OK people, once again my lovely, generous, talented wife has dug herself a hole with all the people she’s promised to help at once, so I’m picking up the slack and doing a blog post for her. I’M BACK, BABY!
(I knew I shouldn’t have written “Wait 30 seconds for applause to die down.”)
*Ahem* And here we go!
Ladies and Gentlemen: Eat Sunscreen
By a show of hands, who remembers the late 90’s song “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)”? *OK, now put your hands down. I can’t see you.
I’ve been thinking about that song a lot lately, especially the lyric “Understand that friends come and go, but a precious few you should hold onto.” That’s been going through my head every time this winter that I’ve cooked what could charitably be called “comfort food.” Why would I be thinking about Baz Luhrmann and Rozella while cooking? Because the next words of the song are “Work hard…”
For nearly a decade and a half since I learned to cook (don’t do the math!), there have been few dishes that have been quite as quick, easy, tasty, and just gosh-darned comforting as a meal that we just know by the simplistic sobriquet “chicken and rice.” That name encompasses fully half of the ingredients (not counting basic spices) of this dish, which takes all of 30 minutes to cook, serve and eat. There are few things as hearty, warming and filling on a cold winter’s eve that get me out of the kitchen in time to actually enjoy the meal with Audrey and whoever else we might have over.
I’m not going to waste your time sharing the recipe; that’s not the kind of blog this is (the recipe for The Perfect Roux(tm) notwithstanding). Besides, if you really want it, you can find it on the back of the Minute Rice box like I did. Yeah, that’s right. I’m not too proud to admit it. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, added and subtracted things as the mood strikes. But we’ve always wound up going back to the original when we’re in a pinch and we just need food that tastes and feels good.
Or at least we did, until Audrey’s diagnosis. Suddenly we started reading cans (or running them through an app, or reading company websites, or etc. etc.), and we found out that most Cream of Chicken soups (yes, you now have 3 of the 4 ingredients, go nuts) are thickened with good old wheat gluten.
We went nearly a year without our go-to winter comfort food before Then one day I looked in the crisper drawer of our refrigerator at some fortuitously abandoned carrots, celery and onion (Quick! Who can tell me what those ingredients are called in cooking? Answer at the end of the blog.)** and thought aloud “Well, how hard can it be?” A quick internet search and a flurry of chopping, sauteing and simmering later, and I was staring down at a beautiful homemade cream of chicken soup…
…OK, I’m lying. It wasn’t quick. It wasn’t quick at all. I stood over that stove at the end of a long day at work, wondering what possessed me to even attempt this. I measured flour mixes and figured out what would thicken my soup without making it grainy (and didn’t entirely succeed, at least that time). I simmered, thickened, whisked out lumps, added cream and simmered some more. But at the end of all of that…I had one of my four ingredients. And no meal yet.
I seriously considered telling Audrey that I had made cream of chicken soup for dinner that night. I really did. But that wasn’t what I wanted for dinner. I wanted comfort food. And so I chopped and cooked more veggies, shredded chicken, cooked rice (because after all of this, I’m gonna just use Minute Rice?), simmered some more, dipped in a spoon and…
Heaven. Comfort. Bliss. I glopped it into bowls and brought it out to the living room where Aud was too engrossed in another project for another friend in need to notice what I was handing her. She put down her crocheting and eyed the bowl suspiciously before she tentatively dipped her spoon in.
And that’s when I saw it. The look on her face. Heaven. Comfort. Bliss. Pure, unadulterated joy at getting back something that she had just assumed she would never have again. And a long day at work and a long evening over the stove just melted away. It was all worth it for just that moment of comfort.
Since then I’ve dug out several more comfort food recipes that we’d written off and figured out how to make them GF. I’ve also figured out shortcuts so that I’m not spending hours at something that used to just take minutes, but the truth is that these recipes are going to take more work than they used to. But it’s worth the work. Because recipes come and go, but a precious few you should hold onto.
* Fun fact: One of Audrey’s first jobs was at the radio station that made that song popular (right around the same time too-don’t do the math)
**The quiz answer is “mirepoix”