As I write, a rain that wants to be snow when it grows up is falling. Election Day is past. Those of us who open the Kitchen compare notes on the views of sunrise we miss seeing on the way to work. Winter is born and, along with its birth, thoughts turn to cold weather holidays, indelibly associated with home, hearth and table. In this installment, I will tell you what we’re up to in the Production Kitchen as we turn the page on the calendar for 2008.

Bakery

In the bakery, we have recently brought on a pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce, taking advantage of microwaveable containers to enable quick noshing of a steaming pudding with warm caramel. For those who have not tried bread pudding, it’s the culinary equivalent of a cashmere turtleneck. These will be available throughout the cold weather months in a variety of flavors.

Look for more outstanding new bakery as well, as we’ve recently been given some extra space in the Produce section. We want to use that space to showcase not only our newly expanded capacity for pie production but also some of the new ideas coming out of that department that should fit right in with any holiday menu. Further coverage of this elsewhere in this edition of the reader.

Roast pork

We already roast turkey and beef in the kitchen for sale in the Deli—primarily as sandwich meat—and we will, starting in December, add roast pork shoulder with fennel, cinnamon and crushed chilis to the offering. Again, this can be used as a sandwich meat if you like, but will be even better laden on your table with a reduction of apple cider (recipe at the end of this article), some roasted root vegetables (also available in the Deli) and a green salad. No reason why the holidays themselves have to be the only time you eat well.

Twice-baked potatoes

A favorite holiday offering in the Deli, the twice-baked potato, will be showing up this holiday season in more flavors than cheddar cheese and chive. We will be stuffing them with broccoli and topping them with Swiss cheese potatoes, layering in cauliflower, red pepper and Parmesan potatoes for another combination, and recreating a hot case standard with a spinach, feta and pesto twice-baked potato. Featured as side dishes, these will up the ante at the table and surprise your guests (the fillings will largely be concealed by the cheesy potato crust) or can act as very satisfying main courses for vegetarians, kids or those with lighter appetites.

Catering

Those who browse our website will know that our catering menu changed recently to meet the cold season as well. Again, we’ve started with proven winners from the hot case, but as the year turns I plan to bring on some more creative takes on these themes—some potato-based lasagnes, vegetarian and vegan grain or nut loaf options, and some sweet ‘n’ sour vegetable side salads to combat the post-holiday gutbuster blues.

Also in the works

Not hitting the shelves imminently, but in the works: an expanded selection of ready-made sauces, including cider and juice reductions, compound butters, fruit and herb compotes, and gravies for a variety of meat dishes. Now here’s the recipe for that cider reduction:

Apple Cider Reduction Sauce—for pork, chicken or duck

3 cups apple cider
1 cup chicken stock or broth
3 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1 Tbs. maple syrup
2 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature

Directions: Put first five ingredients (chicken stock optional) in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook down over medium heat, stirring occasionally (be careful if using unfiltered cider—the extra solids in the liquid could scorch if left on the bottom of the pan) until reduced to

1 1/4 cups. Strain out spices and cool slightly, until you can stick a finger in it comfortably. Stir in maple syrup and swirl (do NOT stir) in butter and add salt as desired.

Bon appetit!