As I rode around downtown this past Saturday looking at downed trees and limb piles littering lawns, my heart ached for our beautiful city.
Trees that have stood strong and proud for more than 100 years ripped from the life-giving ground that has sustained them for so many years, laying on their sides like a lifeless rag doll. Homes damaged, some even ruined, as the waters and wind of Matthew skimmed our coast. Our city, which is akin to a proper Southern lady, always welcoming and ready to entertain anyone who comes to call, is shaken and disheveled.
I had planned to start a series of articles on entertaining and etiquette this week, but I just haven't been in the entertaining mood since Matthew. The stories I've heard and the destruction I've seen have made me sad, and when I'm sad, I want comfort food - not fancy finger foods or perfectly set tables. I really wish I could just invite everyone who is hurting into my kitchen to comfort them with hugs and foods that provide comfort and strength to face their heartaches. Thankfully, I have a level-headed husband who would stop me from doing such a thing. But even if he didn't, I couldn't comfort everyone because what is comfort food to me might not be comfort food to you.
Wikipedia defines comfort food as "â€¦. food which provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to the consumer, and is often characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, and simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture." I have to agree. My comfort foods all contain rice or potatoes, the recipes are short - really short - and each food evokes a fond memory of someone or someplace that I love.
Steve said comfort food to him would be meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas. Meatloaf isn't on my comfort food list. I don't remember anyone in my family making meatloaf on a regular basis. Steve's mother on the other hand, had at least 10 to 12 meatloaf recipes in her recipe files. Huffington Post did an article in 2014 of the top 25 comfort foods. The top three were grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes. Simple, starchy and delicious - pure comfort!
Since Steve won't let me invite you all over for dinner, I'm going to share a few of my comfort food recipes. My children will tell you that Stuff is the one dish that reminds them of home. I can remember being at my grandmother's table and peeking during the blessing at the bowl right in front of my plate that contained ground beef, potatoes and cheese, wishing they would hurry up and get through praying so I could eat. Stuff is as close as I could come to grandma's dish. My daughter named it Stuff. It was always "that hamburger and potato stuff" so she shortened it and it became Stuff. I have shared it before, but I couldn't do a comfort food article without sharing it again.
A cold Sunday afternoon seems to beg for Beef Stew. We always had it over rice and homemade biscuits with cane syrup. My Beef Stew recipe isn't like Mama's or Grandma's, but I know they would love it. Somewhere in my adult life I started adding red wine and I happen to like parsnips better than the traditional carrots. I'm actually a carrot hater, but I like parsnips. Please don't tell me they are the same thing. I prefer to pretend they taste different!
Savannah - like a Southern lady - is strong and resilient. In a matter of no time she will straighten her skirts, powder her nose and once again welcome her guests with charm and grace. I hope you'll find the comfort and strength in your favorite foods and do the same.
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie's Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
2 pounds stew beef or beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt & Pepper
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
1 whole sprig rosemary
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 parsnips (or carrots), chopped into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes
16 oz frozen garden peas (optional)
If using beef stew, cut into 1 inch pieces. Salt and pepper beef pieces. Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with olive oil over medium heat. Add the beef cubes and brown on all sides. Remove the beef to a platter and set aside.
In the same pan, sautÃ© the onion until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add wine and scrape the bottom removing the brown bits. Add the beef stock, browned beef cube and herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
Add parsnips and mushrooms, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Add potatoes, recover and cook for 30 minutes or until the meat is fork tender. Stir in peas (if using), simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over rice, egg noodles or with biscuits for sopping up the gravy!
1 pound ground beef
Salt & Pepper
3 or 4 medium red potatoes cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese, cut into chunks.
In a Dutch oven, brown ground beef, seasoning with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Drain beef and return to pot. Add cut potatoes to ground beef and add just enough water to cover the potatoes (3 or 4 cups). Add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring ground beef and potatoes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, approximately 15 minutes.
Using a ladle, remove water, all but about 2 cups. Add cheese cubes to pot and return to heat, stirring constantly until the cheese is melted. Taste for seasoning and enjoy!