During the Thanksgiving holiday my friend Meredith explored Patagonia, a meandering territory in the southern tip of South America. This rugged area of spectacular national parks in the Andes mountain range is shared by Chile and Argentina. Forty years ago English author Bruce Chatwin wrote IN PATAGONIA, ‘a masterpiece of travel writing that revolutionized the genre’ and introduced that slice of South America to the world. Game on.
But, I digress….. As her vacation ended, beginning a lengthy 32-hour trek home, I asked that she check in when safely home in Atlanta. Here’s the text I received: “BUS: Natales to Arenas; PLANES: Arenas-Santiago-Dallas-Atlanta; TRAIN: Marta; WALK: Home. Travel is not for sissies. As you know!”
When she walked through the door, Meredith later told me, she headed for the freezer to pull out a stash of her Red Beans and Rice, a Louisiana Creole cuisine classic. While it bubbled on the burner, she unpacked, threw a load of dirty laundry in the washer, probably changed into sweats, and voila……breakfast/lunch/dinner poured into one big bowl of comfort food.
While my 1200-mile holiday adventures were not as exotic, my hunger pangs tilted toward comfort after spending Thanksgiving in California with my family. This week’s post highlights some easy eats of mine – a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of piping hot soup. Comfort medicine for the soul.
I’m taking it up a notch but still keeping it simple with Everything Spice Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and CooktheBookFridays recipe, Soupe de Céleri-Rave à la Crème de Raifort et Chips de Jambon. Even after months of immersion study at the Institut de Français, that’s an American mouthful. Translated simply, celery soup, unique and darn tasty.
This marks the fourth year of my winter hiatus from Aspen. Surprisingly, my sad pangs tugged stronger this year. Although escaping the High Country’s hearty winters is a great option, it wasn’t until Green River, 250 miles out, that I’d again convinced myself of this. Maybe what feels so right and happy just gets harder to leave.
In the winter, when my life is more gypsy than residential, it’s pretty important that every day be comfort food, figuratively not literally. Silly as it sounds, when traveling alone my world spins better if surrounded by my comfort cache. A bag of tricks? A security blanket in disguise? If stranded on a desert island, I could amuse myself. Here’s what I pack…..
1. Books and Kindle Paperwhite. Current Favorite: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson;
2. Four Boxes of Nabisco’s Honey Maid Graham Crackers;
3. Memberships in Hulu, Netflix, CBS Access, MHZ Choice and Acorn.
Current Favorites: Mannon and The Great British Baking Show;
4. Five Jigsaw Puzzles;
5. Lumosity, daily on-line brain games Membership;
6. Computer and iPhone – lifeline to family and friends;
7. 4 Spiral Notebooks, 3 Packages of Pens;
8. Educational Courses: Mythology, Spanish and French;
9. 2 Boxes of Nestle’s Coffee Nips;
10.Yoga Mat and Tapes.
WHAT’S YOUR COMFORT FOOD?
EVERYTHING SPICE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH
adapted from Tieghan Gerard, halfbakedharvest.com
4 slices thickly cut country bread (I prefer sourdough)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 combo cup of shredded havarti, fontina cheese and/or gruyere
4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough butter to coat pan. Cook one sandwich at a time.
2. Spread the outside of each slice of bread with butter and arrange the grated cheeses on one inside slice of each sandwich. Sprinkle the spice over both buttered outsides of the bread, pressing the spice mix gently into the bread to adhere. Sprinkle half the parmesan on top of each sandwich’s outside slice as you grill the sandwich.
3. Place the sandwiches, one at a time, parmesan cheese side up, in the skillet. (When you flip it, sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on the top.) Cook until golden on each side, about 4-5 minutes per side.
TIPS: 1. Use any combination of available cheeses in your fridge for your filling mixture.
2. I am making these again but will mix my own bagel spice, eliminating the garlic.
EVERYTHING BAGEL SPICE
3 tablespoons toasted white or black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons dried onion
2 teaspoons dried garlic (Optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
DIRECTIONS Combine everything in a small bowl or glass jar. Keep stored in a cool, dry place. If needed, season to taste with more salt.
CELERY ROOT SOUP with HORSERADISH CREAM and BACON CHIPS, My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
6 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
21/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
11/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cubed
6 cups (750ml) water
1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs of thyme
minced fresh chives for garnish
1. Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Saute for 7-10 minutes or until the leeks have started to turn translucent and a bit of color has started to develop on the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally.
2. Add the cubed celery root to the pot along with the bay leaf, thyme and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the celery root is tender, about 30-40 minutes. (A sharp paring knife should easily pierce a cube.)
3. Pluck out the bay leaf and thyme and let the soup cool to tepid. Add the white pepper. Puree with an immersion blender or remove the pot from the heat and carefully transfer, in small batches, to a regular blender and puree until smooth. Always be careful pureeing hot liquids. If the consistency of the soup is too thick, add water, a little at a time, as needed. Add white pepper or salt, to taste.
4. To serve the soup, reheat the soup and ladle into serving bowls. Add a generous dollop of horseradish cream, available at your local market, and crumble crispy bacon over the top, finishing each bowl with a sprinkling of chives.
OR, drizzle hazelnut, walnut or plain olive oil in the soup for garnish. Finish each bowl with a pinch of fleur de sel, or smoked sea salt.