Why your kitchen may be the best place to be right now.
Out comes my battered blue Dutch oven and in go pork sausages and oxtails to brown in olive oil and begin building the foundational flavors of the stew. Soon onions, carrots, cumin, and garlic will be sweating in the rendered fat before black beans, meat, and chicken stock go in for a long, slow braise. It’s a riff on feijoada inspired by JJ Johnson’s Spicy Black Bean Stew with Lamb Sausage and his other big-hearted recipes.
Johnson is a New York City chef, helming the stove most recently at Chefs Club as its first-ever chef in residence. But in these recipes, he hews to his own home kitchen. This is family-style cooking at its best: comforting one-pot dishes that draw from the foodways of the Afro-Asian diaspora to cut through the cold and alight the senses.
We need these recipes right now, with spring a faraway dream, just as we all need more gochujang and gochugaru in our pantries. The fermented umami depth charge of Korean chile paste and fiery chile powder—two ingredients guaranteed to warm up the most ho-hum winter meal—can be found in the aisles of H Mart, which is, to my mind, the most exciting supermarket in America right now. H Mart exec Stacey Kwon and chef Deuki Hong take us there as they upgrade the Asian supermarket chain’s food courts with higher-end vendors—a growing trend of grocery stores building out more “grocerants” in-store. Provision the ingredients and prep the recipes, like Mapo Pork Ribs, marinated in Asian pear, soy, and garlic, to brighten your winter gatherings.
And while the rest of us hunker down, up north—make that “up North”—essayist Lizz Winstead and her fellow Minnesotans put the party on ice and “hunker up”. Leading up to this year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s chefs share the comforting cold-weather recipes and hospitality that’ll make you want to strap on your snowshoes, grab your ice fishing gear, and head for the Twin Cities. Just don’t call it the Midwest.
There will be plenty of travel ahead and passports to stamp in the months to come, but right now on this cold Birmingham day, with the dark of night encroaching, my kitchen is the best place in the world to be. I uncork the wine and mash some of the tender beans against the side of the pot to thicken the stew, then squeeze in lime juice for the last layer of flavor. We carry bowls and glasses downstairs and feed the fire with more red and white oak.
This time of year, home is where the hearth is.