To try Regina's recipe for Shrimp Creole, click here.
As fabulous as Thanksgiving was, I am ready for some peace and quiet and simple food. In the Deep South, winter comes every so often and luckily stays just a few days. Thanksgiving Day in Natchez was 80 degrees, a perfect day when you are entertaining 144 guests. The next day was brutal; it dropped 30 degrees overnight and was rainy and windy. That weather forced eight contestants in our "turkey gumbo cook-off" to back out. We still had a good turnout and it was an ideal day for Gumbo and the lighting of the tree downtown. We soon saw the thermometer back in the 70s. Winter is pretty much on again, off again in Mississippi, and it suits me just fine. I never argue with 70 degrees.
Now the dilemma ... what do you feel like cooking when one day is warm and one day is cold? Frankly, after the holiday, which lasted from Tuesday evening when my sisters arrived until Sunday lunch when the last of our college students returned to school, I was spent. Last night we had toasted bagels with smoked salmon, and that was a chore. But now I am decorating the house for Christmas and I am getting in the mood to cook again. When you have prepared or eaten just about every food item over a holiday weekend, what is left? I have been craving comfort food; even if I am trying to stay away from many of these dishes, I can dream of them. I started thinking of my list of favorite comfort foods when cold weather begins to conjure up cravings. And there is one that is actually healthy:
1. Corned beef and cabbage. It should be saved for St. Patrick's Day, but it is perfect for cold weather, especially with good mustard and crusty French bread.
2. Gumbo will be needed in December when it turns cold more consistently, but it has to be a gumbo with everything in it, chicken, okra, shrimp, and sausage.
3. Mac and cheese with lobster. I could eat my weight in mac and cheese, especially with lobster in it, but I know better.
4. Pasta Carbonara, the Americanized version. How can you go wrong with bacon, peas, cream, and good parmesan? It is so comforting, and I can't.
5. Peanut butter and jelly sounds good. It is one of those comforting combinations that we shy away from once we start counting calories. Even if it is advertised as having omega-3s, it still has 190 calories in two tablespoons and 150 of those are fat calories. How about peanut butter on a sea salt bagel crisp ... very satisfying, salty, sweet, creamy, crisp.
6. A grilled pimento cheese sandwich? Especially the one that is made at Slick Rick's in downtown Natchez. He has an online spice company with excellent spice blends. His grilled pimento cheese with ham shank and his black spice blend is divine. Again, not what I should be eating the week after Thanksgiving, but it is truly comforting.
7. Southern pot roast with horseradish mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, or any flavor.
8. Nachos with the works: lots of melted cheese, black beans, sour cream, and salsa. A Sunday night right out of the microwave, oh how I miss The Sopranos on Sunday nights and now I will be missing Boardwalk Empire. Sunday winter nights are made for something quick with melted cheese and HBO.
9. A classic cheeseburger and Cajun Curly Q's from the Malt Shop. I would think most people have a burger on their list. Sometimes nothing else works.
10. I have one craving that just comes over me and it is healthy; a good shrimp Creole over rice. No poultry, stuffing, or potatoes, no pies or cakes. Shrimp Creole, a big green salad with radishes, and a classic vinaigrette.
This should not take more than 30 minutes to prepare and it will fit any temperature and mood. And if you skip dessert, it is not bad if you are trying to behave in between holidays—finally a comfort food to not feel guilty about. What are your favorite comfort foods?
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