As Webster’s defines it, “comfort food” is food “that is satisfying because it is prepared in a simple or traditional way and reminds you of home, family, or
friends, prepared in a
traditional style having
a usually nostalgic or
As we define it, comfort
food can easily come from
one-pot meals, commonly
called stews. Stews have
been made since ancient
times. Herodotus says that
the Scythians (8th to 4th
centuries B.C.) “put the
flesh into an animal’s paunch, mix water with it,
and boil it like that over
the bone fire. The bones burn very well, and the paunch easily contains all the meat once it has been stripped off. In this way an ox, or any other sacrificial beast, is ingeniously made to boil itself.”
From soups, gumbos, chili, paella, and lasagna to stews, one-pot meals and comfort food seem
to go together. The following meals live up to both promises with added bonuses of being easy to make, easy to clean up, easy to freeze, and easy
on the go, not to mention a perfect weekly meal plan solution—just add a salad and a great loaf of bread and you are good to go.
CREAMY VEGETABLE RISOTTO with CHEESE
SERVES 6 AS FIRST COURSE | 4 AS MAIN SERVING
3⁄4 ounce (1 cup) dried morels, porcini, or shiitake mushrooms
3 cups warm water
61⁄2 cups fresh chicken stock or purchased
low-sodium broth (Substitute vegetable stock for the chicken and this becomes a vegetarian entrée.)
- 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1⁄2 small onion, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
- 2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano, with extra for serving
1⁄2 cup frozen baby peas
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
- Soak dried mushrooms in warm water for
30 minutes to soften. Stir mushrooms in soaking water to dislodge grit, lift from water, squeezing out excess. Strain soaking water through coffee filter to remove grit and retain. Pat mushrooms dry with paper towels.
Cut crosswise into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices.
- Bring stock and mushroom water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Add green beans and cook, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer beans to a large bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking, then drain and pat dry. Keep remaining stock on a low simmer.
- Heat oil and butter in a 5or 6-quart
heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion
and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook,
stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring constantly until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1⁄2 cup hot stock mixture and simmer briskly, stirring constantly until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth mixture 1⁄2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and creamy looking—18–22 minutes. (There will be leftover stock; reserve for thinning risotto.)
- Stir in mushrooms, beans, cheese, peas, lemon zest, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Continue stirring until vegetables are heated through and cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Thin risotto, if necessary, with leftover stock to desired consistency and check seasoning. Divide among shallow bowls and top with a sprinkle of chives.
CITRUS MARINATED CHICKEN with SAFFRON RICE
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN
- 1 3 and 1⁄2-to 4-pound chicken, rinsed,
patted dry, and cut into 8 serving pieces
- 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- Juice of one fresh orange
- Juice of one fresh lime
11⁄2 teaspoons salt
3⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 pound onions, chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, sliced
- 1⁄4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
1 1⁄2 cups water
2 cups long-grain white rice
1⁄2 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
1⁄2 cup small pimiento-stuffed green olives
1⁄4 cup drained chopped pimientos, rinsed
TO PREPARE THE CHICKEN
- Puree garlic with orange juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. Put chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour puree over them, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Transfer chicken to paper towels, letting excess marinade drip back into bowl, and pat dry. Reserve marinade.
- Heat oil and butter in a 6 or 7-quart wide heavy pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Brown chicken in 2 or 3 batches, without crowding, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate; reserve fat in pot.
FINISH AND BAKE ARROZ CON POLLO
- Put rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
- Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic to fat in pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits, until vegetables are tender,
5 to 7 minutes.
- Simmer wine and saffron over low heat in a small skillet until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add cumin and salt to vegetables and cook over moderate heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add saffron mixture, bay leaf, tomatoes with juice, stock, water,
and reserved marinade and bring to a boil. Add chicken, skin side up, and simmer gently, covered, over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in rice, arranging chicken in one
layer, skin side up, and return to simmer.
- Cover pot tightly, transfer to oven, and bake until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
- Scatter peas, olives, and pimientos over rice and chicken (do not stir). Cover pot with a kitchen towel and let stand until peas are heated through and any remaining liquid is absorbed by rice, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
FIRESIDE BEEF STEW with RED WINE
1 tablespoon oil
1⁄2 onion or 2 shallots, chopped
3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 1⁄2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 11⁄2-inch pieces, patted dry
1⁄4 cup flour
1 1⁄2 cups hot beef or chicken stock
1 1⁄2 cups dry red wine
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound red bliss potatoes, quartered lengthwise
8 ounces carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces mushrooms, quartered
- In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove them and set aside; leave fat in pan.
- Add beef and brown on all sides (work in two batches if needed to avoid crowding).
- Sprinkle browned beef with flour; stir until browned and add stock. Stir, scraping bottom of pan, then add reserved bacon and onions, the wine, and bouquet garni. Season with pepper.
- Simmer very gently for 1 hour. Add potatoes and carrots and simmer 1 more hour.
- Add mushrooms and cook 30 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and serve.
Stew is even better reheated and served next day.
Image Credits: Photo courtesy Shutterstock