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Comfort Food: The Recipes

Listen to Linda Wertheimer's report on comfort food for these uncertain times.

Nov. 6, 2001 -- The seasons are changing, stressful news is unrelenting and the holidays are just ahead. Put all those things together, and many Americans' thoughts turn to comfort foods. On Tuesday's All Things Considered, host Linda Wertheimer and three comfort-food chefs choose the following recipes from their recent books:

Chicken in a Pot
London Mac and Cheese
Pumpkin Rocks with Cream-Cheese Frosting
Chocolate Pudding



Recipes from Home is written by David Page and Barbara Shinn who own a restaurant called "Home" in Greenwich Village in New York City.

Recipes from Home
Recipes from Home
Photo: Artisan Books

Chicken in a Pot
Reprinted with permission from Recipes from Home, by David Page and Barbara Shinn (Artisan Books, 2001).

1 chicken, about 3-1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced yellow onions (1/2-inch dice)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3-1/2 cups diced celery (1/4-inch dice)
3-1/2 cups peeled and diced carrots (1/4-inch dice)
2 fresh bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups stewed tomatoes (or a 28-ounce can)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme and/or chives

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breasts, and 2 wings.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, bay leaves and thyme sprigs and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken, stock, wine and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven for 1-1/2 hours. The chicekn should be falling-off-the-bone tender and there should be a good amount of broth. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and garnish with the fresh herbs. Serve hot. Serves 4



Macaroni and cheese is another comfort food many Americans turn to during stressful times. In Macaroni and Cheese: Fifty-Two Recipes from Simple to Sublime, author Joan Schwartz suggests people should think outside the blue box to spice up the old recipe.

Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese: Fifty-Two Recipes from Simple to Sublime
Photo: Villard Books

London Mac and Cheese
Reprinted with permission from Macaroni & Cheese: 52 Recipes, From Simple to Sublime, by Joan Schwartz (Villard Books, 2001).

3 cups (3/4 pound) grated white sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup (1/4 pound) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or substitute Grana Padano or pecorino cheese
1 pound ziti, penne or short macaroni
3-3/4 cups whole milk
8 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the baking dish
6 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the two cheeses and reserve. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and place in a mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a simmer.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter; when it starts to bubble, whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes and then remove from the heat (this is the roux). Whisk in the hot milk all at once. Add the cayenne, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Return the mixture to high heat and cook, stirring, until it comes to a boil and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low. Add 2 cups of the combined cheeses to the milk mixture and cook, stirring, until the cheeses have melted completely. Pour the sauce over the pasta in the bowl and mix lightly.

Lightly butter a 3-1/2-quart deep baking dish and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the combined cheeses over the bottom. Cover with one third of the pasta and one third of the remaining cheese. Repeat the layers twice, ending with a layer of cheese. Pour the cream over all, and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake until the macaroni is bubbling and the crumbs are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serves 4 to 6



For dessert, host Linda Wertheimer looks at cookie recipes. The All American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett has 18 recipes for chocolate chip cookies. But Baggett says she prefers a different type of recipe when it comes to picking a feel-better kind of cookie.

The All American Cookie Book
The All American Cookie Book
Photo: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Pumpkin Rocks with Cream-Cheese Frosting
Reprinted with permission from The All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2001).

For the cookies:
1 cup (5 ounces) raisins
3 cups all-purpose white flour
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup (1 stick plus 2-2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup corn oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
1/4 cup light molasses
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin (not seasoned pumpkin-pie filling)

For the cream-cheese frosting:
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, slightly softened and cut into chunks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the sugar and butter until very well-blended and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the oil, molasses, vanilla and pumpkin until evenly incorporated. Beat or stir in the flour mixture, then the raisins, until evenly incorporated.

Drop the dough onto the baking sheets in golf-ball-sized mounds, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned all over and slightly darker at the edges. Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.

For the frosting:
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on low -- then medium -- speed, beat together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla until well blended and very smooth. Add the orange juice and beat until evenly incorporated. If the frosting is very stiff, add enough water to thin it to a spreadable but still firm consistency.

Set the wire racks with the cookies over wax paper to catch drips. Using a table knife, swirl about 1 teaspoon frosting over the center of each cookie top. Let stand until the frosting complete sets, at least 1 hour.

Store in a single layer or layered with wax paper in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month. Makes 30 to 35 2-3/4 inch cookies



One of the dessert recipes in David Page and Barbara Shinn's Recipes from Home is chocolate pudding. Page says their restaurant has had more orders for chocolate pudding in the last few weeks than ever before.

Chocolate Pudding
Reprinted with permission from Recipes from Home, by David Page and Barbara Shinn (Artisan Books, 2001).

4 cups heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (see Note*), finely chopped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a large heavy saucepan, then remove the pan from the heat. Place the chocolate in a large stainless-steel bowl, add 1 cup of the warm cream, and let stand until the chocolate is melted. Stir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth, then stir in the remaining cream.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture. Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh strainer and skim off the froth on the top.

Pour the pudding into eight 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Place them in a deep baking pan and put the pan in the oven. Add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins, then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake the puddings for about 50 minutes. When gently shaken, they should look set around the edges but not quite set in a quarter-size area at the center.

Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight. Serve chilled. Serves 8.

*Note: Bittersweet chocolate has sugar, vanilla and lecithin added to the pure chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. Although semisweet usually has more sugar, the two are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.