Comfort Food Simple Yet Supreme
My elderly mom is fading gently (sort of), floating away on the misty river or forgetfulness. She has better days and not so good ones, and many of her former pleasures have faded as well. Fortunately, she still loves to read and can now re-read many books without quite remembering them, which I consider a huge blessing. I can’t wait to rediscover my favorites when it’s my turn to falter.
Her most enduring pleasure is in food, which is interesting, since for all my life, she was kind of a food Calvinist. She didn’t (as far as I know) have Five Points to deal with, but utterly delicious food was “indulgent” and almost certainly indicated Total Depravity. Gradually, however, she has mellowed, lapsing from her rather restrictive ideas and allowing herself to eat pretty much whatever she wants. Sometimes this means microwave mac and cheese dinners all week (she honestly prefers the orange stuff to my home made version, which I find kind of amusing). Fair enough!
What Women Really Want
Lately she’s suffered a series of TIAs, little stroke-etts that leave her a little less centered in this world each time. Feeling a bit blue yesterday, she asked me to make chicken soup, then said, “Could we have real biscuits? Can you really make them?” in a wondering tone. Well, what could be easier? I am still not quite up to snuff on gluten free baking, but I do make a lovely biscuit, I must admit. Here’s what I gave Mom, and she perked right up, eating a whole plateful of hot biscuits (!).
Light As Air Biscuits
With so much butter, you’d think these would be heavy as bricks, but instead they are light and crisp on the outside and tender and almost creamy on the inside. indulgent? Yes indeed. Depraved? not a bit of it! Adding a little cream of tartar makes them rise sky high; it’s a fast-acting leavening agent that works during the mixing/kneading stage, making for very light, crisp biscuits. Don’t let them sit around, though; for perfection, they need to be baked off as soon as you get them on the baking sheet.
My Best Hot Rise Biscuits
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (optional)
3 teaspoons sugar (I used coconut sugar)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 ounces (1/2 cup) pasture butter
2/3 cup half and half
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sift dry ingredients together, then put them in a food processor with the butter and blitz for a few seconds; mixture should be like coarse corn meal. Put in a bowl, add half and half quickly and stir gently until a soft ball forms. Knead gently for a few seconds, then pat into a square 1/2 inch thick (about 10 x 10 inches). Cut into squares or diamonds and put on a baking sheet, well spaced apart. Bake until golden brown (12-14 minutes) and serve at once. Serves at least one.
Rainy Sunday Chicken Soup
Reserve the skins and trimmings from the vegetables for the broth, which adds a light, fresh quality to this quick yet satisfying soup. If you prep your own chicken breast, add the bones and skin to the broth (which would then be stock, but whatever).
Lemony Chicken Soup
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
1 teaspoon stemmed thyme
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 organic skinless, boned chicken breast, chopped
1/4 cup stemmed Italian parsley
freshly ground pepper
Make broth by combining onions and garlic skins with carrot and potato peelings and celery trimmings (and chicken bits, if available). Add 4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, bring to a simmer over low heat and simmer until needed.
For the soup, heat oil with onion, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, celery seeds, lemon zest and thyme over medium high heat until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add celery, carrots and potato, cover pan and sweat vegetables for 10 minutes. Add chicken and half the parsley, add 2 cups water, cover pan and simmer until chicken is opaque. Strain broth, add to soup and simmer over lowest heat for 20 minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve, garnished with parsley. Serves 4.