It’s winter so I again offer my 20-step plan for staying warm and sufficiently fed, making optimum use of the stove for heating and for creating several meals.
My plan involves a few hours of early-morning cooking, which compensates for the inadequacies of your home-heating system, and you’ll get a good workout, an exercise in multitasking and a warm glow all over. This plan is best for a weekend morning, but if you are working from home, this might be suitable for a weekday morning as well. Just make sure you have everything you need before you get started.
For this, you will need: one whole chicken, a pound of Italian sausage, six potatoes, two yellow onions, flour, vegetable oil, olive oil, yeast, a stalk of celery, two cans of tomato sauce, a few eggs, butter, milk, garlic, rice, penne pasta, three carrots and the basic seasonings that can be found in most kitchens.
Here’s what you do:
Get up at 5 a.m. and preheat the oven to 425. Put a stockpot a bit more than half-filled with water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Separately, start a kettle of water and bring it to a boil. Make yourself some coffee or tea. Put on some music to cook by. I recommend, for starters, the overture to The Barber of Seville.
1. In a bread bowl, mix the flour and yeast according to a basic recipe for French bread. (I like Craig Claiborne’s recipe for its simplicity and specificity. His New York Times Cookbook also has a great recipe for crepes, which we’ll get to in a minute. If you don’t have that fine old cookbook handy, use a basic crepes batter recipe. And if you’re not practiced in crepes and don’t want to bother, substitute with a simple pancake batter and go with flapjacks in this manic cooking spree.)
2. Place the sausage in a cast-iron skillet and drizzle with olive oil. Once the oven reaches 425, insert the skillet.
3. Put four eggs in a small pot. Put six potatoes in a medium-size pot. Once the water in the kettle reaches a boil, add it to each pot. Cook the eggs for four minutes over medium heat, shut off the fire and lid the pot. Cook the potatoes over medium heat until they take a fork easily, drain and set aside.
4. Warm up a round griddle with a handle or second skillet while you prepare the crepes batter with a whisk. This requires eggs, some oil, milk and butter. Sugar is optional. (Sealed in plastic, crepes are useful as refrigerated leftovers; they keep well and can be used savory or sweet later in the week. Again, substitute pancakes if you don’t want to do the crepe thing.)
5. Check the bread recipe. It’s probably time to do something with the dough.
6. Check the sausage. Turn them with a fork. If they’re done, plate them (and try not to sample them). Drain the grease from the skillet in your trash, then set the skillet aside; do not wash it. Leave the oven on 425.
7. Pour a little bit of the crepe batter on the 10-inch griddle, then, using a potholder, lift it off the fire and manipulate it vertically until the batter covers the whole surface. Here’s a short video if you need help with the technique.
8. Put a cutting board, three yellow onions, the celery, the carrots and three cloves of garlic on the kitchen counter. Go back to the stove and flip the crepe (or pancake).
9. Peel, then chop the yellow onions. Move the finished crepe to a platter and pour the batter for the next one.
10. Smoosh and chop the garlic. Flip the crepe.
11. Chop the celery. Remove the finished crepe. Pour batter for the next one.
12. Check the stockpot. Chop the carrots. Flip the crepe.
13. In the skillet you used for the sausage, add a little olive oil and saute the garlic. Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Make sure the crepe doesn’t burn. Add tomato sauce to the skillet with the garlic; add salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Reduce the heat. Remove the finished crepe. Start another one. Don’t let the tomato sauce in the skillet splatter on the crepes (or pancakes) on your griddle or second skillet.
14. The stock pot should be boiling now. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots, then the whole chicken, salt and pepper. Boil it for a few minutes, until the kitchen is steamy, then simmer. Keep yourself hydrated through this culinary workout.
15. Flip the crepe. Wipe sweat from your brow.
16. Put the sausage in a medium-sized pot (or slow-cooker) and add the tomato sauce, cover and simmer.
17. Remove and plate the last crepe.
18. Cook four cups of rice for the soup. (You can use an Instant Pot, if you have one. Just don’t turn your rice to mush.) Orzo pasta can be substituted for the rice, if you wish.
19. Check the bread recipe. It’s probably time to bake the bread. The oven is still warm.
20. Once it’s cooked, take the chicken out of the pot and let it cool on a platter or cutting board. Remove skin, cut the chicken up and return the pieces to the simmering stock. Add the rice when it’s ready. Season to taste.
By 8 a.m., you should end up with a stack of crepes (or pancakes), a pot of chicken-rice soup that will last all week, sauce for a penne-and-sausage meal, potatoes for home fries the next morning, four hard-boiled eggs, a loaf of bread on the way, and a very warm house. If there’s too much food here, share with a neighbor. Make sure you sprinkle a little parmigiana on each bowl of chicken soup. Buon appetito.