I sit down with my weekly meal plan sheet and stack of cookbooks.
“What do you want this week?” I ask Husband.
“Chicken parm and mac-n-cheese,” he says. “You know, comfort foods.”
I write “mac n cheese” on Wednesday. I could go for some comfort food too.
I’m glad I’m not alone with mac n cheese on my comfort food list. Since the idea of giving writers comfort food (not the literal kind, but the figurative kind) is what started this blog two years ago almost to the day, I’d like to spend this week sharing comfort food recipes. Here is one to get it started (I apologize in advance for being “one of those cooks” who doesn’t measure):
4 strips bacon
1 small chicken breast, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups cheese of choice (I use a combination of cheddar, colby jack shreds since they melt faster)
about 3/4 of a big box of macaroni noodles
1 cup frozen spinach, cooked according to package directions
1 cup frozen peas
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
desired seasoning for chicken (optional, but I like to use cajun seasoning mix)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain. Pour into the baking dish.
3. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.
4. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until slightly overdone, be careful not to burn (this helps the bacon keep some crisp during baking). Remove the bacon to a plate with paper towels.
5. Empty most of the bacon grease from the skillet. Brown the chicken in remaining grease, seasoning if desired. Pour chicken into the baking dish.
6. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter to the skillet and melt fully. Stir in the flour until slightly brown and bubbly. Add the milk and stir constantly until the flour is dissolved. This roux helps thicken the cheese sauce.
7. Add the cheese to the roux, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick but not lumpy. Season with salt, pepper, and pinch nutmeg.
8. Add the peas, spinach, and tomatoes to the baking dish with the noodles and chicken. Stir in the cheese sauce. Crumble the bacon and mix it in. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs
9. Bake about 25 minutes until the top is brown.
Any ingredients can be substituted for my peas, spinach, tomatoes, and bacon. I make two similar dishes, a pizza version with olives, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese instead, and a taco version with taco meat, black beans, corn, and mexican cheeses. Have fun with it!
Please share a recipe (or recipes) for your favorite comfort food(s) in the comments. I can’t wait to see what you’re cooking!