by Virginia Willis in Recipes, September 12th, 2014
by Ricky Smith in Recipes, September 8th, 2014
What? Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy. That sounds like something a devious 6-year-old would make up, doesn’t it? Tender, buttery biscuits enrobed in dark, rich rivulets of creamy, chocolate gravy. Yes, it may sound very Willy Wonka-inspired, but Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy is actually a very old-school traditional breakfast of the Upland South.
People talk about Southern food as if it’s one cuisine, when in actuality it has many variations and subtleties, often region by region. The South can be subdivided into two principal larger areas: the Upper South and the Lower, or Deep, South. The Upper, or Upland, South is the northern border of what we define as the South in the United States. It runs from Virginia and North Carolina westward through West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, dipping into the northern realms of Alabama and Georgia. The Upland South doesn’t conform neatly to state lines, but instead is influenced by the terrain, history and culture. It’s the landscape of a diverse society and what could generally be defined as Appalachia, an area at once both incredibly poor and culturally rich.
by Virginia Willis in Recipes, September 5th, 2014
Comfort food is notoriously indulgent. Butter, cheese and potatoes make appearances in nearly every dish. Even though it’s not the healthiest cuisine in the world, we turn our heads away from the calorie count in the name of comfort and deliciousness. But even these down-home dishes can be lightened up by replacing fat-laden ingredients and opting for the oven instead of the fryer. By being more conscious about ingredients, you can enjoy these classics with a little less guilt.
Lightened-Up Mac and Cheese
If you often find yourself craving a big bowl of cheesy goodness, this recipe is going to be your new best friend. Instead of heavy cream, this version uses skim milk and low-fat sour cream, and includes part-skim mozzarella and low-fat Swiss. And for a little indulgence in the flavor department, it calls for a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.
by Nikhita Mahtani in Community, August 17th, 2014
Corn has been part of the American kitchen since Colonial days, as it was a hardy crop, relatively easy to grow and resistant to insects. It was a staple of the Native American diet long before the first settlers arrived and quickly became part of the settlers’ diet. It had a long harvest that extended over a longer period of time than wheat and was cultivated extensively from New England to Georgia. There’s also a long history of corn in the hills and valleys of Appalachia, as corn was better suited to the mountainous terrain than wheat or barley. Corn was eaten fresh in the summer and dried into meal for the winter months. Practicality guided it to find its way in some form, sweet or savory, into breakfast, lunch and dinner.
by Maria Russo in Recipes, August 13th, 2014
For an easy weeknight meal, soup is your best bet. It is also extremely versatile and can be made with any number of ingredients, depending on your mood. For a warming and comforting treat that’s as perfect for summer as it is for winter, look no further than Ree Drummond‘s Best Tomato Soup Ever. The heavy cream, sherry and sugar give the recipe a pop of flavor and balance the acidity of the tomatoes. This relaxing recipe is the ideal pick for this week’s Most Popular Pin of the Week.
For more feel-good recipes, check out Food Network’s Let’s Cook Comfort Food board on Pinterest.
Get the recipe: Best Tomato Soup Ever
by Virginia Willis in Recipes, May 2nd, 2014
Even at the height of a stifling summer, there are days when only warm, gooey comfort food will do, and when you’re faced with that kind of craving, macaroni and cheese is a go-to solution. From the classic stovetop variety to the creamy baked casseroles studded with bacon, there’s a mac and cheese to please every palate, and most are easy-to-make standbys that are guaranteed to wow your family. Read on below to find Food Network’s top-five macaroni and cheese recipes from Trisha Yearwood, Alton Brown, Ina Garten and more chefs.
5. Slow-Cooker Macaroni and Cheese — After combining noodles with milk, butter and cheese in the slow cooker, Trisha lets the machine do the work of preparing the dish for her.
4. Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Bacon and Cheese — Fresh thyme and crispy, salty bacon dress up Tyler Florence’s big-batch baked casserole.
by Virginia Willis in Holidays, Recipes, April 18th, 2014
Perhaps the most-famous shortcake dessert is strawberry shortcake. Depending on where you are in the United States, shortcakes can either be sponge cakes or sweet biscuits. These shortcakes are split and the bottoms are covered with a layer of strawberries and whipped cream. They are divine down-home comfort.
What’s the secret to a light, tender shortcake? This is where down-home comfort meets food science. Wheat flour contains two proteins, glutenin and gliadin. When you combine flour with water, the proteins create a strong and elastic sheet called gluten. Flours vary in their protein levels, which affects the texture of baked goods. Gluten gives structure to yeast breads but is not recommended for tender sponge cakes, biscuits and quick breads. All-purpose flour milled in the South is from soft red winter wheat, which has less gluten-forming protein. It is typically bleached, which makes it whiter, but this does not affect the protein. My family has always used White Lily flour, a staple across the South; another dependable Southern brand is Martha White.
by Virginia Willis in Recipes, April 4th, 2014
Fresh ham is nothing like the boozy bourbon-soaked and smoked holiday ham or the candy-sweet spiral wonder. It’s essentially a pork roast with a bone — a rather big pork roast with a bone — but a pork roast nonetheless. It’s simply the upper hind leg of a pig, not processed or cured using salt or brine, nor smoked as most hams are. Fresh ham tastes like a really moist pork loin or center-cut pork chops. And, when prepared and roasted properly, a fresh ham is capped by an exquisite, burnished-gold piece of crispy skin. It’s the perfect marriage of a bone-in pork chop and cracklin’ pork belly. Fresh ham means down-home comfort, especially when served with roasted sweet potatoes.
How did serving ham for Easter become a custom? Mediterranean celebrations, including the Jewish Passover, traditionally call for lamb at spring feasts. However, in northern Europe, pigs were the primary protein and ham was often served instead for special meals. Pigs were slaughtered in the fall and the meat was salted, smoked and cured over the winter. The resulting hams were ready to eat in the spring. At the point when refrigeration became widely available and curing hams wasn’t a necessity, someone came up with the grand idea of cooking fresh ham. I am glad they did.
by Virginia Willis in Recipes, March 28th, 2014
The Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico are riddled with numerous shallow muddy inlets of brackish water, the perfect home for blue crabs. Blue Crabs are found abundantly in rivers, inlets and bayous and are one of the most popular of the more than 4,500 species of crabs found worldwide. Cracking steamed crabs is an eating sport of sorts; the eater has to really dive in to reap the rewards. There might be a bit too much work for it to be considered comfort food. Cheesy, warm crab dip moves in the right direction, but crispy on the outside, tender on the inside crab cake? That, my friends, is pure down-home comfort.
The best crab cakes contain ingredients that enhance the flavor of the crab yet don’t compete with it, like raw red peppers that are usually added simply for color but do little to improve the flavor of the dish. Crab cakes are best when they are left alone to be crab cakes, not crab-and-breading cakes, or worse, breading-and-crab cakes. You need just enough of a binder to hold them together.
by Amy Reiter in News, March 26th, 2014
Country-fried steak is called chicken-fried steak in Texas and pan-fried steak, cube steak or smothered steak in other regions; but frankly, once you taste this dish of down-home comfort, you’re not going to care what it’s called. This is pure meat and potatoes — simple country cooking that is as basic as basic can be.
When considering classic comfort food dishes, it’s often a bit of a mystery where they came from and how they became so exalted. Although it’s not a great feat of culinary genius to consider breading meat and frying it in a skillet, the dish does enjoy uber-celebrity status in Texas. This may be due to the German settlements in the Hill Country near Austin. If you think about it, chicken-fried steak is just a Texas two-step away from das schnitzel.
Casseroles have gotten such a bad rap in recent years, dismissed with sneers about soup cans, that those who love casseroles (and who, secretly, doesn’t love a good casserole?) may have felt compelled to keep their comfort-food cravings to themselves.
Now, finally, casserole fans can come clean: The humble one-dish meal has found a champion to defend its honor and bring it the respect it needs.
New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark writes that the casserole, though cozy, is not, inherently, “dowdy in its DNA,” nor must it be “bland or one-note,” and it “does not have to contain even a single strand of melted cheese, or be dusted with crushed potato chips.”
In fact, she suggests, “The casserole can be nuanced and urbane, with room for fresh ingredients, clever details and a vivid palette of flavors,” adding that “there’s nothing wrong with baking assorted ingredients together in a dish” and that “when done just right, the elements merge in the oven’s heat, building on one another until the flavors unite into a delicious whole, preferably one with a golden top and appealingly moist center.”