Comfort food has a Wikipedia page (So, actually, does one of my clients, but he pitched for the Milwaukee Braves and Houston Astros for nine years.) Wikipedia describes comfort food as “traditional food which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the consumer, and is often characterized by a high carbohydrate level and simple preparation.”
Baloney. Comfort food is tasty food you like, made simply and easily. For me, recipes are a distraction. If instructions are required, I’ll eff them up and ”easily” won’t be part of the mix. (I had my tech guy come by to make two DVD players work. One new DVD purchase later, I’m watching DVDs on my laptop. No matter how many buttons I push, I fail.)
So, for a foodie who enjoys a decent number of “dinners for one,” what is comfort food? For me, here’s what isn’t part of the mix: Mashed potatoes and gravy, for I don’t trust any gravy if I can’t readily identify its ingredients; Mac and cheese, which is generally so-so and not worth the calories; and Tuna casseroles, due to childhood memories. (Sorry Mom!)
So what do I like? Well, I’ll show you. First up is torn Romaine leaves with sautéed mushroom slices and broiled salmon. Super easy, light and refreshing, and pretty damn healthy. (By the way, I used a wok for the mushrooms, and rarely use oil.)
Second, and my most regular go-to, is a “torta” made from Trader Joe’s Handmade Corn Tortillas. They’re slightly thicker, and have lots of flavor. And inside? Miniscule amounts of grated cheese on the bottom and on top of the other ingredients. (I think of it as glue, mostly there to hold the thing together.) And the ingredients? I always include chopped green onions and TJ Sun-Dried Tomatoes, dry in the bag. Tuna, tilapia, pepperoni, or ham find a place from time to time.
Then there are potatoes. But for the mashed variety, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an adequate portion of any potato dish. So what you’re seeing below is a white potato—a large Yukon Gold or several small ones will work—which was nuked on two sides for about a minute per side, chopped and baked. Once the pieces are brown, I add some shredded mozzarella and bake for a few minutes until it’s melted. Then, chopped green onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and Jiggs Barbecue Sauce. (Per my friend RB, you don’t drive through Oklahoma on I-40 without stopping for sauce, and I never haven’t. Truth be told, the mandate brings to mind Adams’s Ribs, one terrific MASH episode.)
Finally, and certainly more involved, is my version of fried rice. It starts with brown rice. I’m down with the white version, but others insist on brown for health reasons, so brown it is. The rice gets cooked a day ahead of time because … I don’t know why, but it does. Other ingredients are chef’s choice, heavy on the veggies. What you see is what I included, plus Ichimi Togarashi, Soy Sauce, and Fish Sauce.
Veggies cook first. Then fish and pulled pork. (The smoky flavor predominates, so I recommend using something other than Whole Food Smoked Pulled Pork.). Then the spice, liquids, and rice. No hard frying—I’ve always thought restaurant fried rices tastes mostly like oil—and no scrambled egg. I don’t like eggs, and they like me less. (The fried rice provides lots of leftovers, whether you’re one or two.)
Finally, if you need comfort, there is nothing quite like a fine martini at your nearest watering hole hole. Mine offers Bluecoat as its well gin, and a fine bowl of bar snacks. (If you plan on mixing your cooking and drinking, you might consider getting all of your prep done before you enjoy the martini.)
I hope my suggestions inspire you. They work, whether your week is easy or hard, and they offer jumping off points, allowing you to be as creative, simple, or extravagant as you choose. Enjoy!