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VPR Cafe: Foods To Help Fend Off The Chill Of Winter

Burlington Free Press
Chef Courtney Contos makes her favorite winter recipe, a crepe-like dish called Dutch Baby. Sally Pollack, food writer for the "Burlington Free Press," asked five local chefs about their favorite recipes for the winter.

With the cold, bitter weather not letting up, it seems fitting to explore a variety of hearty meals to help keep warm in the winter months.

Sally Pollack, food writer for the Burlington Free Press, reached out to several local chefs for their favorite winter meals.

George Schenk, owner and chef at American Flatbread in Waitsfield, accompanied his suggestion of winter chicken stew with a poem about the joy of cooking in the winter.

In a Winter Kitchen By George Shank In the half light of mid-winter, when the wind blows cold and drifts the snow up around the window, there’s no better place to be than in a warm kitchen. Thoreau wrote that his wood pile warmed him thrice. First by cutting, then by stacking, and again by burning. And so it is in a winter kitchen. The stove warms the room like no other heat. The good food warms us from inside out. And family and friends who always gather in such a place warm our soul best of all.

Schenk’s chicken stew recipe is detailed. “He likes to give attention to each ingredient, cooking them separately and adding them at various points, rather than throwing everything into a pot together,” Pollack says.

"She [Clarina Cravins of Healthy Living Market] feels like she's sort of spreading generations of food and love with her gumbo." - Sally Pollack, food writer

Two chefs suggested gumbo to Pollack as their favorite winter meals. ClarinaCravins, of Healthy Living Market, has Creole, Louisiana family roots. “She feels like she’s sort of spreading generations of food and love with her gumbo,” says Pollack.  

Tom Sullivan, of the BBQ Cider House in Waterbury, suggested a chicken Andouille gumbo he eats with rice.

Credit Burlington Free Press
Burlington Free Press
Tom Sullivan, of Cider House BBQ and Pub in Waterbury, suggested a chicken Andouille gumbo he eats with rice.

Courtney Contos, of Chef Cantos Kitchen and Store in Shelburne, recommended a dish that Pollack had never heard of before: a Dutch Baby. “It’s what she likes to cook on Sunday mornings in the winter on her day off,” Pollack says. “It’s essentially sort of a pancake crepe made in a cast iron skillet and she likes to eat it with very thinly shaved Vermont ham and maple syrup. It sounds very easy and quick to make.“

Ben Trevits, chef and owner of Parker Pie in West Glover, suggests a recipe that his mother makes, and his grandmother before that: roast chicken with mashed potatoes, pan gravy, carrots and peas. “This is drawing back to his roots and what’s satisfying,” says Pollack.

Sally agrees with Trevits. If she had to pick one winter dish, she says it would be roast chicken.  “And I like to make it in a cast iron skillet. Just one pan and I don’t even bother with stuffing anymore, because it’s sort of a pain and I just put root vegetables, some in the cavity and some around it, and some herbs and a little lemon juice, maybe a little white wine on top and you roast it,” she explains.

How about Ric? He suggests his mother’s farina noodle soup recipe, which he says is exquisite. “Walking in from the cold and having that pot of soup on, usually beef stock soup, a lot of root vegetables … but then she makes these farina noodles, she’ll whip an egg and then mix in the farina and form almost like little dumplings in her hand and drop them into the soup,” he recalls.

Evelyn Cengeri's (Ric's Mom) Farina Noodle Soup


  • 1 1/2 lbs of shin meat with the bone and marrow
  • 4 quarts of cold water
  • 8 carrots cut in 1 ½” lengths
  • Parsley
  • 3 pieces of parsley root cut in 1 1/2 lengths
  • 3 stalks of celery with leaves cut in 1 1/2 lengths
  • Medium onion quartered
  • 8 oz. can of whole tomatoes
  • Beef bullion to taste
  • Kohlrabi or ¼ head of cabbage chopped
  • 3-4 potatoes quartered
  • For noodles: 2 eggs, about 1/2 box of dry farina and a pinch of salt


  • Wash meat and bones,cover meat with water and bring to boil. Skim off fat and dross. Add tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables (except potatoes). Bring back to boil and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 1-2 hours until meat is tender.
  • Add 3-4 potatoes quartered in last hour of cooking.
  • Strain the soup and add farina noodles. Vegetables may be served with meat on a separate platter.

Noodles: Take eggs and beat with fork. Pour salt and farina slowly into beaten eggs and stir until mixture thickens mix and all farina is moist. Use two teaspoons, one to scoop mixture and the other push noodle or dumpling into the soup. Add farina noodles about 10-15 minutes before serving. When they float to the top, they are ready (similar to gnocchi). Dumplings will expand while cooking.
Sally Pollack’s One-Pot Roast Chicken


  • Chicken, 4 pounds
  • A pile of vegetables, washed
  • Garlic and herbs
  • Olive oil, butter
  • White wine
  • Lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and pepper


  • Empty the cavity of the 4-pound chicken and put it in a cast-iron skillet.
  • Pour a little olive oil on the chicken (sesame oil works, too), and place a few pats of butter around it. Make six or so 1/4-inch slices through the bird's skin, and slide a piece of garlic into each slit. Pour white wine on the chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper, place sprigs or rosemary or thyme on top.
  • In the cavity put an onion, peeled and quartered; three to four slender carrots, whole and unpeeled; two stalks of celery, in five- to six-inch slices; one parsnip, unpeeled and sliced; and most of a leek, in ribbon-like slices. In the pan around the chicken put chunks of sweet potato and purple potato and two beets, peeled and cubed.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on the vegetables, splash a little wine in the bottom of the pan to minimize sticking. The chicken roasts in its juices and liquid from the vegetables, plus the wine. Before I put it in the oven, I squeezed a bit of lemon juice onto the chicken. You might have to add a little liquid – water or wine or apple cider – to the pan as the chicken roasts.
  • Roast the chicken and vegetables at 410 degrees for about 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 380 degrees, add Brussels sprouts to the vegetable mixture in the bottom of the pan, and roasted the bird for another hour or so — maybe 65 minutes.

This recipe is easily adapted to individual tastes. You can splash tamari and a little chili oil on the chicken. You can leave the cavity empty and roast potatoes (and not other vegetables) in the pan.
The VPR Cafe is produced in collaboration with the Burlington Free Press and is made possible on VPR by Otter Creek Kitchenware.

Broadcast on March 1, 2015.  

Franny was VPR's Director of Programming & Production.
Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
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