve softened some I had the flour. I use two or three heaping soup spoons but it’s all what you want. I let that cook a couple minutes until it starts to barely turn brown and I add the liquids. Once that’s combined I put in the potatoes, again, cut to how you like. I try to go bite sized or a little more because the smaller they are the faster they cook and after I’ve cooked that bacon I’m starving. Add the seasonings. I like a lot of Old Bay so I probably put a tablespoon. Once everything’s cooked through I add my shrimp and cook it until it’s just pink. Sometimes I cut the heat off before I do this. The longer they cook the more like rubber tires they will be. I cut up a strip of crispy bacon and top with it. YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE BACON. It makes the chowder. Enjoy!
Chicken Stock (I got this idea from Pioneer Woman, to give credit where it’s due)
1 small chicken (or the leftover bits and carcass from one you’ve baked)
½ - whole onion chunked
1 stalk celery chunked
1 large carrot chunked or 5-10 baby ones
1-2 cloves garlic, mashed
Put the chicken in the crock pot and stuff the vegetables in. I only really cut them so they’ll fit in my crock pot and I mash the garlic with my knife and peel it just to help release the flavor. If I’m cooking this to make chicken soup with I add salt and pepper. If it’s going to be strictly stock I don’t, so I can control the amount to seasoning when I actually make my dish. I either do this right before I go to bed and cook it on low all night, or right when I get up and cook it on low all day. I have done it at lunchtime for chicken soup and cooked it on high all afternoon. There is no right or wrong. It will make a stock so good and thick and flavorful you won’t go back to the bottled stuff. And it’s amazingly easy.