Tuesday, January 22, 2008

surviving the winter

Winter is not my favorite time of year. I believe that people should hibernate; who are we kidding that we can function normally when the days are short and the temperatures icy? Now that we are planning to move to Ottawa, I think I really have to learn how to survive winter.

It seems that Canadians have really learned how to embrace the winter. The five dollar bill, after all, includes images of ice hockey, sledding, and ice skating. These images say some good things about Canada's national priorities, but if winter is a dominant part of the money-scape I fear that winter in our new home will be endless.

And how can a winter-hater survive in a land of seemingly endless winter?

Since meeting Will, I have learned to accept winter just a little bit more by ramping up my winter sports activities. Before Will, I would occasionally go snowshoeing. I liked it well enough, but it was a poor replacement for summer hiking. I would only go out on bluebird days when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Now I have two pairs of skis and I go out almost every weekend. It makes a difference; this winter, even with loads of snow, I feel pretty content.

The other trick for winter survival, of course, is comfort food. Hot creamy tea, melty chocolate chip cookies, mashed potatoes. And perhaps the ultimate savory comfort food: shepherd's pie.

My winter has been a quest for ways to prepare the stacks of lamb in my freezer. I'm not sure why it took me so long to do the obvious. What else should you make in the middle of the winter if you have a supply of lamb and the hope to forget that it is 20 degrees outside and that you are moving to Canada where you fear it will be 20 degrees below zero?

I made the Gourmet version of shepherd's pie, which was a little fussy with its pearl onions and leeks but totally worth the time. The mashed potatoes on the top were divine and it's a miracle I didn't eat them all while waiting for the stew to braise. I made a mess in the oven because my cast-iron pan wasn't quite big enough, but again--completely worth it. Shepherd's pie and a Guinness? More winter, I say.

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Blogger Sarah said...

Anything topped with mashed potatoes is a good dish. 'Nuff said.

Out of curiosity, what "creamy tea" are you refering? You've piqued my interest!

And as far as wintery weather goes, I'm glad to hear that you're, er, warming up to the idea. The thought of desert girl Melissa in Canada just wasn't feeling right to me!

10:09 AM  
Blogger tara said...

Yum. I just braised lamb shanks for the first time the other day (testing out a potential dinner party dish) and they were delish. I'd never cooked lamb at home before. And I love my enameled cast-iron pot, because I could brown the meat over the stove, then just pop it right into the oven for the braise. Hooray for fewer dishes!

Your shepherd's pie reminds me of some chicken pot pies you made once when we were roommates. They were awesome. You should definitely make a lot of pot pies to get through the Ottawa winters. Oh, and visitors make winters more bearable. I see great Tart reunion potential here.

6:06 PM  
Blogger tara said...

Oh, and Sarah: we're eagerly awaiting news of Croissant's arrival! Wishing you all the best as things get crazy any day now.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Thanks! The Croissant's still in the oven--you know, baking times can be unpredictable at Colorado's high altitude.

I can't wait to eat sushi and raw-milk cheeses and drink wine and mojitos again!

9:24 AM  

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