Local chefs share their favorite winter dishes.

Winter is the season when otherwise uninterested folks suddenly feel overcome by the urge to hole up in the house and cook something. But after a few weeks, even the most dedicated friends and loved ones get a little tired of fish sticks and cream of mushroom soup. To help us broaden our repertoire, we asked four local chefs to give us their recipes for hot and hearty winter dishes. From classic cassoulet to a totally new version of bread pudding, these ideas should get your imagination fired up. So sharpen your knives, strap on your aprons and start cooking!

Spicy Pinto Bean Ravioli with Corn and Chile Cream Sauce

From Santa Fe-based chef and photographer Lois Ellen Frank, author of Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, in which this recipe appears.

This recipe combines many simple ingredients commonly used in Native American cooking. The ravioli are made with blue cornmeal and filled with a zesty bean puree that is flavored with herbs and red chile powder.

Serves 6

For the ravioli:

  • 4 cups cooked pinto beans
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon red chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 recipe Blue Cornmeal Ravioli Dough (recipe follows)
  • 1 egg, beaten (for garnish)

Toast the oregano and cumin in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the unpeeled garlic to the pan and roast over medium heat until it is soft and blackened in spots. Let it cool, then peel it and mash it with a knife.

In a saucepan, sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat, until it is lightly browned. Decrease the heat to low, add the mashed garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the oregano, cumin, red chile powder, salt, beans and just enough water to cover, about 2 to 3 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Puree the bean mixture in a food processor until it is smooth.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat the remaining oil over high heat, until it reaches the smoking point. Add the bean puree and stir for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to moderate and cook for 5 minutes, while stirring, until the bean puree is a medium paste. It will thicken as it cools.

Next, prepare the ravioli dough according to the directions. Divide the dough in half and roll out each portion of the dough into a 12-by-15 inch rectangle that is 1⁄8 -inch thick. With the back of a knife, lightly mark 3-inch squares on the dough. With a basting brush, spread a thin layer of egg wash, about 1 inch wide, along the marked lines on the dough. With a spoon, place 1 tablespoon of bean filling in the center of each square.

Roll out the remaining dough to the same size as the bottom layer and place it on top. With your fingers, press down around each mound of filling to release the air and seal each piece of ravioli. Cut between the mounds with a pasta crimper and sealer, making sure the top and bottom layers of the pasta dough are sealed securely. Set them on a baking pan or tray dusted with flour so they don't stick, and set them aside while you make the sauce.

Blue Cornmeal Ravioli Dough

  • 1 cup finely ground blue
  •    cornmeal
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Pour the flour into a mound on a flat work surface. With your hand, make a depression in the center that almost reaches through to the board. Crack the eggs directly into the well and, with a fork, whip in the salt and oil, mixing the flour in from around the edges.

Mix and knead the dough with your hands for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough has a smooth and elastic consistency. If the dough seems a bit dry, add a little more water; add a little more flour if it seems too moist. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before rolling out.

Corn and Chile Cream Sauce

  • 6 green New Mexico chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cups corn kernels
  • 3 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Combine 2⁄3 of the green chiles, 3 cups of the corn, the serranos, salt and pepper in a food processor and process for about 2 minutes, until smooth. Scrape the sides and process for another 30 seconds. Push the mixture through a fine sieve and discard the skins.

Put the mixture in a saucepan over moderate heat and cook for 3 minutes, slowly adding the cream while stirring. Add the remaining corn kernels and diced green chiles. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, until the corn is tender. Set the pot aside to keep warm.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the ravioli and cook for 10 to 13 minutes (at Santa Fe's elevation).

Drain the ravioli and serve them immediately with the cream sauce.

Classic Cassoulet

Recipe by chef David Sellers, Amavi (221 Shelby St., 988-2355).

This hearty winter dish, which falls somewhere between a stew and a casserole, comes from the Southwest of France, where it evolved as a simple peasant dish. In his version, Sellers incorporates traditional ingredients like duck legs, white beans and sausage, with a method that doesn't take all day.

This is a complete entrée in and of itself, but is well accompanied by a small salad and/or a loaf of crusty bread.

Serves 8

  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 pound pork belly, cut into 1-by-2-inch cubes
  • 4 pork sausages
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups cannelloni beans, cooked al dente
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle the duck legs, pork belly and sausage with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil to a large ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven over high heat, then cook the duck legs until they are well browned. Transfer the duck legs to a platter, then brown the pork belly, followed by the sausage.

Next, add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic, stirring. Add ¼ cup butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions soften and release their moisture.

Add the white wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Heat the oven to 300° F.

Add the duck, sausage and pork back to the pan, along with the thyme, bay leaves and cannelini beans. Then add the chicken stock and bring it to a simmer, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Cover the casserole, put it in the oven and cook for about 1½ hours.

When the duck legs are cooked through and tender, the cassoulet is done. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Remove the duck legs from the cassoulet and pull the meat from the bones in large chunks, then return the meat to the cassoulet. (At this point the dish can be refrigerated and finished the following day, if desired.)

Divide the mixture evenly into ovenproof crocks or bowls, top each with a spoonful of bread crumbs and pour the melted butter over the crumbs. Put the crocks back in the oven just long enough to make the bread crumb mixture brown and bubbly. Serve hot.

Roasted chicken à la Monique

Recipe by chef Maxime Bouneou, La Posada de Santa Fe (330 East Palace Ave., 986-0000).

Nothing heats up a cold house like roasting a chicken. The Monique in this recipe's title is Bouneou's mother. According to the chef, the quality of the chicken is very important for a recipe as simple as this, so seek out the best locally raised and/or organic chicken you can find.

Serves 4

  • 1    small loaf whole wheat bread
  • 2    tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1    yellow onion, diced
  • 1    fresh chicken, giblets included
  • 1    cup raisins
  • 1    stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1    carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5    small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and
  •     quartered
  • 1    head garlic, whole and unpeeled but
  •     sliced in half around the middle
  • 1    sprig of fresh thyme
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the stuffing:

Cut the bread into rough cubes, put them in a large bowl and set it aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the onion and cook. Chop the giblets and add them to the pan. Add the raisins and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is lightly colored.

Add the onion mixture to the bread cubes and toss with the melted butter. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then set the mixture aside.

For the chicken:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Rub the chicken with the remai

ning 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper, inside and outside. Don't be afraid to be heavy on the salt on the chicken skin; salty, crispy skin is really the best!

Stuff the chicken with the bread cube mixture and place the bird in a small roasting pan with the carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and thyme.

Put the roasting pan in the oven and cook. After about 20 minutes, baste the chicken and vegetables with the juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan. Cook 10 more minutes, then turn the oven dial to broil. Cook the chicken on broil for about 10 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp.

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Coconut Ginger Bread Pudding

Recipe by chef Joanna Schneider of Plaza Bakery (56 E. San Francisco St., 988-3858) and Mauka (544 Agua Fria, Suite B, 984-1969).

This is no ordinary bread pudding! It's made with gingerbread for a robust, spicy flavor. The recipe also works well with banana bread or any other sweetbread. Whichever bread you use, it must be made ahead of time and cooled to room temperature, or ideally, left out overnight. Although it's usually made in ramekins, you can also use wide and shallow oven-safe bowls or cups.

Serves 4

For the gingerbread:

  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground clove
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon + pinch salt
  • ½ cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 7 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 5 tablespoons apple juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons fresh grated ginger

Preheat oven to 350° F, and grease and flour a 1½-quart loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, molasses, apple juice, eggs and grated ginger. Pour in the flour and spice mixture and combine it gently with a spatula. When the batter is evenly incorporated, pour it into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the loaf, comes out clean.

Remove the gingerbread form the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes, then remove it from the loaf pan, turn it upside down and allow it to cool to room temperature.

For the bread pudding:

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup turbinado sugar or brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Cut pieces of gingerbread that are just as tall as the dishes and lay them inside the ramekins, filling any empty spaces with smaller pieces of gingerbread. Put the ramekins in a roasting pan that is deep enough to fill with water that reaches halfway up the sides of ramekins or bowls. (Don't put the water in yet).

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk until it just starts to foam around the edges.

Meanwhile, put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and whisk them while slowly adding the sugar. (A wet towel set under the bowl will help to stabilize it while you whisk.) Whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth and pale yellow.

Slowly pour the hot liquid into the yolks while whisking continuously. Once the milk and yolks are well combined, pour the mixture into a container with a spout. Slowly and carefully pour the mixture into the ramekins, adding more as the bread absorbs the liquid. Once the dishes are filled, sprinkle the tops with a little brown or turbinado sugar.

Place the pan in oven and then fill it with just enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the puddings for 20 minutes, until no liquid appears when you tip a pudding slightly. As you're taking the pan out of oven, be very careful not to spill water on yourself or into the puddings. Slow and steady!

Allow the puddings to cool for 10-15 minutes, then serve.