Comfort Food, Wine and a Good Book for a Winter Evening

By Donniella Winchell
Executive Director, Ohio Wine Producers

The January chill is on, and there will be weeks of gloomy skies, flying snowflakes and icy roads. 

Our recommendation for relief: a few dinners featuring comfort foods, each accompanied by a glass of Ohio wine and a roaring fireplace, maybe followed by a good book.

Here are some recipe ideas:

Gallic Pot Roast (with a glass of chambourcin, cabernet franc or cabernet sauvignon)

8-pound top round roast or equivalent, rolled and tied
1 bottle of dry red table wine (perhaps a less expensive variety of whatever wine you were planning to serve)
¼ cup salad oil
1 cup each sliced onion and carrots
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
6 peppercorns
½ teaspoon each fennel seeds, thyme and grated orange peel.

Place meat in a nonmetal container large enough to hold it; mix remaining ingredients and pour over beef. Meat can be marinated for three or four days but should be marinated for at least 24 hours and turned occasionally.

Early in the afternoon of serving, remove beef from marinade and brown under a broiler or in a small amount of oil in a skillet.

Strain marinade, reserve liquid and brown the vegetables with 1/3 cup of flour. Add 2 cups of tomatoes.

Place beef in a deep casserole; add vegetables with 1/3 cup flour. Add two cups of tomatoes. Bake at 325 degrees for three hours, or until the meat is fork tender. Remove meat, strain sauce, degrease and cook down, if necessary.

Serve with buttered noodles and mixed vegetables.

Or for a very busy person: Go to a bulk supplier of restaurant food, or even the local wholesale club or high-end grocer that offers interesting, high-quality soups. Simply heat as directed and top with a dollop of sour cream and a couple of chopped chive chips. Serve with fresh-baked muffins from the grocer’s freezer, a tossed salad from the green case and a glass of Riesling or pinot gris.

For Dessert 

Try Rose’s “famous” baked cheesecake with a glass of ice wine! The late Rose Marie Debevc was the matriarch of the Debonné Winery family in Madison, Ohio. Her recipe was always served on special occasions and has become a part of the family’s legacy. Use a 9-by-12 glass Pyrex baking dish. Preheat oven to 310 degrees.

Crust: Mix 2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup melted butter. Pat into the bottom of the baking dish. 

Filling: Mix together in a bowl three 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened; four eggs, slightly beaten; 1 cup sugar; and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Bake for one hour or until edges are light brown and an inserted knife is withdrawn clean. Remove from the oven. Cool for 15 minutes.

While cooling, prepare topping: Mix together 1¼ pint sour cream, ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pour mixture over cooled cheesecake. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. While the cheesecake is still warm, cut into 2-inch-by-3-inch rectangles (waiting until it is completely chilled makes cutting difficult). Serve with fresh strawberries and/or fresh blueberries and, of course, a glass of local ice wine.

Book Selection

For those who like light mysteries, Sue Grafton writes great, easy to read novels. If you are a marketer, I just finished Malcomb Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw” and recently read his incredible “Blink.” They were great. I also like Leslie Sbrocco’s Wine for Women and Kevin Zraly’s “Windows on the World Wine Course.”

I know there are several regional authors with books on the shelves, and we need to support them. Beyond that, my areas of interest are boring – so head to the local library and get a recommendation from them for something you’d enjoy on a snowy evening.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.