So, what exactly is comfort food? Is it fattening delicious food that sticks to your ribs (and everywhere else) leaving you sitting on the sofa in a wonderful food coma? Is it food that conjures up warm childhood memories of Sunday night dinners in Mom’s kitchen while the snowflakes fall to the ground? Quite possibly both.
I kiddingly crown my husband, Steve, the Comfort Food King. Meatloaf, fried bologna sandwiches, anything covered with melted Velveeta cheese, fried chicken with mashed potatoes, and beef jerky are among his faves. Oh…and pies, and cookies, and don’t forget the layered jello mold! He does, however, eat pretty healthy for the most part.
It is interesting to hear other’s definition of comfort food. The topic of conversation during various parts of my step class typically ranges from food to shopping. During our cool down the other day, comfort food was the topic. Lisa, who recently moved here from England, had never heard of meatloaf or fried bologna sandwiches, but she was quick to recommend macaroni and cheese which we all hummed with approval. Gina and Barb showed deference to the bologna sandwiches, and Gina chimed in with her Italian ancestry voted for pasta. Barb offered a grilled muenster cheese sandwich with tomato soup. All the ladies agreed that comfort food is actually just that; ‘feel good food.’
Recently, Steve and I attended a friend’s comfort food dinner party. Each guest was asked to bring a comfort food dish. The variety was an interesting range of everything from beef short ribs with polenta to chicken noodle soup. I came to the conclusion, after my quite unscientific study of comfort food, that it is personal.
Today, I have a distinct inner conflict about dinner as I watch the snowflakes fall at the very beginning of spring. Do I look forward to the coming of summer and my commitment to try to fit into last summer’s clothes by exploring dinner salad recipes or say screw it and make a delicious cheese stuffed meatloaf with mashed potatoes worry about the clothes later..? The meatloaf wins as well as some other comfort food faves to add to the list as well as two wonderful pot pies; seafood & chicken. Check these out….
MOZZARELLA STUFFED MEATLOAF
Flavorful ground beef stuffed with ooey gooey mozzarella cheese.
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound ground beef (85%)
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup milk
2 TB worcestershire sauce
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 TB worcestershire sauce
1 TB red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
⅛ tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper
LET’S MAKE ITI
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a glass baking pan (9×13) with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef, bread crumbs, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, milk, and worcestershire sauce.
- Divide meat in half. Shape one half of the meat into the bottom half of the loaf and place in prepared pan.
- Place mozzarella slices down the center, leaving ½ inch around the ends and sides.
- Shape remaining half of meat as the top half of the loaf, sealing the edges. This is a free-form loaf so it doesn’t need to be perfect.
- In a small mixing bowl whisk together ketchup, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour half of this mixture over the meatloaf, reserving the remaining half for later.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, remove from oven and pour the remaining sauce over the loaf.Increase temperature to 400 degrees and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
- Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
SEAFOOD POT PIE with PUFF PASTY
FOR THE BROTH
- 2 lobster tails (5–6 oz. each)
- 3 oz. large shrimp
- 1/2 cup russet potato, peeled, diced 1/4 cup carrot, diced
FOR THE FILLING
SWEAT IN 2 T. UNSALTED BUTTER
- 1/4 cup leeks, diced
- 1 t. garlic, minced
- T. all-purpose flour
DEGLAZE WITH; ADD:
- 2 T. dry sherry
- 1/2 cup reserved seafood broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup frozen peas
REMOVE FROM HEAT AND STIR IN:
- Reserved seafood and vegetables
- 2 oz. lump crab meat
- 1 t. fresh lemon juice
- 1 t. chopped fresh chives
- 1 t. chopped fresh tarragon
- Salt, white pepper, and cayenne to taste
FOR THE PASTRY TOP
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed 1 egg, lightly beaten with
- 1 T. water
- Preheat oven to 425°; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Prepare lobster tails, cutting both sides of the shell (not the meat) down to the fan. Remove meat, reserving shells for broth. Peel and devein shrimp, then halve lengthwise; reserve meat and shells.
- Combine seafood shells, potato, and carrot in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer until vegetables are fork tender, 10–15 minutes. Drain, reserving vegetables and 1/2 cup broth; discard shells and remaining broth.
- Sweat leeks and garlic in butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until leeks are translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Deglaze with sherry. Add reserved broth, whisking until smooth and thickened; stir in cream and peas.
- Off heat, stir in reserved seafood and vegetables, crab, lemon juice, herbs, and seasonings. Mixture will be very thick.
- Prepare puff pastry, rolling out on a floured surface to 1/8″ thick. Trim around a 21/2-cup ovenproof dish so the pastry is 3/4″ larger than the diameter of the dish.
- Cut vents in the pastry with a knife so steam can escape. Transfer filling to the dish and top with the pastry piece. Trim excess pastry, crimp edges, then brush dough with egg wash.
- Bake pot pie on the prepared baking sheet until top is golden and filling is bubbly, 20–25 minutes.
TURKEY POT PIE with PHYLLO CRUST
Makes 4 servings
- 8 oz.cremini or button mushrooms, quartered
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
- 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flouR
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- Salt, black pepper, and dry
- sherry to taste
- 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed and patted dry
- 1/2 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed and patted dry
- 4 Tbsp. each unsalted butter and olive oil
- 16 sheets phyllo dough, thawed to room temperatureMAKE IT!
- Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Cook mushrooms and thyme in 6 Tbsp. butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until browned and liquid nearly evaporates, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute.
- Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup sherry; cook until nearly evaporated. Whisk in broth and milk; cook until thickened to desired consistency, 10–12 minutes.
- Add lemon juice; season with salt, pepper, and sherry.
- Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl. Stir in turkey, mixed vegetables, and onions.
- Divide mixture among four baking dishes arranged on prepared baking sheet.
- Heat 4 Tbsp. butter with oil in microwave until butter melts. Place a phyllo sheet on a flat surface; cover remaining sheets with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.
- Lightly brush phyllo sheet with butter-oil mixture; roll into a loose tube. Repeat brushing and rolling with 3 more phyllo sheets, then starting at outer edge, place 4 phyllo tubes end to end in a spiral pattern on top of filling. Repeat phyllo steps for each pot pie. Drizzle any remaining butter- oil mixture over phyllo or coat with nonstick spray.
- Bake pies until crust is golden and filling is bubbly, about
20 minutes. Let pies cool 5–10 minutes before serving.
Depending upon the width of your dishes, the number of phyllo sheets needed may vary by one or two.