It’s pitch black dark outside. It’s 5:30 pm.
Here we go, descending into the long, dark days of winter.
I hate daylight saving time.
Have you ever noticed how everyone grows just a touch cranky this week? Right after the switch, we’re all just a little off. (And for those of you reading this outside the US, you have the right to shake your head and wonder why we do this.) When I woke up this morning, groggy from the codeine, I looked outside and saw the saturated, dark-blue sky, ascending into lightness. About right for 7:30 in Seattle these days. And then I looked at my computer’s clock and realized it was 6:30. Says who? This (and the equivalent day in spring) is the only time I realize in my body just how arbitrary our concept of time is. It’s an hour earlier because the government says so? Well, why don’t we say it’s spring and be done with winter?
No wonder we all grow a little testy for a couple of days. And besides the existential wondering, it’s dark at bloody 5:30. It feels like 10 pm instead.
Actually, I don’t like the transition into it, but I do like winter. I love the way the chill air surges through my skin unexpectedly. I love the clarity of the light in December, when sunny days feel like a welcome blessing. I love the raspy feel of wool socks on my toes, scarves against my throat, and the bulk of my coat on my shoulders. I love the way the darkness presses in against us, and we have no choice but to huddle in closer together, grateful for a flickering fire or a string of white lights in a room. There’s something primal about this season that approaches: I feel closer to myself in the dreary days.
And this winter, I’m looking forward to all the food. The gratins and stews and cassoulets. The hearty foods. Deeply layered. Meats braised all afternoon. Everything just a bit denser than it was in July. Has anyone else noticed a sudden urge to eat more grains and starches? To slow simmer soups for hours? To eat a little more, a little more frequently? We are, after all, animals. We’re preparing for hibernation. (And when it grows dark at 4:30, the way it will be here in Seattle in about a month, I sometimes wish I could just crawl in a cave and sleep until March.) We need to pad up against the cold.
Well, I don’t want to give into that urge completely. But I have noticed that I’m roasting food more often these days.
There’s something deeply comforting about a roast. Crispy chicken skin. A big pan full of roasted root vegetables. The coziness of the kitchen with the windows steamed up from the heat. In September, I bought a decent roasting pan at Sur la Table. At the time, I worried it was a bit of a splurge. But today, I saw just how handy that pan is growing.
I still can’t walk that well. I limp along between the couch and the freezer, fetching ice in hopes my ankle will stop swelling. Slowly, it’s healing. I’m sure that I’ll be fine. But after a day of laying down on the couch and eating only TV dinners, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to cook something.
So I dragged a small stool over before the oven and propped my green-and-blue ankle upon it. (If you really have to see it, you can click here. But I’m warning you.) I figured I had about seven minutes before my ankle just gave out and forced me back to the couch. And I still had some vegetables left in my Pioneer Organics box. What could I do, fast, that would still leave me feeling as though I had cooked?
This isn’t a revelatory recipe. It isn’t at all complicated. I’m sure you’ve all made them yourself. But for this hobbled, gluten-free girl, these roast potatoes hit the spot. And if it has been awhile since you made some, pull out some little Yukon gold potatoes and start pinching sea salt, adding pepper, and dousing it all in olive oil. In half an hour, the smell will knock you out. And the taste? Crunchy crisp on the outside, starchy softness inside. Ah.
Let winter begin.
SIMPLE ROASTED POTATOES
8 small Yukon gold potatoes
4 to 5 tablespoons of great olive oil
1 small handful of herb de provence
several pinches of herbed sea salt
8 or 10 quick grinds of black pepper
6 skewers of rosemary
°Cut the potatoes into quarters. Throw the pieces into a copper bowl and douse with the olive oil. Toss.
°In rapid succession, sprinkle on the sea salt, herb de provence, and pepper. Toss again.
°Throw the whole lot into a quality roasting pan. (Line with tin foil if you want to avoid the clean-up.) Lay the rosemary skewers on top, haphazardly.
°Put into a 425° oven and roast for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft to the touch when pricked with a fork.