Winter is pantry and cellar season. As Green Mountain gardens sleep through the seasonal freeze, we find roughage in long-keeping crops such as potatoes and turnips, sunchokes and cabbages. Few of these are friendly to flash-in-the-pan cooking but instead reveal fine layers of flavor when heated for long hours, showered in seasonings.
And while the seasonal dearth of chlorophyll can compel even the most devoted locavores to seek solace in a bag of California greens, cold weather offers a ready excuse to dive deep into Vermont's outstanding array of homegrown meats and cheeses.
Not by coincidence, these high-fat, high-protein comforts help us face the cold.
What's more, roasts, soups and stews fill our homes with dense and rich savory scents. But even in the post-holiday lull, finding time to assemble a hearty meal can be tough.
Enter the slow cooker. You may know it by the trade name Crock-Pot, but any number of similar models fit the bill for one-pot cooking. The slow cooker allows us to prepare a low-maintenance, belly-filling meal with minimal trouble, yet the standard stew and chili recipes might seem a bit stale. To that end, Seven Days consulted with local chefs and farmers, brewers and food artisans for some inspiration. The next few months will bring plenty of cold, dark days to sample them all.
Some slow-cooker recipes are rightfully complex, and hours of prep can lead to the best dish you've ever had. But good meals don't have to be complicated. As Jon Wagner of Bear Roots Farm explains, it can be as easy as dumping some ingredients in the pot, turning on the heat and walking away. If you're crunched for time, here's a dinner you can throw together in five minutes. Be sure to use fresh veggies!
This winter, find Wagner and his partner, Karin Bellemare, at the Burlington Farmers Market on select Saturdays.
Cheese has been a cottage industry in Grafton since 1892, when a group of dairy farmers banded together to find a cooperative solution to their excess milk.
More than a century later, Grafton Village Cheese continues that legacy, producing aged, raw-milk cheddars and small-batch specialty curds. These are available at retailers statewide, including the company's flagship store in Brattleboro.
Last week, the creamery released a new truffled cheddar cheese. Like Grafton's other cheddars, it's smooth and lightly sharp, but Italian black truffles impart an elegant fungal funk.
The truffled cheese is brand-new, so when we requested a recipe, Grafton sales and marketing vice president Meri Spicer sent us a fondue using one of the creamery's more established offerings. If you don't have a wedding-day fondue kit collecting dust in a hard-to-reach cupboard, you can make this on a stovetop (see chef's note below), then transfer the fondue into a pre-warmed slow cooker. That will keep the cheese flowing until it's gone.
Chef's note: If you have a lightweight fondue pot or regular saucepan, put an inch or two of water in it and bring to simmer. Place a stainless steel bowl over the saucepan so it hovers over the water but is not immersed in it.
Phantom Productions was a midlife passion project that began as a pop-up dinner and music series and then became a food truck. About a year ago, owner Matt Sargent moved his operation into a storefront in Waitsfield's Mad River Green.
During dinner and weekend brunch, Sargent's menu swings from pub fare to pan-Asian to continental and Latin American; the chef decides daily what to do with the local meats and produce that most tickle his fancy. The results — always thoughtful, local, high-quality and affordable — are worth a trip to his restaurant. Bonus: On some nights, Phantom hosts live music by rockers and crooners from Vermont and beyond.
Chef's note: This is an easy favorite that was also a big hit on the food truck. Pure soul food.
Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients in this recipe. Aside from a little whisking and browning, you'll simply throw everything in your slow cooker.
Want to know more about healthy cooking? The store's Learning Center offers classes to help you with your New Year's resolutions.
Cate Hill Orchard is an organic farm that grows nearly everything, from heirloom apples to sheep. Here, co-owner Maria Schumann shares her Vermont-ized version of mutton barbecue, a regional dish from Kentucky. Find her at the Capital City Farmers Market in Montpelier this winter.
Stowe Street Café is known for offering healthier versions of comfort food. Here, owner Nicole Grenier shares her recipe for a French classic. Five hours of slow cooking will yield very tender and flavorful chicken, not to mention a tantalizing aroma in your kitchen.
Chef's note: Don't be tempted to peek or stir! Every time you remove the lid, you lose moisture and add another 30 minutes to the required cooking time!
Lightly coat Dutch oven or large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high.
Last summer, Stone Corral Brewery moved from the Huntington hills to a 4,000-square-foot space in Richmond. The move allowed co-owners Bret and Melissa Hamilton to drastically increase their production and to welcome guests in an airy, spacious tasting room. The brewery secured its first-class liquor license last fall and is now open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Many nights bring live jams from local pickers and strummers.
Chef Liam Quinlan's pared-down menu offers cheese plates, grilled panini stuffed with cheese and ham or apples, and chili. His chili is spicy, colorful and smoky with chipotle peppers and beer from the brewery.
Chef's note: Stonewood Farm's turkey sausage is the way to go — it has great flavor and crumbles well, leaving some bigger bite-size chunks. The peated malt and slight smoky flavor of our Latigo Scottish Export-style ale works very well with the heat from the chipotle peppers.
Tags: Food + Drink Features, recipe, recipes, Cate Hill Orchard, Grafton Village Cheese, Bear Roots Farm, Crock Pot, slow cooker, Phantom, Stone Corral Brewery, Healthy Living Market & Café, Stowe Street Café