With big winter weather on the way, I offer an 18-step plan for staying warm and sufficiently fed, making optimum use of the stove for heating and for creating enough meals for the remainder of the weekend, if not the week.
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.
- Get up at 5 a.m. and preheat the oven to 425. Put a stockpot 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.
- In a bread bowl, mix the flour and yeast according to a simple 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.)
- Place the sausage in a cast-iron skillet and drizzle with olive oil. Once the oven reaches 425, insert the skillet.
- 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. Cook the potatoes over medium heat until they take a fork easily, drain and leave them on the stove.
- Warm up a round, handled griddle or skillet while you prepare the crepes batter with a whisk. This requires eggs, some oil, milk and butter. Sugar is optional. (Crepes are useful as leftovers; they keep well and can be used savory or sweet later in the week.)
- Check the bread recipe. It's probably time to do something with the dough.
- Check the sausage. If they're done, plate them. Drain the grease from the skillet in your trash, then set the skillet aside; do not wash it. Leave the oven on 425.
- 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 Julia Child video if you need help with the technique.
- 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.
- Chop the yellow onions. Move the finished crepe to a large platter and pour the batter for the next one.
- Chop the garlic. Flip the crepe.
- Chop the celery. Remove the finished crepe. Pour batter for the next one.
- Check the stockpot. Chop the carrots. Flip the crepe.
- 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. Remove the finished crepe. Start another one. Don't let the tomato sauce splatter on your crepes.
- 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. Flip the crepe. Put the sausage in a medium-sized pot (or slow-cooker) and add the tomato sauce, cover and simmer. Remove the last crepe.
- Cook four cups of rice for the soup. Check the bread recipe. It's probably time to bake the bread.
- Once it's cooked, take the chicken out of the pot, cut it up and return the pieces to the simmering stock, along with the rice. Season to taste. By 8 a.m., you should end up with a stack of crepes, 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.
- Shut everything down and go back to bed.