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28 October 2009

fall comfort food

autumn comfort foods

The leaves on the tree outside this window are the sultry red that teenage girls dream of wearing on their lips when they are grown and sophisticated. (And then, if you're like me, you realize that this red looks garish on lips, and is certain to smudge off as fast as the leaves are falling right now.)

Not only has Delicata squash arrived at the farm stands, but we almost have eaten our share. The brussels sprouts that seemed so out of place in September, at Frank's produce stand at the Market, are looking quite normal now. (And I have to say that this Mark Bittman recipe for sprouts, bacon, and figs is looking pretty enticing to me.) And most mornings, I seem to want rice, or grits, or some warm grain, topped with a poached egg.

It's definitively fall now.

This morning, rain drizzled down the window. My breath remained in the air when I ventured outside for the newspaper. The oven begged to be turned on.

Time to bake. Time to slow simmer, to braise. Time for comfort food.

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight, I put out the question on Twitter: What is the one dish you make that tastes the most like home?

The answers moved me so deeply that I'd like to share them with you.

@MrsNiddyNoddy Shepherd's pie. With cabbage.

@grubreport Lamb chops and baked potatoes. It was my requested birthday meal as a kid.

@neversent Roast chicken & potatoes. Ham & cabbage, which my Ukrainian grandma served every new year, believing it brought good luck.

@LORIVE Arroz con Pollo!

@SaltySpoon Garlic herb hearth bread - we call it boyfriend bread b/c it turned my now-DH from friend to bf. The smell is heaven/home.

@sammeem Roast chicken with lemon and oregano.

@CarolBlymire Beef shortribs, veal stock, chard, kale, carrots, onion, leeks, fingerlings, limas or zucchini.

@CarolBlymire Sometimes, I throw sausage in there, too. It's a clean out the fridge and freezer soup. Always different. Always perfect.

@artandlemons eggs and toast, simple yet full of so many possibilitites!

@sarahmcarter chkn soup from scratch.the smell of homemade stock, simmering for hrs, reminds me of all my favorite things about being home

@apronthriftgirl something my dad used to call rice fry. it consists of breakfast pork, green onions and brown rice mixed together. heavenly.

@andreajwalker roast turkey with gravy and potatoes and stuffing and green bean casserole (wait, I guess thats a whole meal)

@hungrygrrl no contest, chicken soup, chicken soup with rice.

@ jkwseattle a plate of beans with pepper sauce, cornbread, and a wedge of onion.

@mysocalledwendy Coffee cake.

@DJPegLeg Dumplings and wontons with homemade wrappers. Every Sunday my family would gather in the kitchen and make them.

@lofeisty My mom's almond poppyseed bread. Haven't made it since I went wheat-free ... but it's home. And the holidays.

@MarriedWDinner my mom's meatloaf or the infamous "[not] spam & eggs"

@cooklocal A very simple fried egg. Fried in butter with @secretstashsalt. Is what I make for myself when home alone.

@JosieLynne scrambled eggs. cheese. toast. It's totally basic and completely comforting.

@sevenspoons dal and rice, masala dosa, scrambled eggs with cilantro, onions and chilies. Really good, strong tea. (not all at once)

@embedded_guy Grits and grillades

@marthasnail my mom's baked macaroni and cheese.

@jenniferGFinGA Tuna Noodle Casserole!

@sandmuffin probably crawfish etouffée- my mom would always make it when I'd come home for a break from college!

@hungrybruno My default meal: sauteed greens, topped with crispy taters & a fried egg. Sometimes with bacon, always comforting.

@Adana Lentil soup over jasmine rice. It's one of the first things I made for my husband.

@engineerbaker Chili & cornbread - chile from the Silver Palate, and my great grandma's cornbread - northern & sweet!

@HeroBeth Avgolemeno Soup (Greek chicken lemon rice soup) from my YiaYia's recipe.

@licorous thick delicious beef chili, i may need to start some right now:)

@SweetTartelette My grandma's "riz au lait" (rice pudding) and her lemon yogurt cake.

@TailRoaster - two things: Roasted chicken; Biscuits and sausage gravy

@kelleil Easy, chili colorado with frijoles

@LisaKennelly Chocolate chip cookies. Double the chocolate chips.

@eddybles creamy chicken soup with dill dumplings and parsnips

@ScoopAdventurer My mom's's the only thing I can make that tastes exactly like her version and like home

@lornayee a coffee chiffon cake, the 1st cake I learned how to bake, and have made several hundred times over the years.

@chloerbass Funny, I'm on a similar train of thought today. Mine is either Caribbean pigeon peas & rice or pasta with pesto & peas.

@foodshots Shepherd's Pie - without a doubt!

@CannelleVanille for me it's gotta be either lentil soup with chorizo and chard or tortilla de patatas. Or arroz con leche. So many & all gf!

@naturallyfrugal Beef stew. The smell alone makes me think of my parents & cold rainy days on the Island.

@kickpleat That would have to be tuna melts!

@cynnims It's a little obvious I suppose, but roasted chicken. It's on the menu tonight, first dinner at home in a week.

@Hedonia Pasta with red sauce, basta.

@MarcSeattle really really really bitter coffee. :)

@Coriantura Either butter scotch pudding, or chili, both homemade. Can't make up my mind

@valenvitols @glutenfreegirl you know the answer in my case...arepas! :-D

Hungry yet?

What I loved, besides the fact that dozens and dozens of people shared their dishes, is that they were all different from each other. (Hm. Two votes for Shepherd's pie. I might have to work on that one soon.) If we were lucky enough to have parents who cooked decently, we love the meals our mother made us.

(I wonder what will be Little Bean's comfort food when she's older.)

Really, these all have to do with family.

This struck me especially hard today because I had just finished reading this moving piece about Thomas Keller in The New York Times when people's answers came pouring in. Thomas Keller, who is known for being a perfectionist genius, softened when he began cooking for his aging father.

After reading this (please, do), I hope you call your dad.

And then tell us about your food that tastes like home.


At 4:26 PM, Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

Aw, I wish I could call my dad. I miss him so...

And he loved both of the dishes I mentioned. I definitely got my foodie genes from him!

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous marcella said...

I love, love, love these more frequents postings! Something good to look forward to reading. For comfort food I love anything that takes time - soups and stews that slowly simmer, bread that rises away during the day for later baking, pot roast that cooks to be meltingly tender.

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Calli said...

Ooh, I missed this today. Shoot.

My favorite is my dad's clam chowder. He only makes it for New Years day. Roasted vegetables, bacon, and chunky-soft potatoes.

OR my late grandfather's breakfast burrito mix. Eggs, sausage, potatoes, tucked in a corn tortilla with some cheese and salsa.

Mmm so glad I just ate dinner, or else I would be very hungry.

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

My grandmother's (and mother's) "danish pastry" for holidays and special occasions. It and a cup of coffee take me home and back to about age 5.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger gfe--gluten free easily said...

That was a very moving piece. I just came from visiting my dad (and mom), so all is good there. :-)

Comfort food ... mom's mashed potatoes. Preferably topped with peas. Always fun to read what everyone else says.

Love your new look and the addition of The Chef to the header, etc. When I saw it, I chuckled to myself and thought, yep, she's going to keep him. LOL Like there was any doubt by any of us!

Last, thanks so very much for including me in your links of gluten-free blogs--I truly appreciate it.


At 5:24 PM, Blogger maybelle's mom said...

Wonderful wonderful post. I love reading these responses.

i saw your question on twitter but didn't reply b/c my answer was a little long. i have a baby and during that difficult pregnancy, the only things i could eat were dal and rice and buttermilk. i was barely gaining weight, sick all the time...and my husband learned from my mom how to make this. if asked before this experience what my comfort food was, i don't know that I would have been able to answer. Now, I can clearly tell you--after all that was comfort and really the only way I made it through. (Sorry for the long comment.)

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Jessica said...

My dad is my favorite person in the world. Done. :)

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous beyond said...

"Hungry yet?" yes i am hungry, on a cleansing fast and hungry. my own fault, i'm perfectly fine until i look at my favorite foodie blogs.
raclette! with all the trimmings and white wine, with the whole family sitting around the table.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger Sally Anderson said...

I've nothing of substance (or sustenance) but I wonder this about your blog: it now has you (me) click to continue reading, but today when I clicked there was nothing more to read and the last post there was only one line. Why is this happening? Can you fix it? I hope so!!

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Jaime said... meme's chourizo and red potatoes. I live in her house now, and whenever I make it I feel like she's in the kitchen cooking with me.
I still yearn for my dad's crepes and doughboys, and the comfort food my mama always made me when I needed cheering up breaded chicken cutlets with sweet and sour, served with boxed mac and cheese. My mom is one of the greatest cooks I've ever known, but this silly staple could always get me out of a funk.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Engineer Baker said...

Yay! I love seeing everyone's comfort foods - and seriously, if you haven't made the Silver Palate's chili, you should. It's my dad's go-to dish to serve to students when they come over to go through papers, and it's always a hit. And since baking scares him, my mom was always in there, making the cornbread to go with - large wedges of it were necessary, of course.

I'm really enjoying hearing from you over here more often - I know the "voice" is different between here and other places, but it's just very relaxing to listen to and think about what you write here.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Kelly said...

I'm with Andrea Walker on the green bean casserole. Nothing was ever wrong in the world for the few minutes it took to eat green bean casserole. Just goodness :-)

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad tought me to cook and I have his this and that style. :) I cant tell you all my faverite foods but when I feel really bad I crave raspberry sherbert and some broccali soup. My dad used to give me theese when I was little and constantly sick. Stuck in bed with rampent fevers. Now just befor my 29th birthday we know now its always been cealiacs desease.

At 3:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Odetta - Makes me glad that I'm going to celebrate my dad's birthday with him this weekend. Me, my hubby and son, my mom and my dad at his favorite sushi restaurant. My brother lives in NYC and won't be there but we'll conjure him up with loving words! Great post - thanks!

At 5:32 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

Keller's story gives hope to those of us who don't have a relationship with a father for any number of reasons. I am one of them. Should I be tolerant of his homophobia, he is 78. There were better times growing up and I do remember his homemade pizza every Friday evening, no so much as comfort food but just fun. My mother made a wild rice chicken casserole that screams fall comfort food which I love to make, chicken simmered in creamy wild rice with chunks of ham and beefy mushrooms spooned over mashed potatoes. Very Minnesota, very fall comfort food, maybe a little church basement.

At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Sho said...

My favorite comfort foods are chicken soup (with matzo balls that I have not had for four and a half years,) potato kugel, chopped liver, pot roast (from deckel,) halvah, latkes, roast turkey (with white wine) and farfel stuffing (and I have not had farfel in four and a half years--farfel is crushed matzo--not matzo meal.)

BTW, is there a way to poach an egg without taking 45 minutes? I wonder what I am doing wrong.

Take care,


At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

Everything about this lovely post inspires grateful hunger. And, what a treat it is to read all of the Twitter responses.

One of my comfort meals is my mom’s roasted chicken and potatoes. As soon as I walk in the door of her house and catch a whiff, I know I’m home.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Allison the Meep said...

I loved reading all the food favorites.

And L.B. is the luckiest kid ever to grow up in a household with two parents who love food as much as you do. So many little kids are raised on fast food or some filth from a box, and she's already had an amazing introduction to what real, good food is.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Lauren said...

Love all of the responses! Everything sounds delicious - its so fun to see what comforts others as no two people have the same set =D.

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So many of those dishes sounded so comforting and homey. But the one that sprang to mind for me was a breakfast dish called (at our house) Egg-in-the-hole. Which must be topped with a homemade cheese bechamel sauce.

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Kylie of Thin Crust, Deep Dish said...

I love this post. These is so much food that I find comforting, but it's usually something warm. Probably the thing I remember most from when I had a cold in childhood was grilled cheese and canned tomato soup.

I love getting to read your updates more often. So happy you're around here more these days.

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Missed the tweet, but favorite fall food is pumpkin custard with or without the pie.
But the favorite candy is a bit more complex.
Round my house growing up Halloween was a production of butterscotch.
My mom actually made our Halloween candy for decades!
Each perfect disc was wrapped in waxed paper.
I had teachers who demanded a piece each year since my older siblings had always brought some in.
I think I have to do a post on the process.

Loved Thomas Kellers piece in the Times. It represented to me the grace of giving to our elders. Just wish I could actually talk with my dad, but he passed in '95.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger anca gray said...

you are so right! it is all about the family. the most comforting foods of my childhood: buttered toast w/ mint tea my mom would always make when my brother and i were sick. her chicken soup with dumplings. my dad's mashed potatoes (the only thing he ever cooks) they are perfection. my mom's roasted garlic and butter sauce (straight up with mashed potatoes). and the thai style red coconut curry with chicken, bamboo shoots and kale that my husband and i discovered together.

thank you for this post. comforting and inspiring.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Deanna said...

Anything braised... especially oxtails. Heaven on a plate. And risotto. Not necessarily together.

When I was away at school I lived for the monkey danish. Best danish I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

That was a great story. I would like to call my dad. Forgiveness is peace.

My dad was part of a dying bread of true cowboys. So was his cooking. When he was in the kitchen (or cooking for us around the campfire) it was sure to be greasy and hearty. However, my favorite to this day was his peanut butter and butter sandwiches. He even let me eat them with a homemade ice cream shake. I was in saturated fatty heaven.

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Ilene said...

My mom isn't much of a cook, but her root vegetable beef stew is homey and delicious. Parsnips, turnips and rutabegas? Mmmm. My husband and I made it our own by adding kale and squash to her recipe. He often tries to talk me into leaving out the rutabegas (mostly because they look the same as turnips and it's just too much . . . does he buy the orange or the white one?), but I make sure they make the cut, so to speak. (They're the orange ones.)

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous LifewayKefir said...

For me, home is this dish my mom concocted called, quite creatively, Beef and Rice. I think it incolved four ingredients, including steak, beef broth, terriyaki sauce and white rice. Not the healthiest thing I've ever heard of but she'd make it when we were sick, healthy, in the winter or summer, we just clamored for it and it was always there when we needed it.

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Rosemary said...

I definitely got my love for exotic food from my father. My mother is the comfort food, my favorite being homemade chicken pot pie. I'm hoping she'll teach me this year for my birthday. And in regards to brussel sprouts, my favorite way to prepare them is split them in half, sear them face down in a bit of oil, surrounded by thinly sliced onions & garlic. Once browned, I add a touch of water and cover to steam them till barely soft. Mmmmm.....

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Gabriella said...

I love, love, love my pressure cooker and make all sorts of delicious and quick delights almost every day (all gluten free for me). One of my favorites is chicken risotto made in 12 minutes. Or pork ribs with savoy cabbage made in 18 minutes....and the meat just falls off the bone. Yum!!!

At 1:51 PM, Blogger Andrea said...

The food that most reminds me of home is my mother's oatmeal-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies. Which translate rather well to gluten-free, I might add. What a nice post for the start of the weekend. I might have to go make those cookies.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Irina said...

Hi Shauna,

I've been enjoying your blog for a while but have never commented - until now! Let's see, the food that reminds me most of home... probably open-faced grilled (or, rather, baked) cheese sandwiches that my dad used to make for breakfast on the weekends when my sister and I were little. He made them with Russian white bread (a dense oval-shaped loaf with a golden crust and just a tiny hint of sweetness) and put a little butter under each cheese-topped bread slice. That butter made them extra tasty!

At 12:48 AM, Anonymous D. @ Outside Oslo said...

I've spent the past several years trying to develop my own cooking style and compile my own repertoire of favorite recipes, but recently I've been trying to capture some family recipes--before it's too late.

My 93-year-old grandmother passed away this summer, and I realize that I have only a few of her recipes. I don't know how she made the delicious raspberry jam I grew up eating, or how she made those delicious little Scandinavian butter cookies pressed with fork tines. How sad!

In just a couple weeks my other grandma is going to give me a lesson in making lefse. I feel so happy to be able to have this opportunity to spend precious time with her, and to be able to carry on a family tradition.

At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Sho said...


One of my fave blogs for comfort foods is "Mennonite Girls Can Cook." They have a gluten free section in there because one of the contributors is GF. At any rate, I was looking at their bread recipe.

The writer said that her non-GF friends loved it and that it even reminded someone of their mom's (non-GF) bread. She said her trick was adding white bean flour.

Here is the url if anyone is interested:

I wonder what you and Danny would think of this bread. After all, I do consider you both to be authorities on this. I really need to get my lazy-self out and buy a good "cheap" new mixer that will suffice. Then I could try the recipe myself.

Take care,


At 5:53 PM, Anonymous smallbluebird said...

Dad, who didn't cook until after Mom died, made a great roasted chicken and fabulous corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. Mom's best comfort food was stuffed bell peppers or stuffed cabbage, always better the next day. But her fried chicken with mashed potatoes and speckled gravy was unbeatable and still reminds me of Sunday afternoons.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger ballast photography said...

Beautifully written, as usual (I just love your opening paragraph!)And that collage at the top? Simply stunning.

I adore soups of all kinds in the fall. My favorites are minestrone and butternut squash.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Angela said...

I am enjoying a major spoon full of baked grits for breakfast. A definite comfort food when I was growing up. And I do believe that grits is gluten free, too! I just follow the box for making grits, let it cool a bit, throw in an egg, seasonings - my favorite is dried dill or thyme. A chunk of butter and mix. You can add chopped whatever to it as well. Then I spoon into a well greased baking dish or ramekins. Bake at 325 till you stick a toothpick in and it comes up clean - just like a quiche, really. Enjoy!

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Shuku said...

I miss autumn. Here, in the tropics, it's summer 365 days a year except when it cools down enough from rain. But there are still some days when there's a strong wind blowing and dry leaves dancing in the air, enough to transport me back to university in Virginia Beach.

My favourite autumn food remains a simplified cassoulet I found in Real Simple many years ago. Gluten-free, absolutely warming and so comforting.

My father and I just went grocery shopping for my gluten-free flours and supplies since I finally have an oven now to bake. He cooks wonderfully, and after reading that article on Thomas Keller's father, I don't want to take any moment with my own father for granted.

It's faux-autumn here, cooler tonight thanks to the monsoon rain - and my favourite food is your gluten-free brownies which I have just put into the fridge. I'm almost crying now, because it has been five years since I've eaten -any- baked goods that were safe for me.

Thank you so much. For this lovely post, and for your recipes, and for the good memories they bring back.

At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Nurit - familyfriendlyfood said...

Thank you for sharing this link. I love reading stories like that one.
My father also left to start a new life for himself when I was too young to remember. 30 years later, we reconnected. It took about 7 years for our relationship to feel good, and then he got sick and died a few months ago.
Sadly, I found out that a bridge built over 30 years is fragile, and while it can be done, there’s so much nothingness under it. It’s not possible to compensate for all those lost years of not having the parent-child relationship that a child need so much.
I admire Keller for taking care of his father is such way. Is he a father himself?

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous kristi @ sproutsinthekitchen said...

delicata, Delicata, DELICATA. I didn't even know it existed until about a year ago. Now I can't get enough of the stuff.

I'm just finishing your book, and I have to tell you that you are responsible for my long meander through the Ballard Farmer's market last weekend, where I bought chanterelles for the first time, and roasted them tonight with shallots and fingerling potatoes, and served them along with your salmon with blackberry sauce. And this was a WEEKNIGHT meal. And I have TWO KIDS under FOUR. Crazy.

Just typing those last few food words makes me feel like such a food snob when I think back on the food I grew up on (I'm starting to wonder if you and I shared the same house and just never bumped into one another). But I know, I know that I can let go of that and just appreciate the bount, variety and goodness of what's on my plate today.

Thank you Shauna!

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Bill Medifast said...

I love the fall food options. It always seems to triple in deliciousness. I love fall even though it is the opening to winter, but there is a lot of comfort foods that really do make it worth while.

Thanks for the excellent post.

Bill M.


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