What exactly is comfort food? I'm not going to look up an official definition; I don't think there should be one. Comfort food should be exactly what it is called; a food that brings comfort. That means something different to everyone for the most part; memories from childhood, or learning to cook by a loved one's side; or even cooking a meal for someone you love for the very first time. It's food that not only feeds the body, but the mind and soul. Comfort food can be as simple as a tuna fish sandwich, or as complicated as Beef Wellington; it has a special meaning for the person eating it, as well as the person who made it.
I was up at 4:15 am this morning; Tippy needed to go potty, and I wasn't going to make the little guy suffer. Opening the backdoor to the yard, I noticed the brilliant light coming from the dark sky; I finally had my chance to see the extreme super full moon. Couldn't really see it last night, the sky was amass with cloud cover; the wind howling, the trees buffeted; and so I thought I had missed my chance. As usual, the full moon out here is large; one could imagine just reaching up and plucking it out of the sky; it looks that close. However, it now had an aura surrounding it that traveled outward till it was finally swallowed up by the dark; an amazing sight.
What has all this to do with comfort food, why the idea of comfort of course. I couldn't get back to sleep, so worked on household chores till 9am; woke Roy up, and got us going to Cortez. We breakfasted at Denny's, got gas at the Shell station (3.40/gallon - a bargain!), and did our grocery shopping at Walmart. Around 4pm, back home of course, it was time to think about dinner. The weather was once again dreary, the sky cloudy, the wind being a bully; the perfect kind of day to want comforting. What to make, what to make, so many choices. I've got chicken, bbq sauce, cheese and macaroni....Chicken Monterey and Creamy Macaroni and Cheese. Feel good food.
I remember when I first made Chicken Monterey; we were on vacation in October 2008, staying at Roy's mom's home in Moab. I found the recipe in a magazine and wanted to try it out. Now normally it has bacon in it, but his mom doesn't eat any pork products, so I needed to readjust the recipe. She loved it, and it is still one of her favorite recipes. See, when I cook meals, I make sure to make extra and send it to her; my simple way of just sharing the love. This is a great memory, and a good example of the concept of comfort food.
Ok, enough droning, and here are my recipes for today:
Ingredients:4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup barbeque sauce (KC Masterpiece, Bullseye or Lea & Perrins)
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup each green and red bell peppers, diced
½ cup onion, diced
½ cups mushrooms, diced
½ cup tomatoes, diced
1 cup fat free cheddar cheese, shredded
Finely chopped parsley, for garnish
Preparation:Preheat oven to 350 F.
Spray a skillet with cooking spray; on medium-high heat brown both sides of the chicken breasts (about 2 minutes each side), but do not cook all the way through (cooking will finish in the oven). Remove chicken from skillet; pat dry. Brush both sides of chicken with barbeque sauce and set into an 8” x 8” baking dish (pre-sprayed with cooking spray). Pour remaining barbeque sauce on top of chicken in the dish.
While the chicken was browning; put the olive oil in a smaller skillet; set onto medium-high heat; put in the peppers and onion. When they just begin to soften, add the mushrooms, and let cook for another 2-3 minutes; do not let the vegetables brown. Remove from heat and add the tomatoes. Spoon the vegetable mixture on top of the chicken; top with cheese. Place into oven and let cook for 15-20 minutes; cheese will be bubbly, and chicken cooked through.
Remove to serving platter and sprinkle parsley on top.
Makes 4 servings.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
4 cups uncooked large elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt plus 2 Tbsp
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup hot macaroni water
1/2 cup each goat cheese, shredded sharp cheddar, shredded
jack, shredded mild cheddar Monterey
In large stockpot, on high heat, bring water to boil for macaroni.
In another large stockpot, melt butter over medium heat; stir flour into the butter until smooth and bubbly; stir in 1 tsp salt and pepper. Switch to a whisk; gradually add milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly. Water for macaroni will be at a boil, add uncooked elbows to pot with 2 Tbsp salt.
Add ½ cup of cheese and whisk until well incorporated; repeat process until all 4 cheeses have been incorporated. Take 1 cup of macaroni water from pot; whisk into cheese mixture; remove from heat. Drain cooked macaroni, add to cheese mixture and mix well; cover and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings.