Thursday, July 2, 2009

Every culture has it's comfort foods. For some people, it's a bowl of chicken soup that makes the world seem right, even in the pouring rain. For others, it's fried chicken. And for still others, it's a bowl of chili - winter or summer. We seek these foods out when we're stressed, when we're beginning to feel a cold coming on, or when the world just seems too much with us. Something about their smell, their texture, their taste - tells us that it's OK - we're OK. That this too shall pass.

Now, don't ask me how a nice Jewish girl originally from Long Island winds up with risotto as a comfort food. I mean, if I read the manual, it would probably say chicken soup - right? And chicken soup is great too - don't get me wrong. But these days, with a dislocated little toe and June gloom, I find myself turning to risotto for comfort. The texture is perfect. And someone gave me some sliced truffles which came in water. And I still have lots of dried shitaki mushrooms. So what's a girl to do?

I'll tell you what I tried to do. I tried photographing the risotto with the veggies I had grilled to go with it - red pepper, zucchini and eggplant. For some reason, not even Photoshop wants to open those pictures. They are, apparently, in an unrecognizable format. I see another learning curve in my future..........

Since I've made this kind of a dish before, I'm going to cheat a little and give you the recipe as it appeared here. Besides, I just went back and re-read that post, and in a heartbeat I was back in Rome. If you have the time and would care to take a quick jaunt to the Eternal City, be my guest!

What foods do you call comfort foods?

BTW - The black phoebe is using the bush outside my window as a culinary lesson for her young. Beyond fabulous!


2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup whipping cream

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups (or more) hot vegetable broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons shaved or chopped black truffle (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley


For leeks:
Bring leeks and cream to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are tender and cream is thick, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.

For mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss all ingredients on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until mushrooms are tender and light brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

For risotto:
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup hot broth. Simmer until broth is almost absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes longer. Stir in leek mixture, mushroom mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cheese, and truffle. Transfer to large bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Market Tip
White truffle oil is sold at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian markets. Black truffles are available at specialty foods stores and from A flavorful substitute for the shaved truffles is the Truffle Gatherers Sauce ($19), which can be ordered from

Kitchen Notes:
I had truffle oil this time, but not leeks. I used scallions instead. And, as I mentioned, I used truffles that had originally come sliced and in a can with water. I have never looked for this type of can. The woman who gave it to me is the wife of a chef. It helps to have connections!!


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Man does it ever help to have connections.
Comfort food ... pretty much any thing potato, pasta or rice that I had when I was little.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

As another Jewish girl from New York, I'm really partial to chicken soup. And lasagne.

Unknown said...

Tanna - I'm so with you on the potato thing. I can't think of anything more comforting than the smell of a potato baking.

Lydia - Chicken soup, of course! But Jewish lasagne? ;-)

Penny said...

I would have to say chicken and dumplings or chicken pot pie - something with a dough. Can't believe I have never made risotto. Will give it a try.

Cynthia said...

Happy 4th July!

For me, it varies - beans and rice, cook-up rice (rice cooked with coconut milk and meat), dhal and rice :)

Unknown said...

Penny - Yes, something with dough sounds very comforting indeed.

Cynthia - Well, it sounds like it's comfort food as long as it has rice in it. I've never heard of cook-up rice, but mixing it with coconut and meat sounds like it would be terrific! Must try this sometime.

test it comm said...

That is one nice looking mushroom risotto! I am into long braised stews for comfort foods.

Thistlemoon said...

These look great! I have a lot of comfort foods - one for every mood! LOL!

Tiina said...

My comfort foods are anything with pasta, meatballs with smashed potatoes, and meat soup. And chocolate helps always! ;)


Unknown said...

Kevin - Long braised stew gives you a double comfort - the smell while it's cooking as well as the comfort of eating it!

Jenn - I hear you!

Tiina - All of the above - and yes, of course, chocolate!