A top 10 list of Southern comfort foods

April 17, 2013 

What would make your Top 10 list of comfort foods? It is a highly subjective question to be sure.

If you're from the Atlantic coast a clambake might make your list. If you're from the Midwest a pork tenderloin sandwich might be onit. If you're from Maine, a lobster roll; bagels for New Yorkers, Philly cheesesteak for those in Pennsylvania, a deep dish pizza for Chicagoans and so on.

It could be an endless recitation, so for this story, we'll concentrate on a Top 10 list of comfort foods from the South.

Some recipes, such as macaroni and cheese, have a near universal following, but others are mostly Southern, such as gumbo, jambalaya, po-boys and shrimp and grits.

There is never going to be a definitive list, certainly not of the Top 10. A top 100 list might be a more useful undertaking, but it just won't fit in this format. Let's be concise and keep it to 10.

Please don't be offended if your Top 10 and the one posted here don't match or if something vital to yours was excluded.

Top 10 Comfort Foods

n Macaroni and cheese

n Daube spaghetti

n Smothered pork chops

n Fried shrimp and oysters

n Roast beef po-boy

n Pot roast and mashed potatoes

n Chicken and dumplings

n Fried chicken

n Shrimp and grits

n Seafood gumbo

ROAST BEEF PO-BOY

1 po-boy loaf per person or an 8-inch slice of French bread

2-3 pound beef chuck roast

1 large chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped celery

1/3 cup grated carrots

14 cloves of garlic

1/2 bottle red wine

4 cups beef stock/water

Black pepper

Red pepper flakes

Chopped lettuce, sliced tomatoes and lots of mayonnaise

Dry the roast thoroughly, make incisions about 1-inch wide and 1-inch deep and fill with sliced garlic cloves; 8 or 10 cuts should do. Season with black pepper and then sear in a smoking hot deep braising pot that is well oiled until evenly browned; take your time and do a good job as this is a critical step. Remove the roast from the pan, add the vegetables (minus the remaining garlic), season and cook for 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the red wine and reduce by 1/2, add the roast back to the pot, add the beef stock (or water if you prefer), bring to a simmer and cook slowly for at least 2 hours. When the meat is easily pulled away with a fork remove the roast and set aside. Using an emulsion blended puree the vegetables in the stock until it is thickened (it should coat the back of a spoon). Pull the beef with a fork and add it back to the gravy.

Slice the bread, add mayonnaise if you like, fill with beef and lots of gravy, garnish with lettuce and tomato and serve with a lots of paper towels.

MACARONI AND CHEESE

This is a rendition of Alton Brown's famous recipe

1 package elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 pinch mustard powder

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cups milk (use cream if you're feeling decadent)

1/2 teaspoon paprika (used smoked paprika for something different)

1 egg

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

3-4 tablespoons butter

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Fill a large pot with water, salt it and bring it to a boil. Preheat the oven top 350 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, add the flour and mustard and make a light brown roux. Add the milk, bay leaf, onion and paprika and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add 3/4 of the cheese and season with pepper then add the macaroni stir and pour into a large casserole dish. Add the egg and stir again. Top with the rest of the cheese and then the panko. Dot the butter on top and bake for 30 minutes.

SHRIMP AND GRITS

1 cup yellow grits

2 cups water

2 cups milk (cream if you're not on a diet)

1 cup best quality cheddar cheese

1/4 cup canned green chilies

1/2 cup chopped Andouille sausage

1 pound large shrimp

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

3-4 cloves chopped garlic

1/4 cup diced tomato, drained

Black pepper

Red pepper flakes

Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning

Bring the water and milk to a simmer in a large sauce pan; slowly add the grits and cook, stirring often until almost done. In a separate pan sauté the sausage until well-browned, then add the sausage, cheese and chilies to the grits and finish cooking. Pour the grits into an ice cube tray and let cool. Season the shrimp with Tony's, then add olive oil to a sauté pan and heat until smoking hot. Cook the shrimp quickly, only 30 seconds on a side, remove and set aside. Sauté the onions and bell pepper in the same pan, adding a little olive oil if necessary, for about 6 minutes, season as you go. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the shrimp and toss, taste and season again if necessary. Remove the grits from the ice cube trays, top with the shrimp mixture and garnish with the fresh tomatoes. Serve with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc.

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