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Food Letters

January Food Letter

by Nick

This is the first installment in a twelve part series where I will give some details on the upcoming month through the lens of food and cooking. This could include a wide range of topics and recipes depending on what strikes my fancy, but hopefully it will all be useful.

January is a strange month for food because as I look out my window it is clear that not a lot is growing. This might be different for those lucky enough to live in a warm or tropical climate, but for a good chunk of the U.S., it is a Winter wonderland outside.

What to Eat in January

It is always tough to determine seasonality these days because I can really get anything at the store that I want. If I want a tomato, I can get it. I will have to pay for it because it has been shipped from who-knows-where but I can get it. There are a number of foods, however, that you will be shocked to find are cheaper, tastier, and ready to go in this barren month. Not surprisingly, most of these guys live in or very near to the ground.

Parsnips, turnips, and potatoes. All of these root vegetables withstand cold fairly well. In fact, parsnips need a bit of cold to help develop their flavor. These guys will be especially plump (and cheap) during January.

Everybody is familiar with potatoes, but that may not be the case for turnips and parsnips – both of which are also delicious root vegetables. Turnips are always good in a salad if you chop them up, but can also be used in any stew. One of my favorite ways to cook them is roasted with some carrots with a bit of olive oil and salt.

Parsnips meanwhile look like mutant carrots and have a stronger flavor. I sometimes like to substitute parsnips for potatoes just to get a bit of a different texture and taste. One of my favorite parsnip recipes is Tyler’s Parsnip Puree recipe which is like mashed potatoes except with parsnips.

A few more links to recipes using these bad boys:

Leeks, Shallots, and Onions. Again no real shocker here. These suckers are protected from the cold of Autumn so they are doing fine this time of year. Any onion you find is going to be nice and plump right now and probably packed with flavor.

I use shallots and onions all of the time here on Macheesmo obviously. They are the starters for many delicious dishes. Here are a few that are particularly warming for the winter.

Pears! Yes. You read that correctly. Pears are in season in January. Well. They aren’t growing exactly, but apparently pears ripen off of the tree. They are picked in summer and Autumn and then by the Winter they are perfectly ripe. If you stroll by a grocery you may just notice some juicy pears on sale.

You can cook pears tons of ways. I like to roast, poach, or grill them to really bring out the sweetness. Of course, eaten plain is always good too.

A Meal Fit for a President

In less than three weeks, Mr. Obama and family will move into the White House and not a day goes by here in DC where the topic doesn’t get discussed. The whole city has been inundated with Obama gear and talk which is just fine by me. I’m seriously thinking about buying a bedazzled shirt of Obama’s face from my neighborhood craft stand.

What better way to celebrate the inauguration than eat all of Barack’s favorite foods? I think I will definitely be trying to duplicate his dishes because the guy knows good food. Thanks to many dedicated reporters and bloggers, we have a pretty good idea what he likes to eat: veggies, nuts, chili, Tex-mex, Pizza, and apparently Dentyne Ice.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the event than to make some of his favorite stuff! I’m not sure I can get around to learning how to make Dentyne, but I can definitely do tacos and Guac, and I can make a pretty mean pizza.

I’m not sure if Mr. Obama likes beer, but I might also try a few of those to help ring in his term…

The Month of the Pigskin

wings_225It’s pretty hard to ignore football in January. Even Betsy has a hard time ignoring the action. Starting today with the Rose Bowl and into the first weekend of NFL playoffs and then the NCAA championship next week, January is really the month of football. You have college bowls and the NFL playoffs happening at the same time. It usually leads to some of the best football games of the year.

You are going to need more than bread and water to fuel yourself through these games. Here are a few good apps to make for the events.

Too bad the NFL keeps pushing the Superbowl back farther and farther or maybe that would be in January also. I swear in a few years the Superbowl is going to start conflicting with March Madness and then there will be riots. RIOTS I say.

Photos by In Praise of Sardines and Augapfel.

These food letters are experimental. I would love any feedback you all have on their content or format. Happy New Year everybody!