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Recipes and Stories

5 February 2021: An Old Favorite Revisited

Broccoli, Bacon, and Potato Soup

 

The older I get, the simpler my cooking seems to become. Whether it's because our aging palates develop at taste for simpler flavors or we just get lazy is a toss up, but the change has been so gradual that it might've gone unnoticed had it not been for the pandemic.

 

Through this time of isolation, our comfort favorites have been repeated over and over, and I've begun to notice how they've gotten simpler, both in their composition and execution. And it's had its merits. Stripping away extraneous layers, steps, and ingredients has made for cleaner, more direct flavors, not to mention a whole lot less fuss. Read More 

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10 November 2020: My Grandmother's Chicken and Dumplings, Revisited

My Grandmother's ("MaMa's") Chicken and Dumplings

The lingering isolation and economic uncertainty of the pandemic have been difficult enough for all of us. But add in a contentious national election and our need for Comfort with a capital C has hit an all-time high.

 

And when we're craving that comfort, nothing quite satisfies like those things that comforted us as children. For me, the ultimate such comfort is my grandmother's dumplings, not just eating them, but the process of making them as well.

 

Throughout my childhood, MaMa was my best friend.  Read More 

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5 June 2020: The Comforts of Poached Eggs

Uova alla fiorentina, or Eggs Florentine-style

 

Many of us have been indulging ourselves a lot through the pandemic period of quarantine with favorite comfort foods, paying scant attention to saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and other alimentary bad-boys that make eating as worthwhile as they make it dangerous. But it shouldn't follow that the only comfort food is something that is a coronary waiting for a place to happen.

 

One of my favorite comfort foods is poached eggs. They can be served up any way from simply seasoned with salt and pepper to nestled on a toasted Holland rusk (or English muffin) that's topped with sautéed Canadian bacon or aged ham, then lavishly blanketed under a fluffy, lemony hollandaise. But my hands-down favorite is uova alla fiorentina. Read More 

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16 May 2020: Quarantine Cooking for Two—Pan-Broiled Hamburger Steaks

Pan-Broiled Hamburger Steaks with Red Wine Déglacé

16 May 2020: Quarantine Cooking for Two—Pan-Broiled Hamburger Steaks

 

One of the most revealing things about this pandemic lockdown is the power that the comfortably familiar has had over us, especially in the kitchen and at the table.

 

Many of us who cook as much for pleasure as necessity have a list of things we're always saying we'd master if only we had the time. Well, now we have it. But instead of leaping to explore those uncharted culinary avenues, what did we do? Most of us turned inward, fell back on the kinds of safe comfort foods we've made hundreds of times.

 

It's only natural, in such unsettling, uncertain times as these, that we'd not just crave but need the safety of familiar comforts. There's nothing wrong with it. Read More 

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3 April 2020: Finding Comforts in Isolation

Aunt Margaret's Congo Squares (Bars), a comfort in any season, but especially now

 

As we move into a third week of isolation and face that it's not going to end any time soon, we're all looking for comfort in this time of uncertainty wherever we can find it. Someone asked if I was cooking more—and actually, I'm not: we but rarely eat out and I cook every single day.

 

But what I cook has changed. I don't bake a lot, especially not sweets, except around the mid-winter holidays. But warm baked treats are a comfort—if you have flour—and I do, having just filled my flour canister up for a seminar I'd been asked to do on bread in the Bible. Social distancing orders caused the seminar to be postponed, but it meant I had a reasonable supply of flour on hand when hoarders stripped our grocery's shelves, so I've actually been baking a little.

 

A couple of days back, Timothy asked if I would make Congo Bars. It opened a floodgate of warm, deeply comforting childhood memories. They were just what we needed.

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30 November 2018: The Writing Life and Chicken and Dumplings

Old-Fashioned Southern Chicken and Dumplings

This page has been a bit quiet the last few months and I’m sorry about that. But I did promise at the beginning that it wouldn’t be filled with drivel just to keep myself in front of you all.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I do.

In many ways, it’s a small thing. It’s just stringing words together on a page—and not about the monumental, earth-shaking problems that are facing humankind. I don’t probe the depths of the human intellect or heart, nor contemplate the vast mysteries of the universe. I don’t attack injustice, blind hatred, suffering, or destructive greed.

All I do is write about how to cook and do it well. It’s never about being clever or inventive, and rarely tries to shake anyone up. It’s about ordinary stuff. And comfort.
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16 July 2014: Triple Comfort

Triple comfort: my mother's china pattern, Ilda's pasta, and Marcella's voice in the background

My mother’s wedding china still stands as it did in my youth, in neat stacks in her dining room hutch. Rimmed in gold and sporting a pair of pink-tinged gardenia blossoms at its center, it was old-fashioned, feminine, and just plain “girly.” Yet it was the very essence of elegance and sophistication to my child’s mind. Read More 

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4 February 2013: Ilda’s Ham and Potato Gratin

Ilda's casseruola al forno, or ham and potato gratin: comfort food in any language.

It was my first night in Italy. Our class had spent the day sketching in the picturesque port towns of Portofino and San Frutuoso. Soaked with Riviera sunshine and salty Ligurian air, we came back to the school, a villa that commanded its own picturesque view of the Bay of Genoa over the red-tiled rooftops of the old city. We were exhilarated, exhausted, and very hungry, as only active young people can be. Read More 

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