January is the month for taking it easy.
Lately I keep thinking about the artist Roz Chast’s New Yorker cover from 2018, depicting January as the “cruelest month” in the form of an Advent calendar. The days are full of ice storms, frostbite, sleet and flu — a hilariously exaggerated yet accurate take on what seems like a never-ending month. It is true that after the fa-la-la-or-else frenzy of the holidays, a dry January, a gym January or even a new-you January can feel like a shivering slog.
But maybe there’s another way to look at it. What if January could be quiet and centered, a period of calm reflection when it’s too cold to go out and no one wants or expects anything social from you anyway? To me this is the ideal moment to hide in your house, cozy up near the stove and simmer a nice pot of stew. Go low and slow — after all, you’ve got plenty of time this month.
What will you put into your pot? Mine is usually full of beans, sometimes white beans and sausage with herbs, sometimes with carrots, fennel and other vegetables. Veggie lovers can fill theirs with mushrooms and dumplings (above); seafood eaters might whip up a savory shrimp Creole; omnivores can indulge in a Brunswick stew laden with chicken, corn, tomatoes and lima beans, or perhaps baek kimchi jjigae, made with white kimchi and pork shoulder. There are so many possibilities.
And that isn’t the only way to cook something low and slow; there’s your oven, too. Ali Slagle has a new recipe for slow-roasted sweet potatoes that she starts in a cold oven so they become even sweeter. Sue Li’s superb slow-roasted salmon with mushroom-leek broth won’t take as long as Ali’s homey slow-roasted chicken with garlicky green beans and sage, but both recipes are equally satisfying on a cold winter evening.
Anyone who owns a slow cooker already knows to take this leisurely approach with every pot of split pea soup with horseradish cream, or spicy black bean and sweet potato chili.
Desserts can be low and slow, too, like Margarita Velasco’s pumpkin flan, adapted by Kim Severson, which needs an hour and a half to firm up in the oven and several hours of refrigeration. For something sweet and quick, there’s always a batch of caramelized, boozy bananas Foster from Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans, adapted by Sara Bonisteel.
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Of course, nobody does low and slow like a plant, and it can be very relaxing — hypnotizing even — to go full-on slowcore with some nice plant-lapse videos. Plant-Based January is all well and good, as long as your name isn’t Seymour.
Sam’s back on Friday, and I’ll see you on Monday.