How many times have you seen a recipe that sounds delicious, then looked at the steps and said to yourself, "I don't have time to do that!"? Well, now is the perfect time for all those dishes that aren't suited to a weeknight or even a weekend packed with errands and kids’ soccer games—those that require starting the prep the day before (which you forget to plan for) or hours of cooking time with intermittent stirring.
We’ve pulled together a handful of hearty dishes that make for comforting at-home activities and will keep you well-fed during the still-cool, fluctuating temperatures of spring. Working with meats you could stock in the freezer, these dishes are easy to adapt, and their ingredient lists lean on canned goods, dried spices and garlic, and basic vegetables that store well, like carrots, celery, potatoes and onions. From a spicy bean-based soup to enjoy with an off-dry Riesling to slow-cooked beef with a big Barolo, here are our picks for your next big cooking project.
Beans offer a lot of advantages for cooking at home right now: They are a very inexpensive way to feed a family; they are low in fat and high in protein, and they are easy to pair with other foods. With the addition of thick-cut pieces of savory ham, a mix of a dozen or so types of beans makes a strong base for a hearty soup, to which you can add canned diced tomatoes, frozen chopped spinach, a few bay leaves and other pantry staples. This version only requires water, but you can swap in chicken stock, if you have it, for even more flavor. The beans need to be soaked overnight and the soup needs to cook about two-and-a-half hours, but if you make it ahead, this meal will keep in the fridge for four or five days.
For the wine pairing, the heat of the cayenne in the soup presents a fun opportunity to match it with an off-dry white wine, such as a modestly sweet Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York with citrus and yellow fruit flavors. Though light-bodied, the wine we tried had a subtly lush, mouthcoating texture that provided a soothing counterpoint to the soup’s kick. Spice up your week’s menu!
The beauty of a pot roast is in its simplicity. Brown some meat in a pot, throw in some vegetables with herbs, stock and wine and, in a few hours, you have a deeply comforting and satisfying meal. Pot roast is also a really forgiving dish—you can adjust the consistency, swap in almost any combo of root vegetables, add mushrooms if you have them, and play with the seasonings to suit your tastes. (Tomato paste and bay leaves make great additions.)
When it comes to wine pairings, pot roast is similarly versatile. Most medium- to full-bodied reds should work well, though aggressive tannins can overpower the tender texture and mellow flavors. We tried this with an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon that was ripe but bright and juicy, with a combination of red and black fruits, a little licorice spice and a refreshing edge that balanced out the richness of dish. Start tinkering!
OK, maybe you’ve never cooked oxtail in your life, but now is a great time to ask your butcher or local meat purveyor–turned–home-delivery service for those inexpensive, overlooked cuts that don’t sell out as quickly as chicken breast and pork chops. This is just the kind of historically resonant fare that Mashama Bailey, executive chef and co-owner of the Grey in Savannah, Ga., has made it her mission to exalt. The recipe she shared with us employs the classic low-and-slow technique of sear, simmer and walk away. It rests overnight, and the next day while you’re finishing up the deeply flavored pan sauce, you’ll easily whip up warm, golden, eggy popovers for an irresistible treat alongside the meat. The dish’s depth calls for a wine with elegance and structure, such as a Barolo with firm tannins to clear your palate between bites of rich, buttery meat. Get into nose-to-tail cooking!
A classic example of making the most of what you have is baeckeoffe, or “baker’s oven,” the traditional meat-and-potatoes casserole chef Gabriel Kreuther grew up eating in Alsace. As the story goes, village women would marinate pork, beef and lamb in white wine the day before laundry day, then pack it all up into a lidded terrine with potatoes, onions and spices, and leave their pots with the baker on their way to the town wash basin. While they tended to other parts of life, the casseroles would slow-cook to juicy tenderness in the residual heat of the massive stone oven, and by evening, dinner was ready.
Paradoxically, one of the most traditional aspects of the dish is that it varies from village to village, kitchen to kitchen—giving you free rein to adapt it in your own home. You might swap some of the pork shoulder for thick-cut bacon, use a single type of meat rather than three, or leave the carrots out …. Given that it’s so variable, what makes for a successful baeckeoffe? Good potatoes, the seasoning and a good dry wine—not just a splash or two, but a bottle and a half.
To drink alongside, go with one of Alsace’s specialties: a dry Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner or the regional white blend Edelzwicker. Even better would be an aged Riesling, which is classic with meat; over time, the wine’s texture deepens and gains earthy minerality as the fruit fades, mingling in harmony with the spices and fat of the dish. Get ready to multitask.
Anchoïade—a Provençal paste of anchovies, garlic and olive oil that is similar to a Piedmontese bagna cauda—is a versatile condiment made by cooking the ingredients for hours over low heat until the pungent flavors have mellowed and the paste is thick and smooth. The umami-rich result provides an incredible flavor base for lamb, beef and even seafood dishes and a twist on Caesar salad without being particularly fishy or garlicky. And it can last in the refrigerator for weeks.
A while back, Boston-area chef Michael Leviton (now a culinary professor and consultant) shared with us his recipe for a robust, Mediterranean-style leg of lamb slathered with anchoïade and served alongside a white bean ragout flavored with onion, carrots, celery and olives, then topped with an assertive gremolata. Even if you can't pull together the whole combination, trying any one of these elements— anchoïade, ragout or gremolata—as part of another menu is worth your time. The boldly flavored lamb calls for an equally bold wine, an earthy, spicy Gigondas packed with dark fruit flavors. Go big and stay home!