HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Cold weather meal ideas

  • e

Having friends in town after the weather changes, want to cook a hommy meal. The only thing I'm certain of is mac & cheese. So far I'm thinking either meat loaf or braised short ribs, roasted carrot with butter & thyme, and mac & cheese. Maybe a simple dinner salad, a good crusty bread, and some sort of appetizer (I'm thinking of a mini chicken pot pie)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Definitely not a good idea in addition to Mac and cheese, but when I think cold weather, homey food, and dinner party I think cassoulet. Also the other night I had green chili goat cheese grits as a side with pork. If m and c is a given, how about some brats with it?

    11 Replies
    1. re: tim irvine

      I love cassoulet, but the only certain is the mac & cheese. I really want to stick with that. I guess I should have posed my question differently. Such as - what main is mac & cheese a great side for? Brats might be a good main for mac & cheese. Your gr chili/goat cheese/grits & pork sounds really yummy. Please share more.

      Thanks for the great ideas

      1. re: engie

        Here are my two cents. I think that Mac and cheese is delicious but needs something to break the richness. I would serve it with sausage and peppers, you can mix sweet and spicy italian sausages. I would finish it off with a good splash of vinegar. I would also serve garlicky broccoli rabe. I would blanch it, chock it, dry it and fry up at the last minute with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes.
        How about devils on horseback(dates stuffed with mango chutney, almonds or cheese and wrapped in bacon) -these smell delicious when cooking or figs with blue cheese wrapped in prosciutto. You could also wrap scallops or water chestnuts in bacon?
        You could end the meal with a beautiful apple tart.

        1. re: Gloriaa

          I agree, something is needed to counter the richness of the mac&cheese, a little acidity and/or a little heat would do the trick. As mentioned I was thinking of short ribs or meat loaf. The is Cajun style with a lot of heat - think that would work?

          1. re: engie

            What is Cajun style? IMO I would not serve meatloaf, too soft and short ribs are delicious but they beg for a neutral starch to soak up all the sauce. I think brats would work as would a big roast ham on the bone. Just remember balance, something rich needs something acidic and bitter ie endive and radicchio salad or broccoli rabe.

            1. re: Gloriaa

              Cajun style meat loaf has a lot of heat

              1. re: engie

                Thank you. I was confused whether or not you were referring to the meatloaf or the mac&cheese as Cajun style. I am French so can help you in that regard but have nothing to contribute to southern cooking. Sorry!

          2. re: Gloriaa

            Asparagus wrapped in proscuitto is divine. You can roast it that way, or chill the asparagus after lightly roasting (in olive oil, garlic, s&p.) So good.

          3. re: engie

            If m and c is a certainty and a side, I grew up having it with mixed green salad and a nice country ham steak..this time of year pan fried oysters also gone to mind.

            1. re: tim irvine

              ham did cross my mind, something to reconsider - thanks

              1. re: tim irvine

                what about something classic like fried chicken and stewed green beans, or maybe some sauteed greens?

              2. re: engie

                I like to stir in a creamy room temp cheese like brie into my mac and cheese sauce. Makes it so rich and creamy. I've used cream cheese before even though I know it's frowned upon. It makes it delicious.

            2. with mac and cheese as a side, you definitely don't need a starchy app, like pot pie.

              you can do a nice salad as the starter, with lots of peppery greens (think cress and arugula) and a sharp vinaigrette to perk up everybody's palate. it's also crunchy while the rest of your meal is quite soft.

              lots of people (myself included) don't care for meatloaf, so i vote shortribs. they're also better if made in advance and then you just need to rehat them for the dinner.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I liked her idea of short ribs. The salad would be perfect as well. I was thinking a tart salad would be perfect to balance the mac and cheese.

              2. Short ribs, pot roast, yes, but all manner of soups: vegetable soups both smooth and chunky, stuffed squashes,
                Root veggies roasted.
                Not all homey winter foods have to be heavy. Oh, stuffed cabbage!

                1. Maybe a crockpot of beef stew or chili?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: thedryer

                    If I scrap the mac&cheese obsession, then chili is the strongest contender. I love ATK's no bean chili recipe. It's make ahead friendly, and the potential toppings are endless - sour cream, shredded cheeses, onions, avocado, bacon, beans, Fritos, crackers, peppers...the possibilities are near endless.

                    1. re: engie

                      If you are unfamiliar with your guests' eating preferences this would be ideal with so many options to customize the meal

                      1. re: engie

                        Don't forget rice. Chili and rice are so good. You could also serve baked potatoes with it. They are good topped with chili, cheese, and sour cream. Pasta is also nice with chili. I like macaroni or spirals myself. You could do a chili bar and people could make it the way they want.

                    2. Don't forget a comforting dessert. I love apple crisp with vanilla ice cream!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: nlgardener

                        I'm not a dessert person - I might pick something up at the nearby French bakery - maybe and apple crisp. Since I have no real enthusiasm for sweets I usually ask one of my sweets motivated guests to handle that department.

                        1. re: engie

                          If you want an easy dessert, buy some well made oatmeal cookies. Heat them slight before serving. Serve with cinnamon ice cream, warm caramel or tres leches sauce, and whipped cream. So comforting.

                      2. If you're asking for votes - short ribs with the mac & cheese, no thanks on the mini-chicken pot pie appetizer -- too heavy a total combo for the meal if you add that. Other warm appetizer ideas -- Maybe warmed olives of various types & some baked almonds? A heated chutney with pita?

                        Or this sweet potato spread http://heavytable.com/nina-wongs-savo...

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MidwesternerTT

                          The mini-chicken pot pie is out. As to the appetizer, I'm leaning towards something crisp and clean with a punch - nothing gooey and/or heavy.

                          1. re: engie

                            My all time favorite crisp clean app is Belgian endive leaves with sour cream and caviar (not the good stuff; that gets eaten with a horn spoon).

                            1. re: tim irvine

                              yumm..this may offend some..but my grandfather use to give my caviar on those little dark rye cocktail breads spread with creme fracihe...quite sure it was not bulga...but it was so yummy

                        2. now when I think homey comfort i think of when my mom use to make Beef Bourguignon and scoop it over mashed potatos in deep bowls.

                          if mac and cheese is certain...maybe you could do mac and cheese fritters and hot applecider as appetizers

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: girloftheworld

                            Beef Bourguignon is a great idea - make ahead friendly... I like it over egg noodles. YUMM! Can anyone point me to a really good beef Bourguignon recipe?

                            1. re: engie

                              Fine cooking has a great recipe, very long and time consuming but really delicious. You can never go wrong with a Julia Child recipe for a classic like this. I've also made CI and it was good. The most important thing to remember is to never let the stew boil, it should just simmer lightly. You really can't rush it or the meat will be tough.

                              1. re: Gloriaa

                                I like to simmer beef bourg in the crockpot, as it always stays at a simmer. It's delicious made that way. I'm not an avid slow cooker user, but it is so useful for things like that.

                              2. re: engie

                                if you're willing to let go of the mac and cheese i think beef bourg is a great idea!!it feels special because it does take a long time to make but is so party-friendly since it's all do-ahead.

                                i would not do southern-style greens with this though.

                              3. re: girloftheworld

                                I love any kind of stew over mashed potatoes. Yum.

                              4. The app sounds too heavy, and your guests may be too full to appreciate the great meal. Maybe a mug of a pureed roasted veg soup as the app or as already suggested a salad. The roasted carrots would be great with parsnips as well, i often make that when i have guests and everyone is surprised they like them.
                                What about doing the indiv chicken pot pie as the entree?

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    No, i meant to omit the mac and cheese and the pot pie is the entree with the carrot/parsnip side

                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                      lol, op started dead-set on mac and cheese.

                                  2. re: Ttrockwood

                                    I'll try the parsnips/carrot combo

                                  3. just my opinion but i'd do a roasted veggie app plate to start.
                                    then maybe a baked skinless crusted chicken (instead of fried chicken)... with some wilted kale with caramelized onions and mushrooms and a light lemon dressing or juice... mac'n'cheese... if you think it's not enough, maybe a light cauliflower mash. don't think you need bread as well...
                                    just my ten cents.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Down here, a hommy meal consists of chitlins, fried chicken, catfish, greens, sweet potatoes, spoon bread, and fish eye pudding. (tapioca)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                        Hummm! Sounds like 'down here' is where my people are from. I'm in the process of upgrading my greens - any suggestions. Here my current version
                                        a little cabbage
                                        ham hock or smoked turkey leg
                                        liquid smoke
                                        pinch of sugar
                                        finished with red pepper flakes

                                      2. Grilled pork tenderloin
                                        Mac and Cheese
                                        Shaved Celery,Apple, Fennel salad

                                        1. If you are set on mac and cheese, then go with a meatloaf or a Salisbury steak (I know it's old school, but it seems to be coming back in some circles - and I love the updated versions with mushroom gravy, etc.). Otherwise, a hearty beef stew with a boat load of different veggies and potatoes with a nice side salad and crusty bread. You can do a great pork tenderloin with a potato au gratin (gets you the cheese factor) with roasted veggies. Of course, homey would also (as previously suggested) be braised short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes and maybe glazed carrots. For an app, maybe just a lite bruschetta would be good so as not to over power your main meal. But that's me. I'm simple that way. Just warm and comforting. Hmmmmm - guess I need to get these things on my menu!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: boyzoma

                                            One of my favorite home cooked meals is salisbury steak with an onion, mushroom, and red wine gravy served with mac and cheese. I might even sometimes dip the mac and cheese in the gravy.

                                          2. Maybe it's being a Northerner, but I think that if mac&cheese is a side, the meat, poultry, or fish with which it shares the plate should be on the plain side, and without a sauce. Entrees like braised short ribs or meat loaf, which have delicious gravy, call for noodles or mashed potatoes to complement that gravy. I agree that there should be some bitter greens, either as part of the salad, or as a braised side, to cut the cheesy richness.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: greygarious

                                              Mac and cheese ia a main dish in our house with a salad on the side..sometimes panchetta in the mac and cheese

                                            2. Your menu sounds great...it's making me hungry! We're cooking up some Spicy Tri Tip and Potatoes over here. www.FoodWacky.com

                                              1. I have been thinking about making a pasta dish using kale, Italian sausage, some vegetables. I like comfort food so your mac and cheese is a home run for me!

                                                1. My go-to homey cold-weather meal is roast chicken. Goes well enough with mac and cheese (though I think chicken, mac and cheese, and a dinner salad would be plenty.)

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. I was going to suggest sausage and peppers in a homemade sauce poured over baked polenta, but you sound like you have it covered. My favorite way to make carrots is to steam them a bit and then saute them in butter until they have brown spots on them. At the end, I toss in a bit of fresh garlic, salt, and pepper. It's amazing.

                                                    1. a good stout and beef stew, spicy chili, deep dish apple pie, braised lamb shanks with orzo, a hearty chicken noodle soup - the possibilities are endless!