One day last week, when I came home from my day job, I went into a colder than usual house. That seemed odd, since my husband likes a warmer living space than I do.
I soon figured out the reason for the indoor chill. The furnace was not working. Set on 70 degrees, the thermostat read 64. With a winter weather advisory having been announced, complete with freezing rain, that was not a good sign.
Our house is heated by a hot water system. A boiler furnace in the basement sends hot water circulating through radiators placed under most of our windows, which gives us quick, draft-free heat at a touch of the thermostat. Except occasionally, when it doesn’t.
It’s an old-fashioned heating system. Most people don’t want radiators these days. Consequently, on the rare occasions when something goes wrong, there are fewer and fewer “boiler men” trained and experienced enough to repair the system.
There seemed to be no warm place to wait, once we located a repairman. I have learned, however, that when you look for one, there’s always a solution often in the kitchen. We made it a soup day, which meant a big pot was on the stove at a slow simmer all day.
The oven works just fine — another source of heat. Our kitchen is one that has doors to close it off — four of them. Keeping them closed keeps the heat in. Last, but not least, there’s a half bath back beside the door to the garage. In other words, we have all the necessities (if not all the comforts) of home in one room.
The kitchen was at least 20 degrees warmer than the rest of the house, thanks to the soup simmering and the stove warming at about 200 degrees. I was either cooking or writing nearly all day in my warm kitchen. When the repairman came at about 4:30, he took all of about 15 minutes to replace a small copper coil that had failed. Our fears about replacing the boiler were forgotten as the radiators warmed.
There’s one more thing I remember about all those cold winters past — spring is just a couple months on the other side. To help get you through the rest of January, here’s a delicious excuse to leave that oven on for several hours.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lean brisket (3 pounds)
salt and pepper
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
2 large bay leaves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Season brisket with salt and pepper. Add to Dutch oven. Cook until well browned on both sides. Transfer to a platter.
Add carrots, celery and onions to Dutch oven. Cook until lightly browned. Add garlic and stir one minute longer. Add broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits. Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.
Return brisket to pot. Cover tightly. Cook in preheated oven 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Roast in oven until meat is fork tender, about another two hours.
Transfer brisket to cutting board. Tent with foil to keep warm. Puree cooking liquid until smooth. Season to taste. Cut brisket across the grain into thin slices. Serve the meat with sauce.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at email@example.com.