Thursday, October 1, 2009

Creature Comforts

Everyone has their favorite comfort foods and reasons why they seek comfort in these foods. For me it is a bit different since when I truly need to be comforted because of something like a sick puppy, I find my solace in not only the food, but cooking it, savoring it and delighting in treating myself well. Comfort foods are not those things eaten mindlessly and never truly tasted, these are about filling your belly as much as giving you that warm feeling all over.

Sure, like many, I have those minor emotional breaks where a hamburger (El Cap’s) or something sugary sweet (Cupcake Spot or other gourmet cake store) will fit the bill. But when life has dragged me from one goal post to another, I need something that will feed not only my stomach, but my soul.

And this usually means going for meat. I don’t know why in my darkest hours, I crave the flesh of another animal, but I do and it is usually beef. Slow braised, grilled, roasted or just about any cooking method will suffice to put a few bits of rare cow on my plate. I am thankful this beast sacrificed him/herself for me (unintentionally of course.) Getting to my plate and to my mouth is as much a relaxing joy as the actual eating.

Tonight I made something pretty easy and yet so tasty: Beef Loin with broccoli slaw. See I told you it was simple. Confession: I had originally planned on making this into a pizza with the dough I just made, but the dough didn’t turn out right for some reason, so I just kept it sans the simple starches and salvaged the dough for a quick dessert.


Beef Tenderloin (they usually come 2 to a pack, so I roast both and that way I have a head start on a meal for later.) Follow the directions which pretty much says to cook each pound for 28 minutes. This gives a nice medium cook. I cut it back a tiny bit for a more rare texture.

The slaw started out as carmelized red onion and yellow pepper for the pizza, but to stretch it out (and because I was having one of my broccoli cravings, I added the bag of slaw, some chopped up sundried tomatoes and the oil from the tomatoes to quickly sauté the slaw. It’s a colorful and healthful treat that also is filling and feels a bit decadent with the carmelized onions and rich sundried tomatoes.

A mound of veggies, thinly sliced loin (about 1/3 of a loin) and a drizzled of prepared horseradish sauce and I was feeling better already.

I am keeping my portions to smaller limits and eating a bit more often. This is a perfect dish for something like that. Then instead of watching TV and concentrating more on the show than on the meal, I sat in candlelight by the window and slowly devoured my comfort food. It’s nice to treat yourself well and to reflect on what you have to be thankful for. I was thankful that Finn was better, that I had coworkers who helped me not lose time in my work tasks, for friends who were there with a shoulder to cry on and a spark of humor to make me laugh, for the talent to make such a lovely dish, and for the self worth that let me treat myself well and be comforted doing it.

But there was dessert to eat as well. The pizza dough didn’t rise like it normally does so I was debating whether to toss it or get a bit creative. I can never pass up a creative project.

oven pastry

I rolled 2” balls in my palms and flattened them into about 3” rounds. A slather of lemon curd and raw sugar on top with granny smith apple slices and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes ( I rotated my pan ever 10 min.) Then mix sweetened, condensed milk (I always have some in the fridge and prefer the fat free variety here) with a tablespoon of curd, lemon juice and some zest. Whip it up and if needed thin with a dash of warm water (remember you can keep adding, but you can’t take away so just a few drops.) Drizzle while still warm and eat.

Juror decision: leave off the apple and load up on the lemon curd. That was delicious and a bit too satisfying. The dough has a thicker consistency and made this dessert a bit heavier than I had planned, but it was delicious.

Some other favorite comfort foods? Baked mac and cheese (individually done with a toasted breadcrumb coating), braised short ribs in wine, simple guacamole with Tostito lime chips, grilled gouda cheese sandwich with sliced green apple and tomato bisque, steamed shrimp with cocktail sauce (peeling them myself as I pop them in my mouth) and sushi (which I go out for.)

What are some of the foods that feed your soul and give you a real sense of warmth?

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