Tag Archives: Comfort Food

Soup for the Soul

On November 12th, the world celebrates Chicken Soup for the Soul Day.

Okay, well probably not most of the world. It’s a little-known holiday (though it does exist)! But especially with a rough past couple of days – from surprise election results to the expected-as-usual chilly weather – we could all use some chicken soup today.

Chicken soup is one of the easiest things to make ever, and is something I ate a lot my first few weeks of university. There’s something about it, be it chicken-flavored ramen or your mom’s homemade stuff, that can warm your soul all on its own. If you’ve got a kitchen, the steps are simple:

  1. Buy chicken and vegetables
  2. Boil it all in a pot*

However, most of us either a) do not have a kitchen, b) lack motivation to cook a pot of soup, or c) tried to cut corners and just had ramen but feel it lacks soul.

For everyone this applies to (which let’s be honest, is all of us at some point), here’s a handy list:

WHERE TO FIND SOUP AND SOUL IN NYC

1. Jin Ramen

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The Harlem Jin Ramen is hidden just behind the 125th St. stop on the 1 – and every bit worth seeking out. Help yourself to a hearty bowl of delicious soup or donburi – the delicious rice bowls that are only $7 for a [HUGE] small size. Close to campus and just…yum. It warms you to the core.

Though it tends to be crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings in particular, go for an early lunch and you’ll have no wait at all.

2. With a friend and chicken ramen

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Leaving your room/suite/apartment is hard; being hungry and alone is harder. Solve the dilemma – invite a friend! Stock up on cheap soup cups right now to make sure you’re prepared for this situation!

3. Sylvia’s

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Sure, it takes twenty minutes to get there – but you’ll make up for burned calories as soon as you walk into this Harlem soul food staple. Defined by its friendly staff and delicious fried chicken, it also features unlimited free cornbread.

Yes. That does say unlimited free cornbread.

4. Alone in your room, with a blanket

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Sometimes, your own soul is enough. Light a Christmas-y smelling candle, curl up in a comforter, and maybe just order soup from Seamless. Jin Ramen without the wait.

Stay warm inside and out!

*For a bit more in-depth chicken soup recipe, check out this from the Food Network’s Tyler Florence!

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International Foods of NYC: Poutine, the greasy, Canadian staple

Poutine – the ultimate comfort food.

Instead of escaping to the sunny beach, I decided to venture to chilly Montreal during spring break. It is a relaxed city with a very fun nightlife, perfect for students. A Montreal staple is poutine, French fries covered with gravy and topped with cheese curds. The gravy gives the fries a soggy texture and the cheese curds add chewiness. It’s as gluttonous as it sounds.

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Classic Poutine

A common tale about poutine’s origins tells the story of Fernand Lachance who asked for cheese curds on top of his fries, exclaiming how it would be such a mess. He called it a ‘poutine,’ which means mess in French. Gravy was later added to keep the fries warm. Eating poutine is truly a messy process so there definitely is a reason for its name.

‘Frites Alors!’ is a restaurant in Montreal that specializes in poutine, selling the classic along with several different variations. The most popular combination is the ‘Frites Alors!’ special which comes with sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms on top of the traditional toppings. It adds flavor to the rather bland mix. However, the lethargic and stuffed feeling that comes after eating poutine is inevitable, no matter what is put on top.

FriteAlors

 

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Frite Alors! Special

New York is the city with all kinds of food so surely there must be places that serve this not-so delicate delicacy. In fact, there are two rather popular Canadian restaurants that both reference the Mile End district of Montreal, the equivalent to New York’s Soho, in their title. Zagat has rated both these restaurants, ‘Mile End,’ located in Noho on Bond Street, and ‘Mile End Delicatessen,’ located in Brooklyn, amongst the best fries in New York City. They are both given very high ratings on Yelp, Google, and Zagat.

Note, while eating poutine, it’s important not to be self-aware. Or else you begin to freak out about the high calories and total lack of nutrients that you’re consuming. Thus, it’s the perfect late night food that warms you and puts you to sleep. I can see why it is such a staple in Quebec given the cold and wintery climate.

 

Celebrating the Persian New Year? Visit Ravagh

Eid Mobarak! Last Friday, Persians all over the world celebrated the Persian New Year, and the first day of spring. Nowruz has its root in ancient Persia. It is a holy day for Zoroastrians, and a major secular holiday for Iranians of all faiths.

This week, in honor of the Persian New Year, I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Ravagh. This Persian restaurant is wildly popular among Persians and non-Persians in New York, with three locations in Manhattan alone, and others in Long Island. Their restaurant in mid-town will stay packed until 12 am with families munching on kebobs, stews, and buttery, fluffy Persian rice. I have yet to try something on the menu that is not delicious. It is the first restaurant that I think of when I am in the mood for a warm, comforting, generous meal.

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A well-known dish at Ravagh that is often considered Iran’s “national dish” is Ghormeh Sabzi, a stew of herbs, beans, and beef. The herbs are bitter, set off by tangy lemon juice, and the meat, stewed for a long time with the herbs, is tender and seasoned with turmeric, a spice essential to Persian cuisine. Many will admit that the stew does not look very appetizing, but it is so full of flavor, and so comforting, that no one really pays any attention to the way it looks.

Normally, Ravagh serves this stew with white Persian rice, but add a couple of bucks to substitute it for Zereshk Polo, saffron rice with sweet, tangy barberries. Rice in Persian cuisine is an art. It is washed eight times in water before being cooked to get rid of most of the starch, giving it a fluffy, air-like texture. After the water is fully absorbed, the rice left at the bottom of the pan is cooked a little longer in butter and saffron so that it becomes crunchy, almost scorched. In Farsi, this is called “tahdig,” and is considered a delicacy all over Iran. Variations of it are made with potatoes, bread, and even Spaghetti! I didn’t order the plate of crunchy goodness this time, because a stew with a whole plate of Zereshk Polo was a lot, but normally, tahdig is served with a stew of your choice as a “side-dish.” Because portions at this restaurant are so generous, though, one tahdig and a small soup will make for a heavy dinner.

Arguably the most important part of going to a Persian restaurant is the kebob. During the number of times I’ve been there, I’ve had the barg kebob, sirloin beef, marinated and grilled to perfection, koobideh kebob, a grilled skewer of ground beef, and jujeh kebob, succulent Cornish hens marinated in lemon and saffron. All of their kebobs come with lots of rice, and you will be struggling to finish he last pieces of meat and grains of rice left on your plate.

That is why I strongly recommend that you go to Ravagh in a group of three or four, order a stew, a plate of kebob, and tahdig to share so you get to taste everything without overeating. If you’ve never had Persian food, I hope that I’ve been able to entice you to make a trip to one of the three Ravagh locations in Manhattan and try it. Ravagh, for me, has been one of the most exciting culinary experiences in New York, and I hope that a visit to this restaurant will do the same for you!

 

 

S’Mac: A Big Hug in Carbohydrate Form

One thing that the Morningside Heights food scene is desperately missing is some good old-fashioned comfort food. The most logical place to turn for some of that is not usually the East Village. But hey—Manhattan is anything but typical! The East Village is home to the original location a specialized restaurant called S’Mac. Short for the more homey (but less catchy) Sarita’s Mac and Cheese, S’Mac is a follower of the single-dish restaurant concept trend: they just do mac and cheese and they do it well.

So unassuming. So orange. So cheesy.

But just because they only do mac and cheese doesn’t mean they haven’t got a huge variety of choices. S’Mac offers a range of mac and cheese flavors, from a pizza-inspired mac to a French dish with brie and mushrooms to a very odd sounding buffalo chicken flavor—to each his own. Still, the classic “all-American” with American and cheddar cheeses is their most popular option, predictably so. You can even opt to have your mac topped with a breadcrumb crunch on top, which I highly recommend if you want some textural relief to break up the rich cheesy sauce beneath.

S’Mac does exactly what it promises to: serve up classically delicious mac and cheese that is made well and with just enough excitement. You won’t get any big flavor shocks or revolutionary new food experiences here, but that’s not always what we’re looking for. If you’re having a little too much trouble deciding what flavor to go for, they even offer up a sampler pan with a wedge dedicated to each flavor. So bring some friends. It’s gonna be a good time.

The before shot

The reason why S’Mac is such a big hit with me is because of their delivery system. They serve your macaroni in a specially sized cast iron pan, bubbling hot from the oven and gorgeously edged with crispy cheese. The pan is so fresh and burning hot that they had to put a mini oven mitt on the handle just so you can carry it over to your table. The cast iron gives the mac and cheese authentic, made-by-your-mom flavor, while also ensuring that the mac and cheese doesn’t become that dreaded congealed mess that improperly made béchamel sauces tend to become. The struggle comes when you need to wait for the mac and cheese to cool down enough…then again, burning the roof of your mouth on delicious cheese isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened!

...sorry not sorry

S’Mac has two locations: their original East Village location allll the way down on east 12th between 1st and 2nd avenues, and a newer, closer location in Murray Hill on east 33rd between 3rd and Lexington. Both require a trip across the park, but when you really need cheese, damn it you really need cheese.

Creamy Delight Sans Dairy

Manon tackles risotto, a consistently gourmet dish.  Her version includes parmesan and butter, but avoids milk, and its easy to make this a completely lactose-free option.  High fives to Manon!

Anytime the phrases “wild mushroom” or “risotto” appear on a restaurant menu, you can be sure to see my eyes instinctually zoom onto the lines of the menu that describe the dish that those particular locutions belong to. At that point, all I can do is hope that both are a part of the same item, because I otherwise find myself in the miserably difficult situation of having to choose between the most wonderfully earthy or perfectly textured comestibles. And that is a decision that I do not like to make, so thank goodness for sharing; it truly does resolve the problem under most circumstances.

Luckily, wild mushrooms and risotto are often combined into a harmonious starter. While generally rich, it is nonetheless one of my most favorite things to eat. When made flawlessly, it is creamy and wholesome while also delicate and nuanced in flavor. It seems to be the perfect combination between comfort food and fine cuisine.

So last weekend during fall break, when I found myself with ample time to cook and a hankering for something warm and creamy, I decided to make risotto. While I didn’t get any wild chanterelles, the standard white mushrooms from Westside did the trick just fine. And with the added zucchini (I felt adventurous and sliced them julienne), peas, white wine, and saffron (splurge!), I was able to make myself quite the fancy dinner. And a pretty good one at that. Continue reading Creamy Delight Sans Dairy

Comfort Food: Egg Drop Soup

 

Another new blogger (so many! I love them all), Sarah D. is going to be bringing you great recipes and ideas for Comfort Food every couple of weeks.  Today, she’s introducing a way to make your very own egg drop soup.  Full directions (as well as a gallery showing you step-by-step) after the jump!

A friend of mine recently showed me her egg drop soup family recipe. Unlike most restaurant egg drop soups, she makes hers with the egg intact, so that there is a poached egg floating in the soup. It’s delicious! I made some adjustments to her recipe. It’s very easy to make, takes little time, and is perfect late-night study food. The recipe is for one person. Please note that the measurements for the ingredients are estimations. If you want more or less of an ingredient it’s fine to make adjustments.

 

Continue reading Comfort Food: Egg Drop Soup

Potato and Leek Gratin

As usual, Manon’s Thursday posts give us a reason to feel hungry and adventurous in the kitchen.  This week, she explores one of her favorite comfort dishes (with a surprise twist at the end), with flavors just right for that post-midterm self-loathing.

When it gets around to being midterm season, I seem to have less and less time to do anything, and with the impending winter season slowly creeping upon us, I am increasingly in the mood for warm, comfort food. So here’s the perfect dish: gratin. Traditionally, these are made with alternating layers of sliced potatoes and cream, topped with freshly grated Gruyère, and then thrown into the oven until the potatoes are cooked through and the cheese is golden and crispy. By replacing the potatoes with other ingredients, many variants are possible, such as cooked pasta, leeks, zucchini, and more. In fact, this is a great dish to make if you have a bunch of leftovers that you don’t really know what do to with. Just throw anything in, pour in some cream, add a pinch of ground nutmeg if appropriate, and grate some cheese on top. It always turns out delicious.

Well, most of the time… I’m used to having my mom or grand-ma’s deliciously rich and creamy gratin, and when they make theirs it always looks so easy. You just throw everything in the dish and then in the oven, and voilà! A beautiful dinner. I soon figured out that it’s not that simple, but this turned out to be the result of some oven temperature confusion. Here’s the full story:

A friend and I had decided to make dinner since the people she nannies for were going to be out of the house that night. I was so excited about the fact that I’d be able to cook in a fully equipped kitchen where I wouldn’t have to worry about the fire alarm going off due to a malfunctioning fan, and then having my whole dorm building evacuate on my account. This was such a perfect opportunity to make something I knew would be delicious. So the menu for the night featured chicken with caramelized onions and a white wine-reduction cream sauce with a potato gratin on the side. The chicken was great. The gratin…

Continue reading Potato and Leek Gratin

30 Minute Gourmet: Chicken Pot Pie

Our speedy-quick chef in the kitchen, Kelcey, finds the time limit a little difficult this week as she tackles a homey comfort food.

Ok, so maybe the title of “Thirty Minute Gourmet” doesn’t quite pertain to comfort foods like Chicken Pot Pie. But to be quite honest, I don’t really care. Last week, walking in the bitter cold and 8,000 mile an hour winds, a craving for chicken pot pie hit me like a cold gust of air off the Hudson. So I texted Matt, asking if he would be down for an evening of pot pie last Sunday. Thankfully, he was down.

Chicken Pot Pie, adapted from a recipe from Ina Garten

The recipe I use isn’t really a pot pie. It’s actually more of a chicken and biscuits type of thing. But the chicken stew is exactly the same as pot pie filling, and the dough for the biscuits is just as short as a pie crust (2 cups of flour to one stick of butter). So essentially, pot pie. But easier to make!

The original recipe is from Ina Garten, however I chose to augment it a bit. First of all, Ina’s recipe calls for a grand total of ***drum roll, please*** 2 AND A HALF STICKS OF BUTTER. I mean, really?! Using 1 and half sticks of butter to saute an onion is crazy talk. I cut down that 1.5 sticks to half a stick, and there was still plenty of butter to make the roux for the stew. And it still tasted awesome. Second augmentation… omit pearl onions. Instead of paying for 2 bags of frozen veggies and using half of each bag, I opted to just buy one bag of frozen peas and use the whole thing. Cheaper, and tastier in my opinion (I love frozen peas). And all you have to do is increase the amount of regular onion and you still get a nice, onion-y flavor.

The stew came out absolutely delicious. And thankfully, a few members of the e-board decided to stick around to help Matt and I consume my giant chicken-pot-casserole. Otherwise I would have been a pot pie blimp.

Note: If you are not comfortable making biscuit dough yourself, and that will just cause you more anxiety than pleasure, just buy refrigerated biscuit dough. Trader Joe’s makes a good one, sans partially hydrogenated oils and other yucky stuff.

Note^2: If you don’t want to wait for/cook your chicken in advance, just buy a rotisserie chicken, remove the skin, and shred the meat. Just as tasty and somewhat easier/faster.

Note^3: Buy frozen peas and carrots if you don’t feel like prepping the carrots yourself. Another shortcut if pressed on time.

Chicken Stew with Biscuits Continue reading 30 Minute Gourmet: Chicken Pot Pie