I think Penny (yes, the dog) and I have seasonal depression. First off, Penny has gained 4.6 pounds since her last vet visit. Heck, I gain 4.6 pounds in a weekend, but for a dog that’s a lot. As I was sitting on the couch eating pizza and cookies last week (not fabricated), I said, “Penny, we’re going to go on a diet!” Starting tomorrow, of course. (And yes, I had four bowls of EVIL ice cream this weekend, and yes, there are two days in a weekend…it’s sad, isn’t it?) So much for that.
I get up and it’s dark. I am in an office with fluorescent lighting for nine hours. I leave the office and it’s dark. It’s always dark. I do not like the austerity of winter. The cold barrenness. Because it’s dark – and cold – Penny has not been getting enough walks. She has not seen her dog boyfriend, Max, for months. It’s a travesty, really (cough, cough). In the past few weeks she doesn’t even come up sleep in the same room with us. (She has always, always slept in her dog bed in our bedroom.) She stays downstairs now and looks at us with little interest when we go up to bed. Matt said it’s simply warmer downstairs and she prefers that dog bed. I say she’s leaving the nest and she doesn’t need her mother anymore. She’s also very bitter with her lack of walks, and by golly, that dog can hold a grudge. (Once I dropped Penny off to get her teeth cleaned. When we picked her up at the end of the day she greeted Matt warmly and didn’t – for the rest of the evening – even acknowledge my presence because I was the one who dropped her off. Even Matt recounts this with glee.)
So to bring some cheer in the household (for the humans – forget the dog) I wanted to make a cold-weather comfort dish. Actually, because Matt often gets home before me, he made it. With boys you just have to be very specific and deliberate. Include where everything is located (Matt cannot find anything). You can’t just say “tomato paste.” You have to say, “The tomato paste is located on the third shelf in the pantry on the left. It is in a tiny can.” Yep, there you go...you got it!
(Below is a recipe totally borrowed from Smitten Kitchen. It's warm and beefy...without the beef! I swear you won't miss it. Serves 4.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 pounds portobello or cremini mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 carrot, finely diced
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup full-bodied red wine
- 2 cups beef or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
- Egg noodles, for serving
- Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.
To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream (optional) and sprinkle with chives or parsley.
This is how I found Matt when I came home: cooking in his winter coat.