One of the most memorable meals I ever had was in the middle of winter when we sat with family in a large dining room at a local hotel. Our first grandchild, Matthew, was 2, and he loved looking out of the panorama of huge windows. Amazingly, snow began falling on all sides. We were in New Orleans, and it was snowing!

 We were already having a good time but our moods got better, food was tastier and we reveled in the miracle of the day. Once outside, we chased each other through the snow as Matthew saw something for the very first time. It was truly a magical day.

 I have always liked winter and would take it hands down over summer in New Orleans. For one thing, I love hearty winter meals and dinner by a fire.

Certain drinks are best in winter as well as dishes you don’t crave in hot weather.

 One of my favorites is beef daube, a dish that was once a regular on local tables but now has slipped into the past along with crêpes and court-bouillon. I have found an easy way to make it using a bottled marinara sauce that’s just as good as making the whole thing from scratch. Basically, you have four ingredients: a beef roast, marinara sauce, beef broth and red wine. Simmer on top of the stove until the meat starts falling apart, serve it over pasta and you have a great winter meal.

The early Creoles not only cooked their beef daube in winter but also their daube glacé, a jellied dish much like hogs head cheese. The reason for making it in the cold months was that, before air-conditioning, the dish didn’t hold up well in summer. The cooks liked to let the meat stand at room temperature during the process of gelling in order to get the best taste. Daube glacé was served as a luncheon dish and at fancy teas and parties.

I love a pork roast as well as a pot of hearty soup. I recently made black bean soup to serve my book club and was asked for the recipe by several members. A chef friend who visited recently produced a gourmet dinner with the following to-die-for – yet easy – scalloped potatoes. He paired them with lamb chops, but I tried them with a tasty pork loin prepared similarly to his lamb chops.

Winter is a good time for cooking and eating. Great dishes give you a warm, happy feeling. Who knows? We may get another snow. I would say we’re about due for one. I know I’m ready.
Roasted Pork Loin
2     tablespoons olive oil
1     3-pound pork loin
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh
      rosemary leaves
2/3     cup Dijon mustard
2     teaspoons kosher salt
2     tablespoons freshly ground
2     cups beef stock
1/2     onion, sliced
1     teaspoon Better than
      Bouillon beef base
1/3     cup Marsala or cognac

In a large, heavy skillet, brown the pork loin beginning on the fatty side, moving around in the skillet as it browns. Then brown well on all sides. Take meat up into a baking pan and set aside to cool. Drain oil off skillet and reserve the skillet, keeping the brown bits for making the sauce later.  Discard the oil.

This is the time to use fresh rosemary if you grow it; it takes a lot to make 1/2-cup finely chopped leaves. Rinse about 15 to 20 long stems of rosemary, dry with paper towels and strip off leaves by holding the tip end and running your fingers down the stem. When you have a pile of leaves, chop with a heavy, sharp knife over and over until rosemary looks like coarse pepper. Place in a ramekin.

 Place Kosher salt in another ramekin and pepper in a third.

 Heat oven to 350 degrees.

 Turn roast fat-side down and coat heavily with mustard. The back of a spoon works well. Then sprinkle heavily with rosemary, then salt, then pepper.

Carefully turn roast over repeat with the top and sides until all mustard, salt and pepper is used.

 Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the pork loin, place in oven and roast until desired temperature is reached, 30 to 45 minutes. Most people cook pork to 170 degrees or well done although some prefer it slightly pink in the center, removing it from heat at about 160 degrees. It is juicier if slightly pink.

 While pork is roasting, make sauce by heating the reserved skillet and deglazing it with beef stock. Add onion, Marsala or cognac and some freshly ground pepper and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

 When pork is done, pour any juices in the pan into the sauce. Strain and serve hot on the side when meat is served, or pour over pork when sliced. Slice at about 1/2-inches and serve 2 or 3 slices to a plate.

 Serves 8.

 (*This is delicious served with scalloped potatoes.)
Scalloped Potatoes
6     medium-large russet potatoes
1     pint heavy cream
3     tablespoons minced garlic
2     teaspoons salt

Peel and slice potatoes almost paper thin, using a mandoline or the slicing blade on a grater. Place them in a large bowl of water as you go to keep them from turning dark.

 When potatoes are sliced, heat cream in a saucepan large enough to hold all of the potatoes. Add garlic and salt to cream and bring to a slight boil. Drain potatoes in a colander and add to cream, bringing again to a slight boil. Remove from heat.

 Heat oven to 350 degrees.

 Carefully, dump or spoon potato-cream mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place in oven and cook until bubbly and slightly brown on top, about 30 to 40 minutes.

 Serves 8 to 10.
Black Bean Soup
1     pound dried black beans
2     tablespoons vegetable oil
1     medium onion, chopped
2     poblano, Anaheim or New
      Mexico chiles, seeded and           chopped
1     jalapeño pepper, chopped
2     stalks celery, chopped
1     medium carrot, chopped
3     cloves garlic, minced
1     pound ham chunks
1     pinch sugar
1/2     cup red wine
8     cups water
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2     cup chopped cilantro
Sour cream for garnish
2     avocados for garnish

Sort beans and place in a bowl of water to cover by 2 inches. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil and sauté onion, peppers, celery, carrot and garlic until wilted. Add ham, sugar, wine, beans and water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When beans are done, mix in lime juice, salt and pepper. Take out about 1 cup and place in a blender and purée. Return to pot. Or, if you have a hand blender, blend in pot until about a third of the beans are pureed. Adjust seasonings and add cilantro. Cook another 5 minutes.

To serve, place toppings in side dishes. Peel avocados and cut in 1/2-inch chunks and sprinkle with a little salt and lime juice. Serve cream in a separate dish. Serve as optional toppings

Serves 8.

Beef Daube
1     3-pound rump roast
Salt and pepper
2     tablespoons olive oil
1     cup chopped onion
1     tablespoon minced garlic
2     cups marinara sauce, bottled
      or homemade
1     cup beef stock
1     cup red wine
1/4     cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and pepper rump roast liberally. Heat oil in large, heavy pot and brown well on all sides. Remove from pot.

 In same pot, adding oil if needed, sauté onion until wilted. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Stir in marinara sauce, beef stock and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce neat and simmer for 4 hours, stirring every half-hour and turning every hour.

 Serve with cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle servings with parsley and pass Parmesan cheese.

 Serves 8.