The Sunday Food-Related Post: Comfort Foods for a Potentially Really Long Day

img_0487A few weeks ago I wrote a post featuring foods that are actually good for you and have a calming effect.  Today we are wayyy past such things. Today I am going to write about foods that will make us feel better temporarily. We can just pay the piper somewhere down the line.

When it comes to comfort food, what one is looking for is either something which takes one back to one’s childhood and the comforting memories of mom in the kitchen cooking delicious and unhealthful foods or to one’s dream of a childhood in which one had that sort of mother. So let’s check out a few recipes that either your mother made or should have. Fortunately today’s game is in the late afternoon time slot, so you’ll have lots of time to spend in the kitchen. Besides, it will help distract you from the upcoming game, which is always a good thing on days like this.

Generally the components of the sort of food we’re looking at are plenty of fat combined with either savory things or sugar. Let’s go for some of each. This is likely to be a difficult day. Even if by some miracle the Landry-Jones-led Steelers pull out a win, it’s likely going to be at the last moment after a series of heart-attack-inducing ups and downs. We’re going to need a lot of comfort along the way. And if the score is 40-7 at halftime, I think we all know who is going to have 40 points and who is going to have 7. So we will need even more comfort to get through the second half.

Let’s begin with savory. What we’re looking for here is something which is seriously artery-clogging and delicious while still being real food. Which is why we are NOT going to make the Frankfurter Crown Roast pictured above. Instead we are going to make:

Seriously Delicious Onion Soup

  • 8 onions. Nice fat ones.
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt. Preferably hippie salt—you know, pink or black or something like that, imported at vast cost from some exotic locale. Which is admittedly not like Mom would have done, but we can move with the times.
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 8 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, from a chicken that was pasture-raised, contented, and well-fed. Or use good broth from a paper carton. Not a can, please.
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk. Or half-and-half. Or what the heck, heavy cream.
  • 12 slices French bread (1 inch thick), toasted
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded provolone cheese. Or more. You definitely want plenty of that gooey cheese string action.

In a cast iron Dutch oven, (c’mon, people, there’s no other way) cook the onions, which you have thinly sliced a la Julia Child (in other words, from north pole to south pole, not around the equator) in butter. Slowly. They should caramelize a bit without burning. To do this properly will take about a half hour. Stir them from time to time.

When they are sufficiently and beautifully browned, sprinkle them with flour, salt and pepper. Turn up the heat a bit and stir them for a minute or so. You do want to brown the roux a little bit. Or skip the flour part. Trust me, it will be thick enough.

Add the broth by cupfuls and bring to a boil—cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Combine the sour cream and milk or whatever. Stir into the soup and heat through, but make sure it doesn’t boil or it won’t look nearly as pretty. Place a slice of toasted bread on each of 12 soup bowls, cover with cheese, and ladle the soup on top.

This makes 12 servings. Note I’m not saying it serves 12 people.

Since the soup is pretty substantial you want something relatively light to go with it. And no, we’re still not going to make the Frankfurter Crown Roast. We are going to make:

Shrimp Cocktail

This is really easy. Go out and get shrimp. Lots of them. Not those little tiny things that are really just glorified plankton, but proper honking pink shrimp. (If you’re really ambitious, get whole uncooked ones and steam them yourself with some white wine and garlic. Chill them.)

Make a big bowl of cocktail sauce. This is going to shock you here. Cocktail sauce is merely catsup (Heinz, naturally) with horseradish added to taste. Be sure you don’t buy horseradish SAUCE, which has mayo in it, but the grated horseradish in the little funny-shaped jars. Or grate your own. But I bet your mom didn’t do that. Mine certainly didn’t.

Arrange the shrimp tastefully on a plate, peeled or not according to taste, around the bowl of cocktail sauce you made. Voilà!

And for dessert:

Ambrosia, the right way

Toast about a cup of pecan halves. Or you can use hazelnuts, or walnuts. Whichever you do, chop them roughly after they are toasted.

While you’re at it, toast a cup or so of shredded coconut. Be careful as it burns quickly. Put the toasted nuts together with the coconut and set aside to cool.

Acquire eight clementines. Zest two of them and then and peel all of them. Toss the zest into what will eventually be your serving bowl. (If you have tangerines rather than clementines, you can reduce the number accordingly.) Segment each clementine and cut the segments in thirds or so. Pop out any seeds and throw them (the fruit segments, that is, not the seeds) into the bowl.

Peel at least two beautiful, large, luscious mangos. More if they are relatively small, like the lovely yellow Mexican kind. You might want most of the Costco case for that sort. Cut them into small cubes where you can and squooge out the remaining pulp with your knife. Toss it all into the bowl with the clementines.

Put in a suitable amount of red fruit, preferably sweet cherries (pitted and chopped) or raspberries. Probably at this time of year either of these will be frozen, and that’s just fine. (In case you’re wondering, what is a “suitable” amount of red fruit depends a good deal on how much of the orange fruit you have and whether you want the dish to be faintly tinged with a rosy blush or unashamedly pink. I can’t make that decision for you.)

Chop up about 1/4 of a cup of crystallized ginger and toss it into the mix.  Put more if you’re really fond of ginger.

Now comes the embarrassing part. Traditionally an ambrosia will have miniature marshmallows in it. Actually they do add a lot in terms of creaminess. And to be honest a traditional ambrosia would be made with canned mandarin orange slices and canned pineapple. And possibly canned fruit cocktail as well. And almost certainly Cool Whip. However, we won’t speak of such things…

But to return to the recipe, use marshmallows or not as you like. (You could assuage any foodie conscience you might have by making them yourself, or getting them from a proper French patisserie.) If you use the usual sort, you want at least half of one of those small bags. Most likely more, depending on how generous you’ve been with the fruit proportions.

Now for the denouement:

Beat a half pint of whipping cream until quite robust but not actually butter. Don’t add sugar, as the fruit and marshmallows and all that are quite sweet enough. Fold it into the bowl full of fruit and so on, along with a cup of sour cream. If it doesn’t seem like enough sauce, whip some more cream. Surely you didn’t buy just half a pint for a day like this, did you? Stick it in the fridge.

If you are using marshmallows it should sit at least several hours for the marshmallows to sort of melt into their surroundings. If not, suit yourself. It should at least get completely cool. But at any rate, save the crunchy stuff (coconut and nuts) to sprinkle on the top. It’s nicer when it doesn’t get soggy.

Enjoy. Unfortunately, it may well be way better than the game.

7 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Lovely recipes. Too bad about the shrimp though. I haven’t been able to eat them without guilt since I took my Environmental Studies core course.

    My comfort foods tend to be less nutritious. i.e. carmelized onions (good so far) with pan fried hot dogs (much worse) in a sauce made of tinned tomato soup and pepper. Served with either noodles or rice.

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  • We’ve started to have parties to watch games every couple of weeks when the games look good. We’re a mixed crowd in all ways–age, color, gender, and most importantly fandom. A few Steeler fans but more Seahawk, 49er (both vintage Montana fans and new ones) and Panther fans. Until last week, the Steeler fans were having a comparatively good season. But we’ve all decided it’s a lot more fun to lose when you’re with a few people who share your misery, a few people who gloat and a lot of good food. The 49er fans have ceded the television screens to us Steeler fans this week and we’re first up for the 1 p.m game here in the Northwest and it’s a relatively beautiful day so far. All good signs and prime grilling hours.

    So we’re having Santa Maria tri-tips on the grill, black bean burgers for the vegans, buffalo cauliflower and cukes via Lucky Peach with garlic confit stirred into Frank’s Red Hot but most importantly a Magic Cake. Google it. We’ve had one every week. The chocolate didn’t help Cam Newton but the Nutella seemed to inspire the Seahawks, so this week we’re going all out (or all in, depending on your age) with the apple cider reduction cake and the creme fraiche icing.

    That onion soup sounds delicious and I think it’s going to wander onto a menu soon.

    By the way, my mother grew horseradish and my dad ground it up, with much weeping, every Christmas season using a hand-crank grinder. We ate it with kielbasa from a secret grocery store in New Castle, PA, the location of which my dad wouldn’t reveal to anyone. (the grocery store, you can find New Castle on any map! And it’s worth it for the hot dogs. Big Ben likes them too.) He’d disappear for hours and return with Coney Island hotdogs and ten pounds of kielbasa that he shared only with those he loved most.

    I’m with Gerry Dulac on this one. Go Steelers!

    Earthling

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    • Good for your parents! Integrity is not dead in New Castle, I take it…I’d love to see a recipe for the apple cider reduction cake et al. Can it be found online?

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      • I don’t know about integrity in New Castle. I think at one point in the eighties the mayor was selling cocaine out of his office, and he was considered one of the more honest mayors they’d ever had. but the food there was great, at least 20 years or so ago. We lived about an hour away and made trips there in search of Lebanese lamb dishes, those already mentioned hot dogs with chili, and quarts of wedding soup sold by church ladies. And my dad had that kielbasa connection. I would love to know if it ‘s still a weird little Mecca of wonderful food.

        I tried to provide a link to the apple cider cake but it didn’t happen. Just google “Magic cake apple cider” 🙂 and you’ll find it. A Tasting Table recipe. Ours didn’t look so great–it was my first time using a stand mixer as everyone else ran outside to play soccer and I was left to figure it out. I’ve never whipped egg whites before. Beaten egg whites? What a shock! It was like handfuls of thick hard foam. I really didn’t know it was possible to turn egg whites into something like that. I’m not sure it was supposed to be that hard. Unlike the cake in the video that came with the recipe, ours came out of the oven huge and puffy and a little brown around the edges, but it tasted wonderful. On the other hand, as you may have guessed from my shock at the egg whites, baking is completely new to me, so I may have very low standards.

        In the above ambrosia recipe, did you whip the cream by hand? Or use this mysterious stand mixer? I may use it every day now. It’s been on the kitchen counter for years and I’ve never understood what could be done with it.

        Earthling

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  • Right before the game this week I made, for my comfort food, a breadless roasted chestnut stuffing as a test run for Thanksgiving. I also had a ribeye and some green beans with a lemon-Dijon dressing. The stuffing turned out very tasty. I just wish today’s game left as pleasant an aftertaste in my mouth. Unlike last week’s game which left me quite sour and bitter for a couple of days…

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  • I’m deeply impressed with anyone who has a test run for Thanksgiving. I also don’t know where one gets chestnuts, although I’m assuming they come from chestnut trees. (something begins: under the spreading chestnut tree…)Are you using an old or traditional recipe? For some reason, chestnuts sound very Victorian to me and after that I’m stumped.

    As for a game day aftertaste, I was so relieved that today wasn’t a disaster and Brady looked so peevish, that it almost felt like we’d done well. I think I’m just glad it’s over.

    Earthling–who really does need to make an account

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    • My recipe was inspired by an old song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…), and was a combination of a recipe of my grandmother’s that included bread, an online recipe that I relied on my memory for making this time, and variations added by me (myself?).

      Chestnuts are also known as buckeyes. The trees used to be quite common in the US until disease wiped most of them out. There apparently was a chestnut tree at the bottom of the hill where I grew up – Bethel Park. The nut was surrounded by a bright green spiky pod so when I was a young lad, for reasons unbeknownst to me, we called them monkey balls.

      My grandmother’s recipe came from a ‘magic’ recipe box I have of hers that also included some recipes that my mother sent her, along with recipes from her older sister and her mother. This recipe was fairly recent, only 50 or 60 years old, and included instructions on how to dry bread cubes from a loaf in an a fridge overnight, lol. I use the word recent because my grandmother was born in 1900.

      One of my favorite seasonal recipes from the recipe box is for sugarplums, which despite what you read in Wikipedia and elsewhere online, are made from whole dried plums. The first instruction is to marinate them overnight in sherry in order to plump them up! You gotta love recipes from way back when… I’ve never made that one.

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