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Comfort Food

06/29/08 | by JAdP | Categories: Food and Drink, Life

Every once in awhile, we all need comfort food. There's no one recipe, or one meal, even for each person. Comfort food is whatever makes you feel secure, protected, comforted. Tonight, I needed some comfort food, and here's what I made.

Creamed Corn
  1. Why am I starting with creamed corn? Because of the items on this menu, it takes the longest to make. "WTF?" you ask. "You open a can and heat it. How long can it take?" To which I say "Yuck!". Here's how I make creamed corn. Preheat an oven to 400ºF and get some ears of corn, one per person, plus some more, as fresh off the stalk as you can: grow it, get to a local farmer, whatever it takes, but every minute the corn is off the stalk, it's losing sugar and taste. Gently peel back the leaves on the corn, removing only the toughest outer leaves. Rub off the strings. Pull the leaves back over the kernels, and place each ear in a bowl of salted water. Once all the ears of corn are prepared, wrap each in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in the hot oven for 45 minutes.
  2. At the end of 45 minutes, heat a heavy sauce pan (I use porcelain coated cast iron) over low heat, preferably on simmering bricks. For each ear of corn, add 1 pat of butter, a bit of turbinado sugar, a grind of white pepper, and an half-cup of heavy cream to the heating pan. While the mixture is heating, unwrap the corn and return to the oven to brown for 15 minutes. About the sugar: if the corn is from your back yard, you should need very little, if picked that day, perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon, if from some warehouse and a chain supermarket, maybe a whole teaspoon per ear.
  3. Once the cream mixture has heated and the corn has browned, remove from the oven, and peel back the leaves. Using the leaves as an handle, which should be cool enough to hold, use a sharp knife and remove the kernels from the cob. Add the kernels to the heated cream. If need be, add cream until the kernels are covered, or better floating in the cream.
  4. Increase the temperature and allow the cream to boil for 3 minutes, return the heat to low or the pan to the simmering bricks and keep warm, stirring, until the meal is ready to serve.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  1. I use yukon gold, and either one small or one-half medium potato per person. Peel and halve the potatoes, add to salted, cold water in a heavy pan. Peel one garlic clove per person, and add to the pan. Heat over high heat until boiling, lower heat to maintain a simmer, check after 10 minutes and keep heating until the potatoes can be easily pierced to their center with a fork. Remove the potatoes and garlic cloves from the boiling water, and allow to drain.
  2. Pour out the water, and return the pan to the stove over low heat. Add an half-tablespoon of butter to the pan, with the garlic cloves and a grind per potato of white pepper and another grind of nutmeg. Allow the butter to brown at the edge, and the garlic to lightly brown. Add a tablespoon of heavy cream per person to the butter and bring to a boil. Put the potatoes back into the pan, and mash with a potato masher; alternately, you can pass the potatoes and browned garlic through a coarse-disk food mill into the pan.
  3. Whisk it all together, and stir over heat until you're ready to serve
The Beef

I generally like Niman Ranch Ground Round for the meat. You can use any ground beef, or thin steak, pounded or not, or dry-aged New York Strip. For comfort food, the ground, for fancier meals the strip. :p You can dress up the ground with sautéed onion, Worcester Sauce, mustard powder, egg, whatever. You can rub the steak with a crushed garlic clove. With good quality meat, I don't like anything hiding the flavor. Use anywhere from 4 ounces to half-a-pound per person. Six ounces is a standard restaurant portion. Heat a pan over medium heat, add extra-virgin olive oil. Brown the meat for at least five minutes on a side, until nicely dark brown (lots of esters generated from browning, making for richer flavor). Cook the meat to the desired degree of doneness, rare to well-done.

The Sauce

While the corn is roasting, do the prep work. That includes the potatoes above, but also the prep work for the sauce or gravy. What's the difference? Flour. If you want a gravy, make a roux from butter and flour, a tablespoon of each per cup of liquid, cooking the flour in the butter for three minutes. Whisk the hot liquid into the the roux, until thick. What liquid? Keep reading.

  1. Use about an half-inch of a red torpedo onion per person, thinly sliced.
  2. Use four to six cremini mushrooms per person. Clean and slice.
  3. Remove the meat, when done, from the pan, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Add oil if the pan is dry.
  5. Add the onionslices to the pan, lower the heat, and sauté until translucent, add the mushroom slices and cook until tender.
  6. Deglaze the pan with red wine or stock, working loose all the nice browned bits.
  7. Add 4 ounces per person of vegetable, mushroom or beef stock
  8. Here's the part where you can work the roux if you want a gravy.
  9. For a sauce, cook the liquid, stirring often, over high heat until the liquid thickens - 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. If the meat has cooled too far, return to the pan for the last five minutes.
  11. If added, remove the meat, turn off the heat, and work a pat of butter into the sauce.
The Finish

Plate it up, with the sauce on the plate, or the gravy on the potatoes and beef. Put two to four heaping tablespoons of creamed corn in a small bowl for each serving. Maybe add some crusty bread and a salad, maybe not. Serve with the red wine used to make the sauce. Enjoy.

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I'm Joseph A. di Paolantonio and this blog has two main foci: my interest in food, and my interest in the future. This provides a look into my personal life, and is separate from my consulting work…though there will be overlap. I am an independent researcher, working as a strategic consultant and I'm an executive with over 20 years of commercial experience with a technical interest in the intersection of Internet of Things, with advanced data management and analysis methods. I view data science as a team activity, and I feel that the IoT must be viewed as a system. I am leveraging my past activities to understand the adoption and impact of the IoT; first, as a system engineer in aerospace, where I developed Bayesian risk assessment methods for systems within the Space Transportation System (including the Space Shuttle), Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, Gravity Probe B, and many more, and second, as a enterprise data warehousing, business intelligence and analytics professional. Between my aerospace and IT careers, I indulged my hobby of cooking by starting a food company, Montara Magic, centered around my chocolate sauces. My education combined chemistry, mathematics and philosophy. I performed research into molten salt fuel cells in graduate school, and in photovoltaic materials for a short time in industry. The lure of bringing the human race into space was strong, and when I was offered the chance to combine my chemistry and mathematics skills to develop new risk assessment and system engineering methods for space launch and propulsion systems – I couldn't resist. I perform independent research and strategic consulting to bring value from the Internet of Things, Sensor Analytics Ecosystems and data science teams.I am a caregiver, a lover of science fiction and speculative fantasy, and my passion to learn has led me to a pilot's license, an assistant instructor in SCUBA, nordic and alpine skiing, sea kayaking, and reading everything I can, in as many topics as I can.

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