Sunday, November 01, 2009

Comfort Food

Well, my camera died. My plan was to put this blog on hold until I got a new camera, but I miss blogging and, anyway, Wren has a camera. I think she'll be pleased to take some pictures (and receive a photo credit here on 3Birds!) so subsequent entries will have some visual interest. For tonight, I just felt like blogging even without a picture.  Tonight's supper isn't particularly photogenic anyway, but it's simple, nourishing, and delicious.

If someone asked me to list my favorite comfort foods, I'd begin with the meat and potatoes meals of my childhood: roast chicken, parsley potatoes, and green beans; meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas; pork roast, scalloped potatoes and broccoli. But I'd also have to add some meals that would have seemed yucky, odd or even exotic to me as a child. I didn't like eggs very much then and certainly wouldn't have eaten them any other way but scrambled, but these days I savor a soft boiled egg with buttered toast. Or, to be honest, two soft boiled eggs with lavishly buttered toast. I would have thought it odd as a child to look forward to any bean dish because beans were what we ate when the budget ran short,  Beans always meant sliced hot dogs served with canned 'Boston Baked Beans' doctored up with some brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard.  These days I enjoy all kinds of bean dishes, including an authentic Boston Baked Beans,  but a fairly austere dish of white beans boiled with a bay leave and then drizzled with sage frizzled in olive oil is my favorite.

When I need a quick supper but I'm also craving some edible comfort, I make coconut curried rice:

Begin by rinsing 2 cups of basmati rice in 5 or so changes of water. Smell the rice! Once you begin cooking, the house will be redolent with butter and spice, and the slightly sweet, nutty aroma of the rice will be lost, so breathe it in now while you have the chance. Heat a tablespoon or two of butter over medium heat until it melts. When the froth has subsided, add 2-3 tablespoons of curry powder and about 1 teaspoon of salt. I sometimes mix my own, and if you'd like to do so I recommend using the ingredient list to Penzey's sweet curry as a guide. This is the commercial curry powder I use and it's very nice.

Stir the curry frequently for a minute or so, then chopped onion and minced ginger. How much is up to you of course; I use half an onion and about 2 tablespoons of ginger, which is very gingery and not particularly oniony. Stir these for a few moments, then add some more butter and allow it to melt before stirring in the rice. You'll want to stir the rice well enough to coat all the grains with the butter. Finally, add 2 1/2 cups of coconut milk, or about 1 can. Allow the rice to come to a low simmer, clap a lid on, and leave it alone for 30 minutes or so before checking.

The rice is done when it's as tender as you like it to be. You might need to add more coconut milk (water will do if you run out of coconut milk) or cook with the lid off to allow excess liquid to evaporate. Once you're satisfied with the rice, you might add some nuts and raisins if you like. I usually add almonds or pistachios. Golden raisins are called for in all my Indian cookbooks, but I usually just use the dark ones since they're what I have on hand.

Once you've made this a few times, it becomes pretty second nature, so you have a simple, nourishing, and delicious meal. Fancy it up with homemade chapati, dal of some kind, and paneer if you like for a more complete meal. But curried coconut rice is sufficient on a cool and rainy Sunday evening.

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