Winter Staff Recommendations
The cold weather months are a great time to tackle big cooking projects, like Beef Wellington. Hard to go wrong when you start with a great piece of meat like Silver Fern Farms grass-fed Angus beef tenderloin.
And speaking of impressive cuts, we’re super excited to introduce Thor’s Hammer. This huge, grain-fortified beef shank on a marrow-filled, frenched bone is a surefire showstopper for your next dinner party. As with shanks generally, braising is the way to go for the tenderest results, which makes Thor’s Hammer perfect for winter.
Cold weather always makes me crave Chinese hot pot, where you simmer a pot of broth at the table and cook all manner of meats and vegetables in it. Iberico pork lomo (striploin) is incredible in hot pot. Slice it as thinly as possible and don’t leave it in the bubbling broth too long.
Seafood may not be top of mind for most people when they think of winter eating, but Europeans consume a lot of seafood around the holidays, and at our house so do we. One favorite is langoustine, aka Norway lobster, a cold-water prawn. The simplest and possibly most delicious way to prepare langoustines is to boil them whole in heavily salted water for 3-4 minutes and serve them with a side of aioli for dipping. If you’re feeling ambitious, they are an excellent addition to paella.
Another great seafood item to always have handy in the freezer is our Wild Key West Pink Gulf Shrimp, which are processed without chemicals—a rarity in the shrimp world. They thaw in minutes and cook even faster. Sweet and plump, they are as terrific in shrimp cocktail as they are in a stir fry.
Smoked salmon is such a year-round family favorite, I smoke fresh salmon fillets in the summer, so I can keep them on hand through the fall and winter. But if I run out, Marx Foods gives me plenty of options. I love to add smoked salmon to cream cheese as a dip with crackers, so easy and so festive!
Angus beef cheeks are great for a slow braise that fills my home with lovely and inviting smells. Mushrooms are another favorite. I’ll add mushrooms to anything I can, just one reason why I like our organic mushroom sampler. Mostly I rock them oven-roasted with chicken breasts.
Blood oranges are wonderful to use in deserts, like blood orange curd cookies or blood orange cake. Their color is so gorgeous is really lifts the spirits on a gray winter’s day.
Winter is a great excuse to make slow-cooked comfort food that fills the house with wonderful aromas. Braising is my go-to method because it’s pretty easy and forgiving. Nothing sticks to your ribs like braised beef chuck roast with a hearty side of veggies. Nothing warms you to the bones like osso bucco. Making it with our New Zealand farm-raised venison was a revelation. It really elevates the dish. Venison is super lean, so it’s relatively guilt free and oh-so-tender --a really delicious alternative to commodity beef shanks.
In winter, I also love to make a classic shepherd’s pie with minced lamb. It’s delicious and satisfying, plus I’ll take any excuse to eat mashed potatoes. Recently our test kitchen chef made shepherd’s pie with ground rabbit, and it was a big hit with our tasters!
Iberico pork tenderloin would be a star on any dinner table in any season. An herb-crusted pork tenderloin makes a festive and tasty centerpiece for entertaining friends. Iberico pork tenderloins are smaller than your average pork tenderloins so it’s great these come in bulk to make bigger batches for parties or leftovers. The taste is so amazingly unique you don’t need to doctor it up with anything beyond salt and pepper, unless of course you want to.
A lot of my perennial favorites just happen to be cold weather dishes. I love to make borscht. Mine is usually vegetarian so that means lots of beets and potatoes. Our Washington-grown red LaSoda potatoes are perfect for borscht. If I made borscht with beef, I would choose an affordable cut like Silver Fern Farms grass-fed top sirloin. I also love a good roast chicken, especially in winter, and especially when it’s Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken. Chili comes back into my regular meal rotation in the winter. My dad has made chili with ground beef for as long as I can remember, but maybe I’ll get some venison stew meat and give venison chili a try this year.
For me, cold weather calls for stews, hearty sandwiches, and anything involving broth or curry. I also love trying my hand at a lot of Asian-inspired recipes. Mycology has been a recent pursuit. I take the motorhome out as much as possible to go mushroom foraging. When I score big, I will top an Irish Nature Beef beef ribeye, strip steak, bavette steak – or maybe a pan-seared Iberico pork abanico steak--with my hard-won forest finds. My first taste of abanico (a cut that covers the ribs) was at a test kitchen shoot last spring. It was paired with morel cream sauce, a dish I dream of recreating. In case I come up empty-handed from mushroom hunting, I can always satisfy my hunger for fungi with our wild mushroom sampler.
When the nights are long and the daylight scarce in the Pacific NW, bright flavors buoy my spirits. Iberico presa (should eye steak) is amazing paired with a smokey romesco sauce well balanced with sherry vinegar. Presa needs only simple seasoning, a good sear in a cast iron pan and a little oven time to get to medium rare. It’s impressive enough for entertaining and easy enough for a weeknight dinner at home.
I’m a huge fan of one-pot or one-pan cooking, a style particularly well-suited to winter. Soups, stews, braises, and sheet-pan suppers are all in my cold-weather playbook.
A slow roasted Kurobuta pork shoulder (Boston Butt) seasoned with salt, pepper, and brown sugar is the gift that keeps on giving as it finds its way into soups, tacos, and lettuce wraps. I like to cook it until it is spoon tender, shred it, and pop it under the broiler when ready to serve.
Recently I resurrected an old family recipe for rabbit cacciatore. My Tuscan-born grandfather would have cut up whole rabbits for this dish, but I used meaty rabbit hind legs, stewing them in a simple tomato sauce with cured black olives. My mother would serve this over polenta, but spaghetti works too.
Shenandoah Valley Organic boneless chicken thighs are so flavorful and offer so many possibilities they could be on our dinner table at least once a week as far as I’m concerned. One of my winter favorite sheet-pan combos for cold weather involves chicken thighs, cauliflower, dried apricots, green olives, and a spicy blend of curry powder, smoked paprika and cayenne. The warm spices are perfect for combating chilly weather.
I’m pretty much a steak guy all year round. I truly enjoy both our grass-fed Angus beef from Silver Fern Farms in New Zealand, and our grain-fortified Irish Nature beef. My favorite steak cuts are the porterhouse and the ribeye. I enjoy a great burger too. With our ground beef steakhouse blends, I can make a burger at home that tastes close to a high-end restaurant burger. If I’m having bacon on my burger, it’s going to be Beeler’s. Even when you cook it crisp, it's so thick it stays meaty.