It was a long, dry and hot summer. One that actually made a few of us yearn for a bit of rain, maybe even for a few lace-frosted mornings. We have apparently gotten our wish. As the daylight diminishes, the temperatures decline, the moisture so long missing is being restored, drop by drop, to our ponds, lake and wells. Who knows, maybe we’ll have vibrantly green grass one day. Meanwhile we must find comfort where we can. At home.
The advent of autumn with its rainy days and crisp air invites us to indulge in fireplaces, warming our evenings with atavistic pleasures. Why so? Yes, the heat counts, as does the flickering light. But it doesn’t account for the overall satisfaction provided. Our kitchens and menus too revert to the denser gratifications. Soups, stews, braises all fill our rooms with rich scents, whetting our appetites in anticipation. Such pleasures encompass the long and indulgent preparation as well as the eating. It can’t be a coincidence that the availability of intensely flavored root vegetables, onions and celery are at their best when the chill of the season generates the need of comfort food.
Worldly pundits opine on what provides the comfort of comfort foods. Most of us intuit that they are foods that make us feel good; that alleviate the adult stresses of life; that nostalgically reproduce the dreamy well-being of childhood. The actual food is dependent on the individual and the culture. For some folks a rich bit of chocolate will turn the day around. For others relaxing with a glass of complex rich wine is a luxurious comfort. One’s Mac and Cheese is another’s Coq au Vin. One’s Braised Lamb Shanks are another’s Lasagna. One thing seems certain, in all cases, the aroma is one key to unlocking those sentimental feelings of contentment. Hence the long slow cooking processes that release the scents of memory.
Our web site contains many previously published recipes that would qualify as comfort food, including: Coq Au Vin, Spiced and Braised Lamb Shanks and Stinco di Maiale. Today’s recipe, Braise Beef in Wine and Chocolate Sauce, manages to incorporate multiple elements of comfort. The source recipe is Italian, but there are ghosts of Mexican Moles* in its roots. Comfort yourself and those you love.