It’s been somewhat colder than normal here this winter. I can hear all of the people who live in legitimately cold places laughing at me, but homes and people in Southern California beach cities really are not equipped to deal with weeks worth of nights when the temperature gets down to freezing. I get that it’s really not that cold, but it makes me chilly.

So I decided tonight was a winter comfort food night. I made Beef Stew and simple French Bread, both from Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything. (I link to Amazon because it’s an easy place to link the book, but I encourage you to support your local independent bookstore if you want to buy it.) This is one of my favorite books for simple recipes and techniques for all manner of different kinds of food. This book, and the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian book were especially lifesavers back when I was getting a CSA box. I often got vegetables that were either unfamiliar to me or were in such great quantities that I needed to find creative ways to use them up.

Usually when cooking, I use the recipe as a mere guideline, but it’s been so long since I’ve cooked more than simple sauteed or roasted veggies with pasta or polenta or bulgar wheat or quinoa or some other grain that I don’t feel like my cooking mojo is really working. So I followed the recipe pretty exactly, except I added some rosemary along with the other seasonings and a mix of red wine and beef stock.

The bread was a little more of an experiment. It’s been a long time since I’ve made bread that actually required yeast (as opposed to quick breads like zucchini bread or kumquat bread). It was really slow to rise because the house was so cold. I sped the process along by putting it in the oven set to the lowest temperature possible.

Homemade bread

Clearly I need to work on making the loaf actually be round.

It turned out really well. It was dense and rustic and chewy. It could have risen a tiny bit more (maybe an extra half an hour), but it was really delicious and went really well with the stew.

Beef stew with bread

The best dinner for a winter’s day

My roommates and I all ate well today. Everything was delicious. The recipe said it would make 4-6 servings, but it turned out as more like 10-12, which isn’t a terrible thing. It seems like it will freeze really well for another night’s dinner.

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