The LONG Winter

There are two things on my mind right now. No. 1: THE JAGS! No. 2: I can’t wait much longer for the glacial temperatures to rise. I’m beginning to understand the previously unfathomable conditions Laura Ingalls Wilder described in The Long Winter, except I don’t have to rely on making a sauce from the last codfish in the lean-to. Speaking of preserved cod, a little bacalao would taste quite good right now!

Cold weather makes me ravenous—I’m not talking about eating light either; no, sir! I’m talking huge, hardy, rich, sumptuous, satisfying dishes. The kind of meal a lumberjack would covet. So what’s the problem? Well, it’s too darn cold to exercise. And believe me, I don’t require much of an excuse to replace a run with a beer, so when it feels like the Alaskan tundra outside, a beer and a gargantuan meal always win.

Over the last couple weeks, I shared recipes for a Cheffed-Up chicken bog along with an insanely satisfying Tuscan ribollita. Now here’s the rub—this sort of cuisine nearly challenges Panera for excessive calories.

But I just can’t help myself! I keep pumping out the delicious, warming, comfort foods such as duck confit and tasso gumbo, Texas-style Black Angus chili, assorted Italian-American baked pastas, goulashes, coq au vin, etc. … meal after glorious meal. I mean, why not? It’ll be warm again soon and I’ll tire of these rich, herculean meals.

To prepare for the long-anticipated comfortable air temps, I’m beginning to lighten my Cheffed-Up cuisine ever so slightly—maybe throw in a green salad or two and back off the butter toast (two parts Kerrygold, one part bread). Maybe even suck it up and go for a run or do a couple/three pushups.

To start that lighter cuisine perfectly start, I’ve dusted off my trusty ol’ pasta machine. Believe it or not, pasta can be a light meal by simply controlling portion size. I also need to standardize a ravioli and tortellini filling recipe for a class I’m giving this weekend.

When making your own stuffed pastas, don’t roll the dough all the way to the thinnest setting on the pasta machine. I stop two settings before that. The dough needs to be slightly thicker for handling ease. I also use a little semolina in my dough to develop sturdier product. After the dough’s rolled out, I dust the table with extra semolina so the dough won’t stick to it while I assemble the raviolis.

Lastly, do not over-stuff the ravioli; this creates a huge shoemaker-style mess. Other than that, just go for it and have fun. And remember my New Year’s theme: New Year—More Food.

Chef Bill’s Prosciutto, Spinach & Ricotta Filling

  • 4 oz. prosciutto di Parma (not domestic), small dice
  • 15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. basil, chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for 30 minutes before stuffing in your raviolis.

Until we cook again,

Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina Beach’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at [email protected], for inspiration and get Cheffed Up!