Autumn comfort foods roundup: come and get it, yee-haw!

cowgirlsuppertimeIt’s been really cold (and even rather gloomy and rainy!) here the past few weeks.  Aside from a few golden afternoons of sunshine in late September, this early fall has felt rather wintry.  The mountains are now covered in fresh snow and it’s dusk at 6:30 p.m., so it looks like winter is descending on the front range.

Last week Dr. Mister whipped up a fabulous batch of Best Beef Burgundy Ever, following my recipe quite faithfully, and it was (of course!) the Best Ever.  And for the past few weeks we’ve had a surfeit of milk–some members of the family (who shall remain nameless) are failing to drink up the 2-1/2 gallons of milk we have delivered to the house weekly, so I’ve been forced to go beyond yogurt to find ways of using this nutritious and useful food.  My latest scheme?  Rice pudding!  Bake it first thing in the morning or after supper, and the oven will warm your kitchen and house for you without turning on the furnace.  (Fuel conservation is perhaps my one hangover from my 1970s Energy Crisis childhood and my graduate student days.  Why heat the house when you can always put on another sweater or blanket?)

There are two schools of thought on rice pudding–the egg custard and cooked rice school, or the baked pottage school.  (Well, there are actually three schools of thought, if you count the school in which the egg yolks and whites are separated, beaten, and incorporated into the proto-pudding at different stages.  That school is far, far too much of a pain in the a$$ for a dish that’s supposed to be a convenient use of leftovers, IMHO.)  The easiest and most warming way to go is the baked pottage way–I’ve adapted this from Jeff Smith’s recipe, which he calls “Philadelphia Rice Pudding,” and says was “from the hand of Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson’s granddaughter, Virginia Randoph Trist,” in The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, p. 135.

Rice Pudding Historiann

1-1/2 quarts of milk (whole milk is best)

1 C short-grained rice (arborio, or other sticky short-grained rice)

3/4 C sugar

1/2 t salt

1 T vanilla

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in a heavy pan or casserole and heat on the stove to a simmer.  Cover and bake for 2 hours–do not disturb it until 2 hours have elapsed.  Check on it at this point–if it looks dry, throw in another cup of milk and bake for another 45 minutes.  (The total baking time should be 2:45.)

Good warm for breakfast, or as a simple treat any time.  Jeff Smith says this will serve 6-8–I would add that it would serve 6-8 people rather generously.

What are you cooking up these days?  For those of you in cool climates, what do you look forward to at the harvest?  I keep hoping that we’ll see more retro recipes at the good old days, but Cleanser is in graduate school now so she appears to be on a blog break.  Here’s hoping we’ll have more cuisine blogging again soon!

0 thoughts on “Autumn comfort foods roundup: come and get it, yee-haw!

  1. I don’t care much for “winter” foods: I will always choose salads and light, outdoor-grilled fare to stews and heavier things. And I’m a pesca-vegetarian, so the fresh produce season is better for my particular diet as well.

    That having been said, I do enjoy roasted roots: beets, potatoes, carrots, all make lovely caramelized flavors roasted in the oven. I also am addicted to blood oranges: just got the earliest ones of the season yesterday.


  2. Yummy! I agree about the roasted veggies: I roast a pan every night now, tossing in whatever I have from the farmer’s market: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, green tomatoes, etc. The basil in the garden was nuked by frost, but the mint, sage, rosemary, chives, and thyme are all going strong and are good additions, too.

    Roasted beets are really good with chopped fresh mint.

    What do you make with the blood oranges? Or do you just eat them?


  3. I adore sweet potatoes and winter squashes. So I have some great soups including those (kidney bean and butternut squash; sweet potato, peanut butter & pumpkin); and I also have a recipe for Moroccan sweet potatoes, that includes carrots and garbanzo beans roasted. If I didn’t have to finish preparing to teach, I’d include the recipe here.


  4. Susan–send the recipe on when you get a chance! In cold climates, veggies are the big challenge for me–that is, keeping them interesting rather than just steaming yet another hunk of broccoli or opening a bag of frozen peas. Your sweet potatoes recipe sounds like a great winter veggie solution.


  5. That sounds great–I like putting cheese, fruit, and nuts in savory salads in winter. It makes it more cheerful and festive somehow–I’ll definitely look for the blood oranges this fall & winter.


  6. I’m burning up microwaves at both ends of a big state (well, a tiny little postage stamp of a state by Front Range standards), but I got to wondering if a similar milk surfeit could be harnessed equally well to go on a *Tapioca* pudding jag? That was always my favorite on the “yellow pudding” side of the pudding spectrum. Either way, I bet the kitchen also smells really nice, in addition to taking a load off the big furnace downstairs. Delivered milk: there’s a jolt from deep pre-history. Is this stuff being delivered by cows just down from the summer pasture? Do the bottles clink on the porch in the late pre-dawn hours?


  7. Indyanna–yes, believe it or not. The milkman doesn’t wear a white coat and cap–he usually is a heavily tattooed guy in his 20s–but he delivers our 4 half-gallons of skim and one gallon of whole milk every Monday night. (The dairy offers morning or evening deliveries, because evenings are usually better for working people so that the milk doesn’t sit out all day long.) It’s like the 1950s here, in some good ways as well as some bad ways, too…

    I don’t know about baking tapioca for nearly 3 hours–that’s a more delicate thing than rice, since it’s not a grain per se. But of course, you (or anyone) could make a stovetop tapioca with lots of fresh milk–I’m sure that’s what the boxed preparation calls for!


  8. GayProf: that’s very ambitious. I’ve always been deterred by the whipping of the corn meal, hot water, and lard, which is quite an involved ordeal, and then the wrapping. Where do you get the wrappers?

    I’m coming to your house for thanksgiving, man.


  9. I make tamales too, although it’s a complete pain in the @ss to do it yourself. You can get the hojas at most grocery stores. I also like to make cake (buttercream works better when it’s cold out). Oh, and bitter greens! Rapini, kale… yum.


  10. Ooohh blood oranges. I’m so in love with blood oranges – the gorgeous color, the hint of raspberry. It makes great sorbet, and great compote. We make a lot of roasted butternut squash and pepperjack cheese quesadillas for an easy autumnal dinner. And pumpkin bread for dessert. Otherwise, we open a page of Deborah Madison’s glorious Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and pick something. Speaking of dairy, she has lots of amazing recipes that include bechamel sauce. I had never cared much for bechamel until I found her version. It’s really lovely. One year we had a mushroom lasagna (in a bechamel sauce) with homemade foccaccia for Thanksgiving. (My partner is Canadian, and not into American style “turkey” day.)


  11. Sweet potato is by far my favorite winter vegetable, though I love all the squashes too – usually we just roast our sweet potatoes in one inch squares in olive oil and plenty of salt. But we also make an easy ‘curry’ with coconut milk. Just saute tofu, then add onion and whatever vegetables you like – we use cherry tomatoes, red pepper, and sweet potato (sweet potato we actually microwave and throw in cooked at the end). Then add 1/2 cup of light coconut milk, 1 T of curry powder, 1 T of cumin,(or whatever quantities), salt and pepper. Serve over rice. To be further fiddly, one can add fresh ginger, garlic, lime, and cilantro.


  12. I beg to differ, perpetua: ginger, garlic, lime, and cilantro are hardly “fiddly”–in my kitchen, they’re staples!

    Great idea, though, for the curry. I bet red curry paste would taste great with that, too, instead of dry curry power.


  13. Zucca in Saor (adapted from Mario Batali’s “Simple Italian Food”):

    Cut a butternut squash (around 2 lbs.) lengthwise; scoop out the seeds and strings and peel the squash halves. Cut the halves crosswise into slices about 3/8 inch thick. Heat olive oil in a big skillet to just about smoking and fry the slices (you will probably need to do two or three batches) until well browned on both sides. (Lower the heat if the oil starts to smoke, add more oil as needed.) Drain the fried slices on a paper towel (or torn-up kraft paper bag); lay them in a shallow serving dish.

    Dice a biggish onion; stew the chopped onion in oil, adding a little water from time to time to keep the onion from browning, until the onion is soft. Add 1 cup dry white wine, 1 cup red wine vinegar, and 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (or use vin cotto if you can find it–it’s delicious). Over high heat, reduce this liquid by about half. Add a handful of raisins or currants and a handful of toasted pignolis. Season with a little cinnamon and clove, salt and pepper to taste. (Do these ahead in a dry pan, over high heat, keeping them moving constantly so they don’t scorch.) Cook over low heat a few minutes to plump the raisins. Pour the mixture (known as “saor”)over the slices of squash and let the whole thing sit at room temp for several hours, or overnight in the fridge (but then take it out to let it come to room temp before serving.) Insanely good.


  14. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is one of my favorite cookbooks. There’s a recipe in there for butternut squash gratin that’s to die for. First you cube the squash, toss it with flour, and briefly saute with olive oil, salt, and pepper until lightly browned. Add chopped parsley and set aside, while you next carmelize some onions in olive oil, adding chopped sage towards the end. Finally, put the onions and squash into a buttered gratin dish. Add milk (just a cup or so, I think), and cover the top with grated gruyere cheese and bread crumbs. Bake covered for a half hour or so at 400 degrees, and then uncover for another 5-10 minutes so the cheese and breadcrumbs brown. The squash is done when it melts in your mouth!


  15. Wow–both of those squash dishes sound great. Rootlesscosmo, your dish reminds me of an Afghan squash dish I’ve made, with fried butternut rings, fried onions mixed with tumeric and red pepper flakes, and then topped off with a thick yogurt, garlic, and mint sauce. Butternut squash is just really good for frying, isn’t it? And Deborah, you should check my archives from last Thanksgiving. Notorious Girl, Ph.D. contributed a great squash lasagne recipe you might like, which was similarly herby and cheesy. (I might have to look that up myself…)

    I had no idea I had so many readers who appear to be vegetarian chefs! You’re all very kind to read a cowgirl blog–‘cos you do know where we’re driving all those cattle, don’t you?


  16. We’re saying goodbye to tomatoes and hello to roasted chiles at our farmer’s market. The first week I smell the roasting at the big Saturday market, a switch flips and I start thinking autumn. No more peaches but we get the hearty greens, a host of potatoes each suited to its own culinary purpose, and for a few weeks fresh shelling beans (oh joy). Winter squashes and brussels sprouts soon too!

    I could go on and on about fresh shelling beans (the Cranberry varieties and others). They are quite different from their dried counterparts. In fact, I’m eating some with kale and onions an I type. For the Cranberry varieties, I shell ’em into a saucepan, cover with 2x as much water as beans, add a quick dollop of olive oil (maybe a Tbsp) and a pinch of salt, simmer until they are tender (20 to 30 minutes), drain and rinse off the cooking water. They are ready for anything, tossing with pasta and tomatoes, accompanying new potatoes and greens, wherever they will have a voice of their own. I like them better than cooked dry beans in season-spanning soups like ribollita.

    I roasted a bunch of beets Sunday. They freeze surprisingly well. I dice and freeze beets and then use them in quick chutneys and salads and so forth. We put as much food by as we can, both canning and freezing. It’s a bit like making tamales or any other task with lots of repetitions. Once you have a feel for the routine, it’s not hard to start it up when the need (opportunity) arises.


  17. We’ve already made soup (sweet potato soup, with curry powder and ginger, immersion blended and with a kind of citrus salsa on the top, complete with Chimayo chili–that’s actually the whole of the “recipe” I follow, by the way–use the proportions that seem right and they probably will be), and the French onion stuff can’t be far away, I hope! And I’ve already made my first batch of French baguettes–more fresh bread on the way, too, I hope: it’s harder to get it to rise in the cooler weather, but at least now we’re willing to turn the oven on. But no French toast can compete with the stuff made from leftovers of baguettes!

    Reading over that you’d maybe think I studied French stuff, but I’m Anglo-Saxon all the way. As for the meat eating: have the pepper steak at the Charco Broiler for me some time, Historiann!


  18. that is, keeping them interesting rather than just steaming yet another hunk of broccoli

    The NY Times had a recipe a while back for roasted broccoli and shrimp. Easy and fabulous. Let me see if I can find it at home.


  19. Ooohhh–that sounds good. I did a lot of roasted broccoli last winter, but got complaints from unnanmed family members who were tired of eating their vegetables “burnt.”

    Tom: are you serious? The Charco Broiler? Srsly? Fill me in on the pepper steak. The bread sounds great–why didn’t you take up that hobby when you lived in Potterville?

    truffula: I’ll have to keep an eye out for the shelling beans. I remember buying a bunch of cranberry beans when I was in college, and steaming them whole (!) which was a terrible idea. (I was pretty stupid!) I hadn’t considered freezing roasted beets–thanks for the tip. (With too many summer squashes, I’ve either shredded or sliced them in thick chunks for adding to soups in winter–that works pretty well, b/c the texture issue isn’t so important.)


  20. FWIW, I also love meat – and it seems the smaller god’s creature, the more I enjoy devouring it (rabbit, pheasant, and lamb in particular). But we tend not to prepare meat at home – holdover from poor grad student days. Plus my partner is a recovering vegetarian who prefers not to eat meat often. I only eat steak about once a year, and when I do, I make sure it’s in big sky country.


  21. Charco Broiler: seriously. Put on your MadMen fifties-kitchiest outfit and enjoy the retro atmosphere (which clearly hasn’t changed since the fifties), laugh your way through the salad topped with corn chex instead of croutons (actually not bad, BTW, but definitely a bit weird), and order the pepper steak. Maybe you and Dr Mister eat better than we used to, but the pepper steak was (on multiple occasions) as good a piece of beef as I’ve ever had in a restaurant. If you’re there for lunch and it’s not on the menu, order it anyway, and they’ll give it to you. It would be comfort food to me, if I had one this evening.

    And I first made baguettes back in Potterville; sorry you never got any! But you must have had our signature focaccia?


  22. perpetua, Lambs/sheep and chickens are pretty stupid, so I don’t feel bad for eating them. Cattle are pretty stupid too, but then again, my cats ain’t brain surgeons, so what’s the difference between who’s on my sofa and who’s in my oven? (Aside from size, and perhaps cuddliness–but I’m thinking of moral differences, not aesthetic ones.)

    Pigs are smart, but their meat is also delicious. What’s an omnivore to do?

    It’s difficult out here, where animal ranching is so big, and the natural meats we can get almost outnumber the local organic gardeners/farmer’s markets. I’ve had this debate with a sister-in-law, as to whether to eat meat farmed locally and sustainably, or to just go vegetarian. I want to support the farmers, but I confess that I am disturbed by all of the death and exploitation involved in consuming animal products. (But clearly not disturbed enough to stop eating meat or drinking milk, etc.!)


  23. rebel lettriste–I love persimmons, but they’re so good fresh that I don’t know how a pudding could improve on nature. (Unlike quinces, which clearly need a hot oven and some sugar, lemon juice, and spices.)

    Tom, I’ll have to check out the Charco-Broiler, then! We’ll go in full Mad Men drag, and maybe order a Manhattan to start. (Do they have a liquor license?)


  24. I hate to turn this into the Charco Broiler blog, but my understanding (perhaps deeply flawed) was that the location was originally chosen to lie outside the (then) dry town boundaries. So, yes, a Manhattan ought to be possible. Cowboy boots not required, but probably recommended.


  25. Just put up my first batches of stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage. The freezer is so full the door keeps popping open! Had the first of the cabbage Sunday for dinner with nice hunks of bread. Looking forward to making a big batch of soup, having just made a huge pot of chili the other day. Love to smell the smells! Taking a crock pot of stew up to friends in Upper Lower Mitten this weekend. Hope I don’t “comfort food” myself out too early as I haven’t roasted a vegetable yet!


  26. OMG I LOVE RICE PUDDING! Sorry for yelling, but seriously, yeah. And, without raisins please (I only knew of 2 kinds of rice pudding… with and without raisins).

    I’m a one-pan cooker, myself. Roast beastie (chicken usually) with roasted root veggies — beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips, turnip… if it isn’t a potato-type root, peel and brush with olive oil, a little salt and pepper. Roast with the beast. Carrots, parsnips, turnips all get yummy sugary yum. (Can you tell I haven’t had dinner yet?)


  27. PS: The more root things you roast with the beast, the longer the beast takes to roast. Don’t let the root things touch the chicken beast, or you’ll have a raw gooey spot, ick.


  28. Another use for extra milk — panna cotta. Easy to make, tastes great, goes well with other stuff like berries, other fruit, chocolate syrup, Nutella.

    re: home milk delivery — I grew up in Vermont, we had home milk delivery until the late 1970s.

    Historiann, I want your yogurt recipe, please!


  29. Baked my first autumn loaf of bread yesterday (light ginger rye). And we made a big ole batch of scalloped potatoes on the weekend, very cheesy, with red potatoes and lots of onions. Spent forever in the oven, so it’s really only for cool nights.

    Rice pudding I like to make with tea and lots of cardamom; or sometimes with dried cherries and almond extract. It’s a fun food to play with, kinda hard to mess up.

    My favorite winter fruit-for-breakfast recipe:


  30. A blood orange alternative: cut them in half, squeeze them and freeze the juice to make sherbet, or alarming-looking cocktails with vodka. But don’t throw those peels away! Scrape out as much pulp as you can, then boil the peel halves 30 minutes, changing the water twice (this makes a difference, something about pectins in solution I think); let them cool, slice them in quarter-inch-wide strips, and simmer in sugar syrup, then let the pieces dry overnight on a rack (be careful to keep them separate or you’ll never be able to pry them apart), roll in granulated sugar and refrigerate. Keeps for months. And you can dip them in melted chocolate–leave some exposed for a finger grip–refrigerate and serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh ricotta. (This is courtesy Alice Waters Chez Panisse Fruit.)


  31. Historiann, I’ve found a locally raised beef near us that is organic…at….$4 a pound (for reals). There is a waiting list and it is only that little if you buy 1/4 or 1/2 a cow but it is so delicious and feels good supporting them. If you want details email me!


  32. Well, I thought I’d left my favorite pasta recipe, which is fungible in lots of ways, but it seems to have disappeared. So here’s two favorites
    Pasta: I tend to use fusilli or penne for this. Cook pasta. While the pasta is cooking, saute some garlic, then add your veg (brocolli in winter, asparagus in spring, spinach also works in a different way); then add smoked salmon or shrimp (you could probably also use the imported tuna in olive oil). Use some of the pasta water if you want more liquid in the sauce. Serve with parmesan or other cheese.

    Moroccan Sweet Potatoes, courtesy of Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven…
    6 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
    3 medium carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1/2″ slices
    1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4″ rings
    1/4 c. olive oil
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    1/4 c. raisins
    salt & pepper to taste
    1/3 c. water
    1 16oz can chickpeas
    1/4 c. chopped walnuts

    Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients through salt and pepper. Pour water into a rectangular baking dish, and add the potato mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake for an hour. Remove the foil, add chickpeas and walnuts, and cook for another 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

    Yum. Best go cook dinner!


  33. Don’t do it, Historiann, the cat part, I mean. Unhand that Mouse and step away from the couch… Actually, there was a popular 1970s cartoon book about cats that had one comparing a striped-back cat to a ketchup-laced meatloaf, ready to go in at 360. It was funny, well, some people didn’t think it was as funny as others did.

    A scrumptious thread this day. I’ll have to see if that oven works this year…


  34. I spent Monday stuffing peppers from a bushel-plus we harvested from our garden. While I prepared said peppers I cooked down the rest of the tomatoes from the garden, adding the last of the basil along with the rosemary and oregano. I strung the serranos to dry. I still have a lot of peppers left over–it was a banner year in my garden. (And yes, I still have zucchini from The Plant That Doesn’t Know How To Die.)

    Autumnal soups for me: corn chowder with peppered bacon. The corn can be fresh or frozen, still tastes wonderful. Potato-leek soup. (Every time my mother made it she said “the first thing you do is take a leek….” And then she laughed herself silly.) Roasted red pepper soup. ‘Nuff said.

    We’re still in apple harvest time here in Buckeye land, so I’ve been making apple crumb cake, apple-sour cherry compote (thanks, Michigan, for the cherries), and on Sunday, pork roast with cider. Have also made three batches of pumpkin cookies for meetings–to much acclaim, I’m proud to say.


  35. We discovered last month that we have a plum tree in our (new) back yard. Not being a plum eater, I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I gave them all away to some very appreciative friends.

    We can’t seem to get enough butternut squash around here these days. I prefer it as simple as possible–roasted with just a bit of pepper and sea salt. It was featured recently in a pre-Thanksgiving turkey dinner here.

    Also, Family Hotshot went apple picking last week, so we’re making our way through some applesauce. Harry’s mom will be around next week for Hotshot Jr.’s first birthday, and with luck she’ll bake her legendary apple pie.


  36. Wow–thanks all for the fab recipes and happy eating! Harry, I’m envious of you–we have an apple tree, and we’ve been hoping to plant more fruit trees on the north slope (even if most of it goes to the birds and squirrels.) I bet they’re those yummy little prune plums. You can make really good little late summer tarts with those–try it with a very short and sweet crust.

    For Knitting Clio: Yogurt is really easy. Heat a pan of milk to 184 degrees (scalding), and let it cool to 115 degrees. Whisk in some plain yogurt–about 2 T per pint of milk or so. Put aside someplace warm–my oven has a “proof” button for rising dough, and that keeps it warm enough to make yogurt. You can also try putting the pan on a heating pad, but older stoves with pilot lights underneath do a good job of keeping the mixture warm. Do not disturb–in about 8-12 hours, it’s yogurt. (I think it gets tangier the longer you let it develop, so beware. I try to do it overnight, so I probably leave it in closer to 8-10 hours.)

    Use whole milk. It’s much tastier! (But then, I’m the butterfat queen. There’s nothing that won’t taste better with more butterfat, IMHO.)


  37. Oooh, this thread is delicious! Consider this another enthusiastic thumbs up to the Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone book.

    And Deborah, I just made that butternut squash and onion gratin on Sunday and had some of the leftovers just now! Mmmm!

    I’m impressed with all the soup-makers (can I come over?) and want to know if French onion soup is difficult to make…

    Mmm, now I want to go roast things!


  38. Sisyphus: French onion soup is very difficult to make, if you’re a vegetarian! (Oh well–I’m sure you can probably substitute a really nice mushroom broth for the beef stock…)


  39. Historiann, I admit we only eat ethically and humanly raised meat. I don’t care as much if it’s organic, though if I don’t know where the meat came from/ how it was raised, I buy organic. But really, I think more in terms of Polyface farms (cf Omnivore’s dilemma), and would prefer to buy local. But not commercial-style local. . . We also have a local creamery, and I cannot believe how much better fresh milk tastes.


  40. Chili.

    Beans thawed from the summer, a couple cans of dollar tomatoes-and-garlic from the Safeway, sauteed pearl onions, garlic bulb, red/yellow/orange peppers, spare turnip and squash, half-bag of Hatch chiles, chili powder/cumin, and a pound of lean ground beef, simmering in the crockpot before I go to bed.

    And, of course, I want nachos instead. *sigh* At least I can replenish at the farmer’s market this weekend.


  41. Oh, and Historiann —

    Don’t steam broccoli/cauliflower — use a nonstick skillet, a touch of oil, and sear those bits juicy.

    Add water if you don’t get them tender enough that way, but sprinkle some kosher salt and chili powder on them as they get there. Works best with frozen veggies — keeps them crisp and their flavor intensified.


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