The dutch oven is in the garage now, resting on a shelf and cooling. Still in sub-zero temperatures, I think tomorrow's dinner - chicken paprika - will be a perfect antidote for this weather. And better yet, tomorrow is a busy evening and we'll be ready to eat as soon as I get home from work. We still have plenty of rice from tonight's dinner, and egg noodles take only a few minutes to make, if anyone clamors for them.
We like to cook in advance when it's practical, and some recipes take well to advance preparation and cooking. We make large batches of spaghetti sauce, and soups and stews are usually better when made the day (or two) before they're eaten. But just as often, we start thinking about what we're going to serve as we begin to make it.
I love the combination of butter, oil, and chicken fat that coats everything in chicken paprika. The chopped onions blaze with fragrance as they sputter and sizzle in the mixed fats and generous spoonfuls of sweet paprika. Everything simmers while the kids brush their teeth and bedtime stories are read. Then, in the quietness of a just-cleaned up kitchen and the settled routine of the evening's chores, I come by every so often and use a long wooden spoon to make sure nothing's sticking, and everything's cooking nice and slow.
Tomorrow's dinner is pretty much done. Sometime in the late afternoon my wife will bring it in from the garage and slowly reheat it. Just before serving, I'll mix a little flour into a cup or so of sour cream and add it to the simmering pot, a few minutes more on a low dancing flame. A salad on the side, a few sliced pears on a plate - a cold winter evening sounds pretty good.
birch and grasses alone on the snow, grey sky indistinguishable. the flat world falls into the edge of time, lifeless, dull wedge of horizon and soundless ...