Uncomfortable Times Call for Comfortable Foods

This presidential election has created more angst for Ann and me than any election in our memory. And we know we are not alone in this feeling. Hence we are posting this edition of BigLittleMeals a day early so we and our readers can stay focused on (or, as it may be, obsessed with) the unfolding political drama on Tuesday. I realized just how all-consuming this election would be for Ann when she informed me that she was going to focus on the wisdom and poetic lyrics of Leonard Cohen and did not plan to include any recipes in today’s Anthem blog.

So I am shouldering the recipe burden in Andy’s Corner – this is a food blog after all! And, uncomfortable time calls for comfortable foods (if that’s not a saying, it should be). What could be more appropriate for this anxiety-laden time than comfort food? So, as a modest contribution to the maintenance of emotional stability during this unsettling period, I am providing two comfort food recipes, one is for Ann’s favorite and the other is for my favorite.

Pickles by Brian Crane

I read that consuming energy-dense, high calorie, high fat, salt or sugar foods – aka comfort foods – can give pleasure or a temporary sense of emotional elevation and relaxation. Just what the doctor ordered! Let’s postpone until later a discussion of the negative side effects of such indulgence.

Of particular interest to me is that some research suggests that males generally prefer warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods while females prefer comfort foods that are more snack related. As you will see by our choices, Ann and I do not fit that pattern.

Let’s start with my choice – T-Lish Chile con Queso. This is one of my very favorite snacky-type (feminine?) items when we dine at Tacolicious. Fortunately, it is rather simple to make at home. The secret ingredient is, hold onto your hats, Velveeta cheese. Any kind of cheese that can sit on a grocery store shelf unrefrigerated for 6 months probably deserves the secret ingredient moniker.

The addictive T-Lish Chile con Queso

For me the most difficult part of doing the homemade version is enduring the embarrassment at the grocery checkout when that pound of Velveeta goes down the conveyor amongst your organic greens and grains and you catch that barely perceptible smirk from the clerk as the cheese is put into your bag. But believe me, the embarrassments and smirks fade from your memory as you dip your tortilla chip into that wonderfully warm cauldron of flavor and pleasure. There is no stopping after the first one.

Ann’s pick for a favorite comfort food is chicken fried steak slathered with cream gravy. I first realized her obsessive attraction to this dish when we did an extended road trip from our home in Louisiana to visit family in Colorado and California. At every little town we pulled into for dinner she would seek out local restaurants or diners and try their chicken fried steak.

Chicken Fried Chicken (with cream gravy, of course – healthy green stuff optional)

It was in some little rural town in New Mexico that she had what she considered the holy grail of chicken fried steak. Even though neither of us can recall the name of the town, for Ann that one dining experience has been the gold standard of all other chicken fried steak meals, a standard which we had been unable to replicate at home until recently. And even though not technically steak, the below recipe for Chicken Fried Chicken meets Ann’s rigid criteria for the perfect chicken fried steak (with cream gravy, of course!)

Bon appétit!

 

T-Lish Chile con Queso

This makes a lot!  Feel free to cut it in half.  Adapted from Tacolicious – the cookbookby Sara Deseran

  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 (7-ounce) can Ortega brand diced green chiles, drained
  • 3/4 c diced canned tomatoes with juice (we like Fire-roasted tomatoes in this)
  • 1/4 c drained canned or jarred sliced pickled jalapeño chiles
  • Tortilla chips, for dipping

Combine the oil, onion, and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese and stir frequently until melted. Add the green chiles, tomatoes, and pickled jalapeños and stir until heated through.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm with tortilla chips for dipping.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Chicken Fried Chicken

very slightly adapted from HomesickTexan.com

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper (or a little less, if you’re not a black pepper fan)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • Oil for frying
  • Cream gravy for serving (see below)

Pound the breasts until they are 1/4 inch thick

Mix together the flour with the salt, black pepper, and cayenne and place on a plate. Whisk together the eggs with the buttermilk. Lightly sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper then dredge each into the flour. Dip the flour-coated breasts into the eggs and then dredge in the flour again. Place the breaded chicken breasts on a sheet pan.

Heat up the oven to 200°F. In a large heavy skillet, such as a cast-iron skillet, on medium-high heat up an inch of oil to 350°F, about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by sticking a wooden spoon into the oil. If it bubbles around the spoon, it should be ready for frying.

Working in batches, gently lower each breast into the oil and cook for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned, turning once. Drain on a paper towel and place in the oven while you fry the remaining breasts.

Serve with cream gravy.

Cream Gravy:

  • 2 T pan drippings, bacon grease, or vegetable oil
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt

Combine the fat with flour in a hot skillet, continuously stirring, cook on medium for a couple of minutes until a roux is formed.

Add milk slowly to the skillet, and mix with roux using either a whisk or wooden spoon (be sure and press out any lumps). Turn heat to low and continue stirring until mixture is thickened, a couple more minutes. Add the pepper and salt then taste and adjust seasonings. 

If the gravy is too thick, you can thin it by adding either more milk or water a tablespoon at a time. Goes great with mashed potatoes, fried chicken, biscuits, chicken fried steak, grits, vegetables, rice or anything else you can imagine.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

2 Comments

  1. Good morning, Andy. Many years back, I met a cook who worked at a greasy spoon restaurant in the community where I lived. I’d never eaten there, and asked him about the food. He said the only difference between the chicken fried steak and the veal cutlet was the color of the gravy.

    I hope to see you on the road one of these days.

    Like

    • theRaggedys says:

      Sort of like the “mystery meat” from my army days. However, altering the gravy color is not a bad idea considering that much of our culinary experience is in our heads. We could up our recipe production considerably. Thanks for the comment and tip. I will be looking for you on the road also (hopefully on a bike).

      Like

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