Cooking up Comfort
Sure, spring is on the way and the days are getting longer, but it will be a while yet before the crocuses start blooming in much of Canada. Especially here in Newfoundland and Labrador, where we seem to be the last ones to put away our snow shovels and change our winter tires.
April is like purgatory, the month where we wait for warm sunshine and colourful blooms. It's also when we go looking for solace in our favourite comfort foods - dishes that always lift our spirits and warm us from the inside out.
American columnist Sheila Graham once wrote, "Food is the most primitive form of comfort." Indeed, comfort foods are basic, simple and inexpensive to make. They often have roots in a childhood memory or some other time you associate with safety and happiness. For example, the combination of smells and tastes of mac-and-cheese, apple pie or meatloaf can bring you back to Mom's kitchen and dissolve the stress that made you reach for comfort food in the first place.
In this society of stressed-out citizens, the restaurant industry has seen an opportunity. The "slow food" trend specializes in providing a relaxed dining atmosphere where patrons are served home-style meals made with the freshest local ingredients for the optimal sensual experience.
When I want comfort food, I always reach for chicken. No matter how it's cooked, it elicits fond memories for me of childhood meals with my family or romantic dinners with my wife. Chicken dishes always seem to soothe my soul.
Here is a recipe featuring chicken with apples - two of my favourite comfort foods that come together very well in one dish. I have also added yams to this recipe because I feel this sweet vegetable is underrated and underused here in our province, and I want to encourage people to give them a try.
Roast Chicken with Yam and Apple Stuffing
1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, basil, tarragon, fennel or savoury
1 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
For the stuffing:
1 lb ground spicy or mild sausage, cooked
1 cup sautéed chopped onion
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can (29 oz) sweet potatoes or yams, drained and diced (about 3 cups)
9 cups soft white bread crumbs (or whole wheat or focaccia bread crumbs)
1 cup chicken stock or broth
Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove giblets from chicken (discard or save for another use), rinse chicken, and wipe inside and out with paper towels. If using herbs, press them under the skin of each half of the chicken's breast. Squeeze and rub half a lemon inside cavity. Rub 1/4 cup butter inside cavity, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Truss or tie the legs and wings securely with twine. Place chicken on its side in roasting pan and rub butter on exposed side. Roast for 20 minutes.
Melt remaining butter. Turn chicken onto other side and brush with melted butter. Roast another 20 minutes.
Place bird on its back and baste with pan juices. Roast another 20 minutes. Baste again. If necessary, roast another 10 to 15 minutes until juices run clear, or until a meat thermometer reads 165°F. Spoon in the stuffing right before serving, or serve stuffing separately.
To make the stuffing:
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large roasting pan, combine sausage with all stuffing ingredients and mix thoroughly. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes; then bake uncovered for 10 minutes more.
For free, printable recipe cards of each recipe that appears in the April issue of Downhome, click the links below.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings
Breaded Salmon Fingers
Hot Crab and Swiss Bites
Marbled Chocolate Fondue