Culinary Cures for the Wintertime Blues

By Chef Judi Gallagher –

snowIn most parts of the country the air is biting cold and the winter blues are threatening to get the best of us. Time for some kitchen therapy. I always think of February and March as a time to take out cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. Simmer stews and soups while the oven is warming loaves of cranberry walnut bread and baked apples. Filling your home with the warm and comforting aromas of wintertime foods creates contentment even before everyone sits down to the table. Try these recipes for a sure cure for the wintertime blues.

Chicken Paprikash

chick6 boneless chicken breasts

1/3 cup flour

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-1/2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 pound buttered wide egg noodles, cooked


Combine flour, 2 teaspoons paprika, salt, and pepper on shallow plate. Dip chicken in mixture to coat both sides. Combine peanut oil and butter in heavy skillet. Add chicken; brown on both sides, turning once, about 4-5 minutes, then remove from skillet. Add onion and garlic to skillet; cook and stir until crisp tender. Return chicken to skillet. Pour chicken stock and tomato paste into skillet and stir to combine, bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover pan, and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, combine sour cream, 1 teaspoon paprika, and cornstarch in small bowl. When chicken is thoroughly cooked, stir sour cream mixture into skillet and heat through but do not boil. Pour over noodles – top with chopped parsley for color and to brighten the flavors.


Mediterranean Lentil Soup

lensoup(makes one gallon)

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

1 ½ cups onions, small dice

1 ½ cups carrots, small dice

1 ½ cups celery, small dice

½ pound sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup dry lentils

1/2 gallon chicken stock

Kosher salt to taste

Ground black pepper to taste


Heat a stock pot over the fire. Add the oil, garlic, onions and the carrots. Sweat until aroma develops. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, lentils and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are tender. Using a submergible blender, purée, leaving the soup a bit chunky. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Serve with warm crusty bread.


Smoked Corn & Potato Bisque

Makes 3½ Quarts

1 tablespoon blended oil

8 ounces bacon, small dice

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 cups Spanish onions, small dice

1 cup carrots, small dice

1 cup celery, small dice

2 cups corn, cut off the cob

4 cups potatoes, small dice

6 cups chicken stock

½ gram saffron

4 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

2 teaspoons Liquid Smoke

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

½ teaspoon Tabasco

1 pint heavy cream

Cornstarch slurry (if necessary)


Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Add the bacon, continue to cook bacon until it is 50% cooked. Add the garlic, onions, carrots and the celery. Continue to sweat until vegetables are translucent. Add the corn, potatoes, stock, saffron, old bay seasoning, liquid smoke, Worcestershire and the Tabasco. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until vegetables and potatoes are tender. Finish with the cream. Note: If the bisque is not thick enough, create a little bit of slurry with cornstarch and water and add it to the soup.


Hearty Beef Stew

Beef stew was always a popular seller at my New England restaurants during long, gray cold winters. Somewhere between a beef stew and a classic French beef Bourguignon, this recipe was born. Number One rule – use good quality stew meat like Hereford Beef. Number Two Rule – use  good Cabernet. Judi Gallagher

beef-stew2 pounds stew meat, cut into cubes

Approximately ¼ cup all-purpose flour

Garlic salt and fresh ground black pepper

¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

1.5-ounce container of Demi-Glace Gold (this store brand is only $4.99 and well worth it for a rich hearty stock)

2-3 cups hot water

1 cup cabernet sauvignon wine

1 cup baby carrots

1 cup sliced celery

2 cups peeled fresh baby onions

1 cup cut red potatoes

½ cup dried porcini mushrooms

1 bay leaf

1 cup  frozen peas, thawed but not cooked

Buttered noodles, cooked

To thicken if needed:

1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with ½ cup cold water


Heat oil in large pot. Season meat with garlic salt and black pepper. Let rest 5 minutes or so. Toss gently into flour shaking off excess before adding to pot. Gently brown on both sides. Add water and demi-glace mix. Lower heat and simmer for ½ hour. Add wine and simmer another ½ hour. Add red potatoes, onions, carrots and celery. Adjust seasoning and add more wine if needed. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Add peas and taste to see if you would like the stew thicker or more seasoned. Remove bay leaf. Add slurry (cornstarch and water mixture) to low boiling stew if you need to thicken. Serve over buttered noodles.


Steak Goulash Stew 

¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika, divided

1 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper

1 ½ pounds sirloin steak, trimmed, sliced into 2-inch strips

4 strips bacon, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

2 cups low-sodium beef broth

½ cup sliced roasted red pepper

1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Garnish:  A dollop of sour cream, fresh dill sprigs or a dollop of prepared horseradish


Combine flour, 1 tablespoon paprika, salt, and black pepper in a paper bag. Add steak and toss to coat with flour mixture; set aside. Cook bacon in a sauté pan until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate; set aside.

Add oil to pan with drippings; heat over medium until shimmering. Sear steak strips in two batches, 1 minute per side. Remove steak strips to a plate; set aside. Sauté onion and garlic in the same pan over medium-high heat, 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, 1 tablespoon paprika, caraway seeds, and remaining flour mixture from bag. Cook 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the plan with broth, scraping up bits on bottom of pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer stew until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add steak with residual juices, sliced peppers, and vinegar. Simmer 3 minutes. Season stew with salt and black pepper. Serve with warm crusty bread.



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