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January/February 2020 Letter from the Editor: Winter Flower

By Dan Souza Published

Dan reflects on the winter season in his first letter of 2020.

I can't walk through a forest without flipping things over. Moist, spongy logs; wide slabs of brittle slate; downed saplings; webby clumps of leaf litter and orange needles. From a young age I've been drawn to the busy life in a healthy forest, flipping and inspecting all summer long to see what's around and under cover. But as the days get cooler and the nights appear sooner, the under-log activity also cools. I've never found a red-backed salamander in October. And at this time of year, with the ground frosted, the show is entirely off-limits.

Now when I walk in the woods, there appears to be less—less green, less motion, less life. But gradually more and more comes into focus. Wiry branches once upstaged and masked by green. Silvery, cigar-like curls lining the trunk of a canoe birch, downright showy next to the dark, deeply corrugated bark of a black walnut. The muted orange-gray flash of a female cardinal. Brilliant red chokeberries auditioning for the role of winter flower. A proud display of cold-weather strength from a stand of eastern hemlock.

I'm talking saplings and salamanders, but as always, I'm thinking about food. All summer long I hoard heavy tomatoes, strip kernels from ears of sweet corn, string and slice snap peas, and build meal after meal from what to my mind is the year's most vibrant produce. And honestly, I'd carry on that way throughout the year if the growing season would allow it. I sure give it my best effort, subsisting on the field tomatoes I turned into sauce and canned, the sweet corn I blanched and stashed in the freezer, and the strawberry jam my mom steadily metes out to me throughout the fall and winter. But when even the preserved summer is gone, I acquiesce, open my pantry, look deep inside, and find beauty and promise in the staples.

This year, I'll turn a couple of cans of humble chickpeas into a lush bowl of Andrew Janjigian's Ultracreamy Hummus. I'll sizzle spices, onion, and chiles in ghee, perfuming my kitchen, and then spoon the mixture over a pot of Steve Dunn's sun-yellow Palak Dal (Spinach-Lentil Dal with Cumin and Mustard Seeds). I'll mix flour, water, salt, and yeast and then fold, stretch, shape, slash, and bake with confidence, following Elizabeth Bomze's tips for baking better bread. And, once I get the fireplace roaring, I'll grab a bottle of last spring's maple syrup and turn it, along with a handful of other pantry ingredients, into a simple, comforting pan of Pouding Chômeur (Maple Syrup Cake). That taste of maple might just be the best reminder that sugaring season and the start of spring will be here in no time—at which point I'll head back into the woods and start flipping and inspecting to see what I've missed.

Dan Souza

Editor-in-Chief


View all of the recipes, reviews, articles, videos, and how-to-cooks for the January/February 2020 issue.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.