Monday, March 24, 2008

Comfort Food: Childhood

What is comfort food anyways? Certainly we can try to define it as those foods that are simple and inexpensive. Something maybe that mom used to make when we were kids.
For me, the most important aspect of comfort food is the way it makes you feel. You smell it cooking and your mouth waters. The mere thought of that food makes you crave it. It's food that you're going to savour and enjoy, in a world when we rush through our meals on the go.
In asking various people, what they're favorite comfort food is I get the impression that the entire idea of this has been lost somewhere in our lack luster relationship with food these days.

I will fully admit, that I can sometimes be a bit of a snob about food. But I have plenty of comfort foods, some come from childhood others have developed as my tastes have refined. To choose just one as my favorite seems a betrayal to the rest. Yet still there is one that stands above the rest.

As I've said in a previous post, my family is from Newfoundland. Weird little province it is, with customs and foods that are a mishmash of several cultures and tweaked. My all time, favourite comfort food is something I grew up with and look forward to once a year when my family gets together for the holidays. We call it a Jigs Dinner.

What is a Jigs Dinner you ask, well my fine readers it is the most Delicious, delectable, one pot wonder of food. So here's what you need!

A really big pot!
One head of cabbage
One rutabaga
about 5 or 6 carrots
5 or 6 medium to large Yukon gold potatoes
Salt Beef, personally this is one of my favorite parts and of a Jigs dinner and I add lots!
Small piece of Salt pork

To start, 8 hours before you plan to make this wonderful creation, you have to soak the salt beef. Set it in cold water and change this every two hours, do not skip this step.

So now you're ready to get on with the main event. Place the salt beef and salt pork with fresh water in the large pot. Cook for 45minutes. Meanwhile prepare your vegetables. Quarter the cabbage and remove the core. Peel and slice the rutabaga into half inch slices. Peel and halve the carrots. Peel and halve or quarter the potatoes depending how big they are. Now, here's the trick, not all these vegetables cook at the same rate. Add vegetables to the boiling pot, beginning with turnips, then carrots, cabbage and lastly the potatoes, allowing 15 minutes between each vegetable. Cook until the potatoes are done
Meanwhile, prepare the dough boys. These are simple dumplings.

Dough Boys

1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon
3/4 cup water or milk

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the liquid until a soft dough forms.
Drop the dough by large spoonfuls into the simmering liquid. Cover the pot tightly and simmer for about 15 minutes.

When everything is cooked, start removing everything from the pot. We mash up the rutabaga with some butter, salt and pepper while everything else is put to table as is.

Now those dough boys, make lots because here is something you're going to fall in love with.
The best dessert on the planet in my opinion. Take one of those warm dough boys and pour molasses over it. Eat.

Everything here is so simple, but it's the best table I've ever eaten at. With lots of pickles and relishes, cheeses and usually a roast turkey and stuffing well already my mouth is watering. A snob I might be at times, but childhood carries it's fond food memories.

Bonus Recipe for today, Newfie Stuffing for Turkey.

This is another, dead simple recipe, but the key is the Newfie Savoury. I have no amounts for this, we always just go by taste but here's what you need.
Newfie savoury
diced onion
melted butter (it must be butter!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together there should be enough butter in the mixture that when you press it between your fingers it just holds together. And I know this is discouraged these days, but I refuse to do anything else with my stuffing but stuff that turkey with it. Just make sure the internal temperature of the stuffing reaches 160degrees F and you will have no problems at all.

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