Archives for the month of: September, 2011

The weather in New York is finally starting to turn and there are some days that truly feel like autumn. Colder temperatures always remind me of comfort food (or, okay, I am reminded of comfort food any time I am hungry, any day of the year, fine), I think because a lot of comfort foods take the warm and gooey approach to comfort.

But just because I want to cram seventeen triangles of grilled cheese (no crusts, please!) into my mouth doesn’t mean I can’t do it with a little sophistication. It’s times like these when Boyfriend turns out to be particularly useful, being a sommelier and whatnot. Listed below are four of my favorite comfort foods, as well as Boyfriend’s suggestions for wine pairings.

1. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Who doesn’t love this combination? This is the first thing you can eat after you’ve been sick for a week. It’s the meal you go for on the second night of a snow storm when you’ve been stuck in your apartment and are running out of food and sanity. It’s the thing you can eat the day you move into a new apartment and can’t find any cooking utensils. This is not your favorite party dress; this is your favorite sweatshirt that you will wear and cherish until the threads literally fall off your body.

Personally, I am fond of Heinz’s Cream of Tomato Soup and the most basic grilled cheese available. I am all for upscale takes on comfort classics; Daniel Boulud, one of my culinary heroes, has arguably made a career out of this. But to me the wonderful thing about comfort foods is that they do not require creativity or sophistication to be satisfying. Butter up that Wonder Bread and layer on as many slices of Kraft American as you dare. Yum.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: I would have this with a demi-sec Vouvray.  Made from 100% Chenin Blanc and coming from France’s Loire valley, Vouvry’s are often made in an off dry style exhibit aromas of fresh orchard fruit, earthy wool, and honey.  This all underscored by a beautiful crisp acidity that keeps the wine refreshing rather than cloying.  I think it would cut through the heaviness of the cheese and highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes.
His pick? Huet ‘Le Mont’ Demi-Sec Vouvray, 2008

2. Mac & Cheese

I’m not going to dwell on this dish, since I just posted about a cheeseburger chili version of this comfort food staple. However, true to its comfort food classification, it’s hard to mess this one up. Cook some pasta (multiple shapes work!), throw some cheese in there, get it all melty, broil it for a bit to get that perfect crusty top layer, and voila.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: Why not turn to Italy for this delicious bastardization of their culture [editor’s note: What?? Mac and cheese is not a bastardization of anything. Anyway, carry on…].  I say go with a beautiful Gavi di Gavi.  Made from the Cortese grape and hailing from the north of Italy in Piedmont, these wines exhibit crisp citrus tones and enough weight to stand up to butter and cheese laden macaroni.
His pick? Broglia Gavi di Gavi 2009

3. Tuna Melt

Are you sensing a trend? Perhaps that melted cheese is the express lane to the well of happy, safe, loving feelings we constantly try to capture by stuffing our faces with food? Well anyway, I always make the tuna salad with extra mayo, relish, and diced red onion. I vary on the cheese, and have been known to dump something French and creamy such as Brie or Camembert on top, but similar to my feelings about grilled cheese, this is not a moment for food snobbery. Toss me that individually-wrapped Kraft single and I’ll be a happy camper.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: Here we turn to one of my favorites: Savagnin.  A grape cultivated in the Jura, usually in Arbois or L’Etoile, and, depending on the producer, made in an oxidative style.  If you find an oxidative one, you’re likely to be surprised by how salty it seems to taste.  These wines are big on chesnut and pinenut aromas with an almost salty taste, perfectly suited to a tuna melt.
His pick? Puffney Arbois 2005

4. PB & J

This is less one of my personal favorites (go ahead, I’m ready for backlash), but I recognize that for many people, it has powerful comfort food allure. Go classic with more Wonder Bread, JIF (creamy or crunch?), and Smucker’s strawberry jam. Dress it up with some whole grain or whole wheat bread, homemade peanut butter, and an unusual jam. Recently I made cherry-ginger jam and raspberry-basil jam. They both turned out pretty well; you want about a 1:2 sugar-to-fruit ratio by volume, plus whatever other little bits of flavor you want to throw in there.

Boyfriend’s Pairing:Boal Madeira is one of the sweeter grapes used in the production of Madeira, but it’s not over the top.  Boal madeira’s tend to be off dry with nutty elements to them and hints of baked fruit.  A perfect pairing for a PB&J.
His pick? D’Oliveiras Boal Madeira 1977

So go forth and pair your comfort foods with confidence! You’ll likely be saving money on the food, so go ahead and splurge on the wine. Hint: if you’re looking for a particular bottle, check out websites like Wine Searcher to locate a store.

Advertisements

The title of this post is pretty vague and quite expansive. My kitchen wish list involves things like a giant kitchen with a skylight, a professional-style walk-in refrigerator, and a set of every single Le Creuset product in Dijon. Such things are clearly not in my immediate future (one day! right?).

But anyway, here is my list of kitcheny desires for the near, tangible future.

1. Chinois This is an underrated utensil, and for that reason tops my wish list. A chinois is a conical, fine-mesh sieve. This doesn’t sound that useful or glamorous, but it can be used to strain custards, purees (I’m sure Joel has a chinois for every day of the week), soups, and sauces. We also know that food is as much about texture as it is about flavor, and a chinois is a handy tool for making your smooth things smoother. For the suburban kitchen version pictured above, visit Williams-Sonoma. For a more industrial version, visit Bowery Kitchen.

2. Giant Stock Pot I have some large pots and a 7 quart dutch oven that all work pretty well for my large pot needs, such as they are. But whenever I make a stock, I have problems. I have to make stock in multiple pots, which doesn’t really hurt the stock, but it annoying from an efficiency and clean-up perspective. Therefore, before my stock-making weekend in October, I want to get a GIANT stock pot (or two? I need beef AND chicken stock. And maybe goat stock? Duck stock?). This, again, is a job for Bowery Kitchen.

3. Standardized Herb Jars The spice rack is a delicate subject for anyone who cooks often and has even the faintest of feelings about organization. I have fifteen different brands of spices, Ziploc bags of various chili peppers, and larger jars of fancy salts. I want them all to fit in the same space in some sort of intelligent, organized way, but instead it is chaos. I love the idea I saw on A Cozy Kitchen to get a bunch of little jars and chalkboard paint. A Cozy Kitchen painted the jar tops and neatly labelled all her herbs and spices. Jars available at The Container Store.

4. More Mixing Bowls I currently have two junky plastic mixing bows. They accomplish most activities, but I often find that during the course of cooking a dinner, I need to wash and re-use the bowls a few times. Right now I’m lusting after a nesting set of glass or metal bowls like this 10-piece set from Williams-Sonoma.

My kitchen is a constant work-in-progress, whether it’s keeping it clean, trying to cook new things, or acquiring more cooking toys. What’s on your kitchen wish list right now?

As you may or may not know, I am in a writing workshop group that meets every three weeks. Sometimes we do writerly things, but these gatherings are often also dinner parties. It was my turn to host this week and I was searching for something I could make easily in the hour between getting home from work and the start of the workshop, and something that I could easily scale up to feed 9 hungry writers. Obviously I chose Cheeseburger Chili Mac & Cheese.

The recipe is very easy and I actually followed it, for the most part. I used regular pasta instead of whole wheat, and at the end when it says to top the chili and pasta with cheese, I mixed some in as well. I also did not think that the addition of beef stock to the chili was really necessary. By the time I reached that step, my chili was already liquid-y enough. Unfortunately, I am out of my own beef stock, so I had to use store-bought. In the future, I would use home-made and reduce it on its own for a bit first, thereby reducing the volume of liquid while still adding a little more depth of flavor to the dish. I already have a weekend in October blocked off for stock-making, so I’ll be fully stocked (anyone?) again soon.

Lamentably, everyone ate all of it before I take any pictures. Seconds and thirds were had, and I packed everyone off into the night stuffed full of meat, cheese, and pasta. I am very exciting for Fall weather to begin, and mac & cheese, though delectable year-round, is a great base for hearty Fall meals. What are your favorite mac & cheese variations?

As always, recipe after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dearest readers,

I promise that I have not forgotten about you. I have been busy and lazy and the summer just kind of dragged on and I never posted. Anyway, now, for the hundredth time, I am back.

Perhaps because I still think in terms of school years, I have always felt the urge to make resolutions after Labor Day, rather than after New Years. The summer is over, the weather turns, and everyone buckles down to business once again. This year, I am focusing on the things I usually try to avoid: working out, cleaning my apartment, generally becoming more of an adult.

Part of this campaign involves bringing my own lunch to work more often. In terms of both health and finances, I think it’s the better choice, even if it takes a little forethought. For example, I just made a big pan of baked oatmeal (recipe after the jump!) and some hardboiled eggs in anticipation of bringing them for lunches. As I was cooking, I realized that I would get more excited about making lunch if I had a cool grown-up lunchbox to pack everything into. Here are some of the ones I found; what do you think?

Built’s Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote Graphic and practical, these neoprene lunchboxes are insulated and machine-washable. I am partial to the “city grid” print.

Vivo Square Bento Box Conveniently stackable, these tins provide an easy-to-clean lunchbox option. Plus, the colors make me smile every time I look at them.

Graze Organic Reusable Food Bags I love organizing things and finding a special place for everything, so I love the idea of a little reusable, labeled bag for all my different lunch foods.

Artifact Olive Lunch Tote This is the grown up waxed-cotton version of the classic brown paper lunch bag. I like the leather strap detail and the simple concept.

Do you bring your lunch? Do you have a favorite lunchbox? Am I the only person with a lunchbox wish list? Let me know, and recipe for baked oatmeal after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »