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Winter Dish Ideas and Tips for Your Restaurant

By Leslie Radford

Key Takeaways

Hearty Beef Stew

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Other Tips for Creating a Winter Menu

Winter is the perfect time to change up your menu and bring in delicious, heart-warming dishes to your restaurant to attract new diners and keep your sales up through the cold months. Diners will lose interest in these refreshing dishes of summer and will seek out more hearty, warm meals instead. Here are a couple of recipes and tips that you can use on your regular winter menu or as daily or weekly specials in addition to your regular menu during the season.

Hearty Beef Stew

beef stew

You can never go wrong with stew. It’s a hearty meal that warms the soul. This recipe serves 4, so you will need to adjust to suit your crowd.

Total: 6 hr 35 min Yield: 4 servings

  • Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbs, any combination of thyme, oregano and rosemary
  • 3 pounds English-cut short ribs
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound red potatoes, unpeeled and diced small
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and dried herbs. Set aside.
  2. Season the short ribs with 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt. 
  3. Place a large griddle over medium-high heat and once a drop of water bounces off, sear the meat until browned on all sides. Once browned, remove the meat to the bowl with the paste and toss to coat. 
  4. Transfer to a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and seal tightly. Place the package into a metal pan and put into a cold oven on the middle rack. Set the oven to 250 degrees F and cook for 4 hours.
  5. Remove the meat from the oven and carefully poke a hole in the pack while holding it over a heatproof container. Drain the liquid into the container and place it into the refrigerator to cool enough so that the fat separates from the rest of the liquid, approximately 1 hour. 
  6. After 1 hour, transfer the liquid to the freezer and keep there until the fat cap has solidified, approximately 1 hour. Allow the ribs to sit at room temperature while the liquid is cooling or if serving the next day, place in the refrigerator until ready to finish.
  7. Retrieve the liquid from the refrigerator and remove the fat cap that has formed on top. Measure out 1 tablespoon of the fat and reserve the rest for another time. Place the fat into a large saucier and place over medium heat. 
  8. Once the fat has melted add the onion along with the remaining teaspoon of salt and stir to separate the onions into rings. Allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  9. Add the potatoes along with a pinch of black pepper and stir to combine. Next, add the liquid reserved from the meat and stir. Cover tightly and decrease the heat to low so that no heat is escaping the lid. Cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
  10. Meanwhile, cut the meat away from the bone, removing the connective tissue and discarding. Once the potatoes are tender, uncover and set the meat atop the vegetables. Cover and continue to cook for 10 minutes. 
  11. Serve sprinkled with the parsley.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Another great go-to winter dish is some kind of casserole. Diners want comfort-type foods during this season, and casseroles definitely warm the belly. Adjust the amount of ingredients to suit your crowd.

Total Time: 2 hr 30 min Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredients

WILD RICE

  • 1/2 pound wild rice (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

 

SWISS CHARD

  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 pounds Swiss chard, stems discarded and leaves
  • coarsely chopped

 

MUSHROOM SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced rosemary
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 pounds thinly sliced chicken scaloppine, pounded 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Chopped parsley, for serving

 

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer over moderate heat until the rice is tender, about 1 hour. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the Swiss chard. Set a rack over a large rimmed baking sheet. In a pot, heat the oil. Add the shallot and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the Swiss chard in large handfuls, letting each batch wilt slightly before adding more. Cook, stirring occasionally until all of the chard is wilted, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Spread the chard out on the rack to drain and let cool completely. Squeeze out any excess water.
  4. Make the mushroom sauce. In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, 5 minutes.
  5. Cook, stirring until the mushrooms are tender and browned all over, 5 minutes longer; transfer to a plate. 
  6. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms.
  7.  
  8. Wipe out the skillet and melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in it. Add the onion, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, until incorporated, about 2 minutes.
  9. Gradually whisk in the stock and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and no floury taste remains, about 7 minutes. Stir in the cream and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  10. Preheat the oven to 375°. Arrange half of the chicken in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch or 4-quart baking dish that’s at least 2 inches deep. Scatter half of the Swiss chard over the chicken, followed by half of the wild rice and half of the mushroom cream sauce. Repeat the layering once more with the remaining chicken, greens, rice, and sauce.
  11. In a medium bowl, toss the panko with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle evenly over the casserole. Cover with foil and bake for about 35 minutes, until bubbling. Uncover the casserole and turn on the broiler. Broil 6 inches from the heat until the panko is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  12. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

 

Make Ahead

The baked casserole can be cooled down and refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently and crisp the panko under the broiler before serving.

Other Tips for Creating a Winter Menu

white menu

By using in-season ingredients you’ll cut down on costs. And by using seasonal flavors, you’ll attract diners wanting those dishes.

 

Use seasonal ingredients

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beets
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Collard Greens
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Kiwifruit
  • Leeks
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet Potatoes & Yams
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash

 

Use seasonal flavors

  • Pumpkin spice 
  • Peppermint 
  • Mulling spices
  • Cranberries

 

Heat things up

Soups – Experiment with chowders, chilis, and stews.

Casseroles – Carb + meat + cheese is a winning combination for a satiating one-dish bake.

Curries – Combine seasonal veggies and meats with spices for a meal that will warm up customers from the inside out.

Winter cocktails – Add steamy drinks like mulled wine, hot toddies, and Irish coffee to your winter drink menu.

winter cocktail
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