Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Monday, April 19, 2010

C: Comfort food

What is your comfort food?  (I have, oh, so many).  Mine tend toward the mac and cheese heavy-carb side: mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken and dumplings, you get the drift.  But it has occurred to me recently that sometimes comfort food is defined not so much by the food itself or its taste, but by comfort associations with that food. 

We  have a Brazilian restaurant near our office, one of our favorite places to eat.  Occasionally (verrrrrry occasionally) we will send out for lunch there.  It is way too pricey to make this place a lunch (or even dinner) habit.  But the food is stupendous.

It has some fancy-schmancy dishes on the menu—heck, they all look fancy-schmancy to me—but one that I love for lunch is a lovely chicken salad type of thing they call SALPICAO.  It is a warm dish, not the cold Southern chicken salad.  The menu describes it as: Finger-shredded chicken breast, Fuji apples, carrots, sweet peas, fresh herbs batata palha (potato shoestrings) served over rice.  $13.95. 

So, you can see that I don’t send out for lunch at that price very often; only when I need, well, comfort or if I feel especially deserving.  Still, it is one of those dishes that I frequently get a hankering for, whether or not I give in on the budget considerations.

The Salpicao and rice combine as you eat, the savories salpicaoof the shoestring potatoes, the chicken and  mayo foil the sweetness of the apples and peas.  And the rice is just a wonderful, bland carrier for it all!  It is delightful, and I find on the internet that it is a traditional Brazilian recipe.

But rolling around in the back of my pea brain was the idea that this food reminds me of something I know; that I enjoy it, not just because of the taste, but because of some association…it reminds me of something, but what?  No chicken salad I’ve ever made has been warm or served over rice.  That combination just would not occur to me. 

Does your brain continue to work on things even when you are not aware of it?  Mine seems to.  One day I was doing something entirely unrelated to food and the puzzle pieces snapped into place!  I knew, at last: Salpicao reminds me of a chicken casserole my mother used to make.  We’re talking real comfort food, here.

Again, remember, that it is not so very much about taste, here.  The reminiscence has to do with the combination of textures, the chicken plus the rice; oh, I don’t know what all goes into making this association.  My rational brain picks apart the comparison, saying “there is no sweetness in the casserole like in the Salpicao…yadayadayada…” But, the association for me is there, strongly.  So, I offer you the following comfort recipe: Mom’s Chicken and Rice Casserole.

Now, recall, that this is not HEALTH food—it is heavily processed.  Nor is it haute cuisine, coming right out of cans and boxes, as it does.  But for me, it is pure comfort, recalling a Mom who always tended her children, making sure we had filling, delicious meals.  And it harkens me back to the comfort of my childhood under her watchful care.chickenrice

Think of this recipe as a blank canvas, because it is fairly bland.  Mom used to add slivered almonds (mmmmm) and sometimes a sprinkle of pimientos  for color.  You could sauté some celery and bell pepper to go it it, and I’ve thought about doing something crunchy for the top (batata pahla, maybe??).  But I love it just like this:

Mom’s Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 cup of Minute Rice                   1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup

2 - 5 oz. cans of chicken       1 Soup can full of milk

a little butter to dot over the top

Mix it all up and put it in a greased casserole dish.  A 9 x 13” pan works fine.  Bake at 350 degrees until the rice has absorbed the milk and it begins to get crunchy around the edges.  About 30 or 40 minutes.

I have done this in the microwave, but the texture changes.  It becomes almost like a savory rice pudding rather than rice casserole.  While this presentation has its own charms and I do this when I am in a hurry, I prefer the conventional oven.

Now, you know ingredientsand I know we could recreate this recipe in a healthier, fresher way.  But, as for me, I’m thinkin’ I’ll stick to this original comfort food.

It is nice to have ingredients in the pantry so you can whip up a hot meal in a pinch.  I have even used powdered milk and can tell no difference, so it is possible to keep all on hand.

So, there’s my comfort food thought for the day…what’s yours?  C’mon!  Share!  C


Ayak said...

Mine are things I can't get in Turkey so I have friends who kindly send me parcels from time to time:

1. custard...on its own or with anything ie apple pie or crumble, fruit cake, chocolate cake etc

2. Cadburys chocolate....I received a huge parcel of it on Friday..must have come in on the last flight to leave the UK.

When I run out of the above I also like semolina cooked with sugar, milk and sultanas....lovely.

Milton said...

Personally I prefer a tin of tuna in spring water with a side serving of Dreamies.

But I know when Muttie is feeling crap cos she always cooks up re-fried potatoes in butter with bacon strips then plops two poached eggs on top. Serve with brown sauce and a big mug of milky tea.

Milt x

Immigrant Daughter said...

our comfy macroni had meat crumbled in it with some cheese and a white frothy top. i never did made it too well.love c.

Bish Denham said...

Mac and cheese is a big one for me. Also beans and rice cooked Puerto Rican style. A HUGE favorite.

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

Oh yes, Mac and cheese tops the list! Grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream, chicken soup.

Ahhh, feeling comfort just writing that list!

Great post!

Vickie said...

Chicken n dumplings for me. The way my Nanny made 'em. She made her own dough and I haven't mastered it yet, but I can overdose on chicken n dumplings. Then I blow up like a balloon! ;o)

Happyone :-) said...

My favorite food is pizza!! Just a plain cheese one and I eat it often. :-) Also ice cream!
When I am upset or worried though, I can't eat. No food appeals to me then.

Zuzana said...

Ah, this post made me crave all that comfort food that I love.;)
You see, with me it depends. I can call many things comfort food, all depending on where I am, what I am doing and who with.;)
Into the comfort food category might fall a really juicy big burger, a pizza or fried chicken. Or a really heavy cream cake.;)
Then again, I can also crave a well prepared chicken or avocado salad as well.;)
Great post indeed, suddenly I want to change what I have planned for my supper tonight...

kath001 said...

Homemade bread warm from the oven with real butter. My mom was such a great baker. Any hot creamy casserole...or soup...or even poached egg on toast.

Mamma has spoken said...

Hum, creamy tomato soup with a warm grilled cheese sandwich. Or how about a big old bowl of chili with shredded cheese :od

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

In my childhood home, comfort food in winter meant a fried pork chop, a big pot of brown pinto beans which we would dish over crumbled up cornbread. Mother would have a bowl of Rotel (just like you use to make cheese dip) and we would spoon it over the beans and cornbread. It was hearty and wonderful! REAL food - simple food.

KathyB. said...

This post made me hungry and now I'll probably go raid the fridge for the left-over lasagne. Thanks a lot. One of my favorite comfort foods is the chicken and rice casserole you posted, and my youngest son loves this dish too. Noodles and butter or noodles smothered in real chicken and chicken gravy are the best!

Paul C said...

I really enjoy making chili or spaghetti sauce and making sure it has its share of spicy peppers. Natural ingredients bring out the best flavours.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Chicken and dumplings. We like the big puffy dumplings that soak up almost all the liquid. The sides of honey glazed carrots and sweet early peas. I used to make a hot chicken salad casserole when my kids were growing up. I would use leftover chicken and celery, onions and mayo. Topped with crushed potato chips and put in the oven for about 20 minutes. They loved it.

Vee said...

I could be perfectly content with your mama's chicken casserole. I share about my M&M addiction quite regularly and ice cream is good and anything crunchy is, too. Oh my! Too many! Mercifully, God spared me from loving mac and cheese, otherwise, I'd be completely sunk.

Claire said...

Thank you so much for the comment over at my place.

It means a lot.

I miss maize meal most from South Africa and of course a barbeque in the sweltering sun.

Liss said...

My comfort foods are generally sweet and high in calories. I also love Thai food and curries.

Chicken from a can sounds so wrong to me. Only recently have they introduced can chicken onto our supermarket shelves here. I can't bring myself to by it.
In saying that I am sure your mum's casserole tasted great.
Thanks for introducing me to Salpicao I'm going to look out for this dish.

Everyday Goddess said...

Mashed potatoes and gravy.

I like your co-created blog! Very entertaining.

Related Posts with Thumbnails