Serious Entertaining »

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

Serious Entertaining: Cold Weather Comforts

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[Photographs, Clockwise from top left: Jennifer Olvera, Jennifer Olvera, Max Falkowitz, Yvonne Ruperti]

I have a strict no-closed-shoes-from-March-to-November policy, and a closed-toe-shoe-optional policy for the rest of the year. There's usually at least a couple days in January when I'll go out of the house wearing flip flops or sandals. I thrive on cold weather. Perhaps my mother was a jotun (though she didn't appreciate when I suggested that to her).

But even I have to admit: it's been pretty freaking cold out recently. And when the weather gets this way, all I want to do is stay at home and cook, preferably things that go for a prolonged stint in the oven, serving double duty: making the house smell nice and making dinner delicious. Here's what I would want to eat on the coldest day of the year.

Main Course: Slow-Cooked Beef Stew

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

If my handy traffic metering tools are any indication of the popularity of a given recipe (and I assure you, they are), then you guys are gaga for slow-cooked stews this time of year. The keys to our slow-cooked beef stew is careful searing to develop flavor, a bit of citrus zest added to the base for some balancing brightness, and a dollop of seasoned horseradish-chive cream that manages to make the whole stew lighter without sacrificing any of its rib-sticking meatiness.

Get the recipe for Beef Stew with Red Wine and Horseradish Chive Cream »

On the Side: Stovetop Cheddar Mac and Cheese With Peppadew Peppers

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

It may be January, and you've probably all made (and broken) your "let's eat less mac and cheese" resolutions already, but when the temperatures hit the single digits, resolutions tend to take a back seat to more primal comforts. It doesn't get much more primal than a good mac and cheese, and this version with hot peppadew peppers is one of our favorites.

Get the recipe for Stovetop Cheddar Mac and Cheese »

For Dessert: 5-Minute Fudgy Chocolate Microwave Cake

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[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

Perhaps this is just my natural bias towards desserts that take a long time speaking, or perhaps it's my innate laziness, but I can't think of a better thing to make while my stew is stewing away than this ultra-fast, ultra-delicious, stupidly easy chocolate cake recipe. It's like magic, if magic was made of microwaves and chocolate.

Get the recipe for 5-Minute Fudgy Chocolate Microwave Cake »

To Wash it Down and Warm You Up: Mulled Wine

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[Photographs: Max Falkowitz]

There's nothing like the smell of warm spices and booze floating through the air to make me realize that I'm happy to be indoors and preferably in wool socks and a Snuggie when everything outside is covered in ice. Our own spice expert Max dives into the ins and outs of mulled wine and comes out on the other side to give us a killer recipe.

Get the recipe for Citrus and Anise Mulled Wine »

Wine not your thing? Then check out these 20 Drink Recipes to Warm You Up. There's sure to be something in there that'll get to ya!

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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