On the windy, chilly day, while I continued to wait for my turkey for tomorrow’s dinner to thaw (like watching paint dry), I began thinking about comfort foods. This time of year, in late fall winding down into winter with Daylight Savings over and the days getting shorter and shorter, comfort foods loom large in my consciousness. These are the foods that feel like mom, and home, a fire in the fireplace, cozy couch to curl up on, and fleecy pj’s. And they so fit in the dark and cold times.
Top of my list is always and forever macaroni and cheese, baked the way my mother made it. Cooked straight macaroni – a long noodle with a hole in the middle, which you don’t find any more – layered with sharp cheddar cheese chunks, drowned in whole milk, topped with dots of butter and toasted bread crumbs. Mmmmm. I can’t eat this version any more, as I am lately (for the last 20 years or so) wheat intolerant. I have found no substitute for semolina based pasta for this dish. But even as I sit here writing and remembering, I get a warm feeling in the center of my chest and around my heart. Thanx, Mom.
Lentil soup. Such a warm, hearty soup. Lentils, onions, tomatoes and spices. Steaming in a bowl and served with original mochi rice pastry. Puffy bits of mochi could even be used to scoop up the soup. I fell in love with this soup when my mother-in-law served it up as a first course for Thanksgiving Dinner for each of the thirty-plus years we shared that holiday with her. She was big into sending us home with leftovers, and I loved getting some of that soup to eat later in the first week of December.
Candy Corn. I’m looking at the remnants of the 2-pound, 70 serving bag of mini packets that I bought for the 15th Hallowe’en on which we have zero trick or treaters show up. These sweet, buttery, tri-color triangles were always among my favorite Hallowe’en treats. A bite-sized not quite a caramel and I could make them last a long time. Now I know they’re really not very good for me. “Sugar, corn syrup, . . .” not even any of the butter than goes into a real caramel. But they still taste really good and feel really good in my mouth. Good thing that Hallowe’en only comes once a year.
Posole. I first tasted this traditional Mexican hominy and pork soup/stew about 35 years ago at a Mexican restaurant somewhere I’ve forgotten. But I’ve not forgotten the soup which is cooked for hours and hours to soften the hominy and is garnished with lemon or lime wedges, cilantro, sliced raw radishes, shredded cabbage and an add-on green hot sauce. Talk about feeling warm and fuzzy with the added zing of the hot sauce and the citrus. So, I made a pork stew for dinner tonight, and I’ll share the recipe.
Combine in a heavy pot:
1 large onion sliced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 small-medium ancho chilis, seeded, deveined and chopped coarsely
2 # of boneless country style spare ribs, cut into small pieces
½ cup +/- chicken broth or water (cover the bottom of the pot plus a little)
1 T olive or other oil
Finely ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 t mild Korean chili powder
Cover and bring to a boil over high heat stirring periodically. Reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for about 45 minutes. Check and make sure everything is combined and soft. Add
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can (12-16 oz) red or white kidney beans.
Do not drain the beans and add about a half can of water or broth, rinsing the can. Stir well and cook over low heat for 40 minutes. Serve. Rice would make a good accompaniment.
I used mostly organic vegetable ingredients. The garlic, chilis and corn were savings from my CSA share from this past summer. I was going to serve it with roasted butternut squash from the CSA but forgot to turn on the oven. Duh!
And lest I forget, the comfort food that needs no introduction or description: Dark chocolate.