Finding ways to cure cabin fever is a winter-long feat. One of the best and tastiest ways to feel better and lift your spirits is to dish up some comfort foods. Whether you crave childhood favorites, salty or sweet recipes, indulging in a comfort food can make the most of a cold, winter day.
For some great comfort food recipes, we turned to local chefs for their recommendations.
“For me, the throes of winter mean I’m alternating between hearty comfort foods and tropical flavors that remind me of summer,” said Mavis Linnemann-Clark, chef/owner of The Delish Dish in Cincinnati. “There’s nothing that says comfort food to me more than good ol’ fashioned southern biscuits and gravy. I like to give them a regional twist by substituting goetta for the sausage in my gravy. Glier’s Goetta is available everywhere, but Eckerlin’s Meats at Findlay Market in Cincinnati, also has a fabulous handmade goetta. You can make your own biscuits, or you can make life easy by using Pillsbury biscuits or some from a local bakery. Great for breakfast, lunch or my personal favorite — breakfast for dinner. Serve with a green salad for a light counterpoint.”
SOUTHERN BISCUITS AND GRAVY
Recipe by Mavis Linnemann-Clark, chef/owner, The Delish Dish, www.DelishDishCincy.com
Serves 4. Serving size: 2 biscuits.
8 biscuits, warmed through
1 pound all-natural pork sausage or goetta
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk, divided
Kosher salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
Pinch of cayenne, or to taste
Brown the sausage in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Pour out all but a tablespoon or two of the excess fat. Add the flour to the meat, and stir to incorporate. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in enough milk to almost cover the meat. Simmer the gravy over medium heat until it begins to thicken. Season the gravy with salt, cayenne and lots of freshly ground black pepper. If the gravy becomes too thick, simply thin it with a little more milk and let it simmer for a minute for the flavors to meld.
When your gravy has reached the desired consistency and flavor, remove it from the heat. Spoon the gravy over warm biscuits and serve immediately.
For Lee Anne House, chef at Dayton restaurant Olive, An Urban Dive, nothing keeps low temperatures in check more than comfort food.
“A steaming bowl of soup, rich filling pasta, or just a quick, hearty, hot meal to share with friends or family — they do not have to be overly heavy, the meal can still be healthy and satisfying yet still be comfort food,” House said. “My favorite soups always start with chicken stock. I am forever saving all my chicken bones in my freezer until I have enough to make a batch of stock. But you can buy some pretty good chicken broths these days, too. Soup, I think, doesn’t have to be made from a recipe. It should be about what you have on hand that looks good and needs to be used up. When I make soup at home I grab some veggies, herbs, a lemon or a lime, maybe some cheese and perhaps some cream or coconut milk.”
House said that everyone should have a “go-to meal — something that’s quick, easy and fulfilling. Roasted chicken thighs with kale and mushrooms and a side of creamy polenta is my favorite meal. It’s simple yet still feels like a splurge. I usually cook two thighs per person, one bunch of kale per two to three people and about ¾ cup of polenta per person.”
ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH KALE AND MUSHROOMS AND A SIDE OF CREAMY POLENTA
Recipe by Lee Anne House, chef at Olive, An Urban Dive.
Mushrooms, crimini or white button
Sweet yellow onion
Garlic, small clove for 2-3 people
White wine, about 1/8 cup per serving
Lemon juice, a splash per person
Olive oil for sautéing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pull the kale off the stem and roughly chop and rinse.
Brush mushrooms to remove any dirt. Cut into quarters — small handful of mushrooms per person. Dice small sweet yellow onions, about 2 tablespoons per person.
Chop garlic, about a small clove for 2-3 people.
Begin by sautéing the mushrooms in olive oil, getting a little color. Add the onions and garlic and soften. Add the kale and briefly cook, just slightly wilting it.
Deglaze with the lemon juice and white wine.
Arrange the kale mixture in a casserole dish and layer the chicken thighs on top. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake till the chicken juices run clear, and they temp to at least 160 degrees.
Cook the polenta according to the directions on the package; always use chicken stock not water, and finish with heavy cream and cheese to make it super comforting and rich.
If pasta comes to mind when you think comfort food, House recommends her new favorite combination of kale, sausage, Parmesan cheese and penne pasta.
“I have learned that if I make a cream sauce with kale and bake it off instead of simmering it on the stove top the kale breaks down and simply melts in your mouth. First, I build a roux — I cook flour and butter until slightly browned. Then I add cream or milk until it’s thin enough to stir. Let this come to a boil. Add the cooked sausage; KJB, a local farm has great sausage. Turn down the heat and stir in batches of cleaned and chopped kale. Once all the kale is incorporated, pop it in the oven and stir occasionally, about every 20 to 30 minutes. It is done once the kale is cooked enough for your taste. You may need to thin the sauce with a little milk. Finish with Parmesan cheese and a little lemon juice. Mix this sauce with your favorite pasta,” House said.
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