Posts tagged ‘comfort food’

Slow-Cooked Supper: The Comfort Food Edition

Based on the recipe “Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Potpie” in the Feb 2012 Real Simple; I’ll type in their original, with my changes in parentheses and notes.

8 oz cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and halved if large (I used all the mushrooms delivered to me this week in my produce box , leaving the stems on because they were small and tight and quartering them)
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used three big handfuls of organic baby carrots and just chunked them in whole)
1 medium onion, chopped (we don’t do onions at our house, so I left this out)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 sprigs fresh thyme (I used several shakes of the dried thyme I keep on hand for red beans, plus a couple of shakes of dried marjoram)
1 bay leaf (two small ones)
1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 8 (I used a little over 2 pounds, about 11, because that’s how the packaging of the organic boneless skinless chicken thighs from Costco worked out)
salt and black pepper
1 sheet puff pastry (half a 17.3oz package), thawed
1 c frozen peas (I don’t do peas, so I left these out)
1 c frozen green beans (I really don’t do green beans, so these would never be anywhere in my house to begin with)
1/3 c heavy cream (I actually had some left in my fridge from the holidays, but it had crossed over to the dark side and I just used a couple  glugs of half-and-half)

1. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, mix together mushrooms, carrots, onion (X), flour, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 c water. Place chicken pieces on top of this; season with salt and pepper.

2. Cover and cook until chicken and veg are tender; 7 – 8 hours on low, or 4 -5 hours on high (my slow cooker just needed 6 hours on low, so pay attention to what yours does).

3. Thirty minutes before serving (whatever), heat oven to 425. Using a 4.5″ cutter or large glass, cut pastry into 4 circles. (I used my giant fleur-de-lis cookie cutters, and then just had fun with twisting up scraps in little bits and shapes. I can imagine using various cutters at various times.) Place on a baking sheet and bake til golden, 8 to 10 minutes (mine took 8).

4. Ten minutes before serving, add peas, green beans, cream, and a little salt to the chicken mixture (you’ll have to take this on faith, as what I did was curse the very idea of peas and green beans once again as I glugged in the half and half); stir to combine. Cover and cook on high or low until heated through (I found that it was heated through as quickly as I stirred it), 5 to 10 minutes. To serve, place chicken mixture in bowls and top with pastry rounds (shapes).

It was TASTY. Comfort food at its finest. I toyed with the idea of sprinkling a little pecorino over the pastry before baking to make cheesy pastry, and still might do that next time. M devoured it and said “Keep this recipe.” I will say, I do like my slow cooker. Particularly when our dinnertime comes right after all the time we spend feeding/bathing/nursing/putting to bed our boy. Mama don’t like eight p.m. dinners.

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January 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

Grits and Groceries

In the past two weeks, I’ve had two good friends suddenly stop in the middle of two otherwise normal conversations, gaze off into the distance, and say, “Cheeeeeese grits.” One of those friends, a native of Mobile, Alabama, was visiting Austin from Berlin, where his 13-year residence has apparently not included a lot of hominy. The other, a well-traveled soul, has lived in Texas for all of his six decades on earth. Both men, each literally with a world of experience, were brought to a point of pause over one of the simplest dishes in the repertoire.

Maybe it’s that very simplicity that makes a bowl of cheese grits so comforting. Not that cheese grits can’t go wrong; mein Berliner complained that a bowl put in front of him in a Houston diner at the start of his visit was just grits (and watery ones at that) with cheese on top. And I once had what I thought was the bright idea to lade a batch with many, many, way too many squeezy cloves of roasted garlic, which overpowered the whole comfort angle and turned it into something rather, um, hearty and bracing when I was looking for soothing and soft.

And you probably have to have come to terms with the basic idea of grits. I grew up with them. They have always been in the pantry, right along with the oatmeal. They were inexpensive, a way for my parents to make breakfast on Saturday morning (the initial big pot of grits to serve with an egg and bacon) and have some left for Sunday (when my father would cut the cold grits into squares and fry them in butter). They stood in at supper when needed, whether because the end of month was approaching and the budget didn’t allow for more, or for comfort reasons. They featured particularly during the year I had braces, when it seemed that every tooth-tightening orthodontist appointment fell on a day when my mother had a roast in the oven (which, no matter how tender, I couldn’t begin to chew). And when I moved to New Orleans, I discovered their brunchiest use – as the base for grillades, which is a whole nother post.

I’ll be making cheese grits for my sighing Texan friend this weekend, out at a quiet ranch on the Blanco River. I’m headed to the grocery store for stone-ground grits and good Cheddar, and I’m packing my Calphalon pot, whose size and heft lets me make plenty and keeps things from sticking. It’s the least I can do for the hospitality my friend and his wife have shown to my husband and me, for someone whose “You know, I haven’t had cheese grits in the longest time” just sounded a little too forlorn. Easter brunch on the Blanco will be a thing of beauty, not only for the blue Texas skies and the fresh green of the spring pastures, the hummingbirds that have just reappeared at the feeders on the long low stone porch and the brown eggs dyed to deep jewel tones, but for the strawberries fresh from market in an old enamel bowl and the pale gold of the cheese grits carried out to the porch table and set down in front of my friend.

Basic Cheese Grits (to satisfy the craving for simple and soothing)
Prepare four servings of non-instant quick grits as directed on the package (though really, if instant is all you have and you are in need of comfort, you can make it work; just use a little less water so they’ll be thicker). As they begin to thicken past the soupy stage, add grated cheese by the handful. The kind of cheese depends on the mood you’re in and what’s in the fridge; extra-sharp cheddar is the most flavorful, a four-cheese Mexican blend is gooey in a good way, a few sprinklings of Parmesan takes you into polenta territory. Cream cheese doesn’t work like you would think it would. If your family doesn’t come to the table while it’s still piping hot and the grits set up a bit too much in the pan to be able to ladle them out in a nice creamy glob, vigorously stir in a bit of milk to thin. Serve in a bowl as is, or over gently fried eggs. Watch your friend who has been away from grits too long scrape every bit up with a spoon.

Fancier Cheese Grits
Baked Cheese Grits
from Emeril Lagasse’s Louisiana Real and Rustic, also the source of a grillades recipe that can’t be beat; love him or not, this pre-Emeril-empire cookbook is a keeper
2 c yellow grits (not quick or instant)
1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 T chopped garlic
8 oz cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
3 eggs
1 c milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare grits according to package directions. Add butter, salt,black pepper, garlic, and cheese. Mix until butter and cheese melt. Beat together eggs and milk in small bowl; add to grits and mix well. Pour into square (8×2) baking dish and bake about 1 hour, or until mixture sets. Serve.

Fanciest Cheese Grits
Grits and Cheese Souffle
from Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking
1 c  quick-cooking or regular grits
2 c milk
2 c water
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1/3 lb sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1-3/4 cups)
6 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously butter a 2-quart souffle dish and place in the freezer until ready to use. Cook grits in milk and water according to package directions. Add salt to taste. When grits are cooked, scrape into a mixing bowl (don’t use the pan, it will be too warm). Add pepper, nutmeg, and Tabasco. Stir in all but 1/2 c of the grated cheese. Let cool slightly and add the egg yolks, stirring until well blended. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add half the whites to the grits mixture and beat them in. Fold in remaining whites, using a rubber spatula. Spoon mixture into prepared souffle dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 c cheese. Place in oven and bake 25 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Serve immediately.

April 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm 15 comments


Some of my cookbooks

In no order except for how they appear in my LibraryThing cookbook catalog: True Women Cookbook: Original Antique Recipes, Photographs, & Family Folklore, Janice Woods Windle (1997) * Made in Texas; H-E-B's 100th Anniversary Cookbook (2005) * The Texas Cowboy Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos, Robb Walsh (2007) * The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julee Rosso, Sheila Lukins (1982) * In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks, Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan (2007) * Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine, Daniel Boulud (2006) * Moosewood Cookbook : Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, Mollie Katzen (1977) * Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans, Susan Spicer (2007) * Saveur Cooks Authentic American: By the Editors of Saveur Magazine, ed. Colman Andrews (1998)

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