Today’s guest post is by Daphne Maxwell Reid, an actress, photographer and artist who you may also know as Aunt Vivian from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She’s sharing with us her top five comfort foods for a rainy day. For more recipes like these, check out her latest book, Grace, Soul and Mother Wit, which is part cookbook and part memoir.
It pains me that a lot of parents and most public schools today don’t teach “living” skills, like home making, manners and common sense. Some of our children seem to have missed the opportunity to learn some wonderful skill sets that I learned in a traditional, Black, family-based community and in the all-encompassing educational system in which I grew up. For all who agree with my assessment, and in an effort to help bridge the gap, I offer Grace, Soul and Mother Wit.
Grace: The prayer before a meal; charm; a virtue coming from God.
Soul: Black tradition of emotional fervor and love.
Mother Wit: Intuitive common sense honed by a traditional upbringing.
My book is for you if you are leaving home for the first time, if you have never cooked before and don’t know where to begin, if you have cooked some things but want to expand your repertoire or myriad other reasons that will joyfully get you into a kitchen.
Here are my top five comfort foods that are perfect for a rainy day:
5.) Mom’s Cheese Biscuits
Holiday dinner gatherings at Mom’s house always started with cheese biscuits, chicken liver pate and a glass of cream sherry as we waited for all the other fixin’s to cook. I finally got the recipe! Hopefully the tradition will continue at my house now.
¼ lb. of butter (one stick)
2 Tbs. walnut oil
¼ lb. sharp cheddar cheese
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Set out the butter to soften. Grate the cheese and let it stand to warm up. Add the salt to the flour and the cayenne pepper, and when butter and cheese are room temperature, mix them together well. When well mixed, place on a piece of waxed paper and roll into a log about 1 inch thick. Let the log sit in the refrigerator for about ½ hour to firm up. Remove the waxed paper and slice the log into ½-inch-thick rounds. Place the rounds on a baking pan and place a pecan half atop each one. Bake in a 300-degree oven for 20 minutes or until they start to brown. Remove from pan and store in an airtight jar. Enjoy with the beverage of your choice or as a wonderful starter to a dinner party.
Utensils you will need: Grater, bowl, fork, measuring spoons, measuring cups, chef’s knife, cookie sheet
As the years go by, the number of friends and acquaintances increases. With new friends come new recipes. The Billings live in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. They obviously feed a large crowd with this comfort food recipe.
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. butter
2 c. cooked ham, diced
2 lbs. smoked sausage, cut in rounds
6 cloves garlic, pressed
5 c. onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, chopped
¼ c. parsley flakes
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 c. rice
1 28-oz. can tomatoes, chopped
6 c. beef stock
3 lbs. raw shrimp, peeled
4 c. cooked chicken, cubed
Heat the oil and butter in a large pot and sauté the ham and sausages. Add onions, peppers, garlic and seasonings and sauté until the mixture starts to brown. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the mixture from sticking to the pot. Next, add the rice and continue to sauté for five more minutes. Add the tomatoes and stock, mixing gently.
Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and then lower the heat to cook for an additional 20 minutes. Add the shrimp and chicken. Continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed and the ingredients are all slightly moist. Remove the bay leaves and serve with a crisp salad and some great bread.
If you don’t finish eating it all, it freezes wonderfully and keeps for several months. I would suggest freezing serving-sized portions to reheat individually for future jambalaya enjoyment.
Utensils you will need: Large covered pot, chef’s knife, cutting board, wooden spoon
3.) Lamb Roasted with Garlic
My mom taught me this basic comfort foods recipe. I added the liquor! What more can I say.
6 lb. leg of lamb, with or without the bone
2 Tbs. virgin olive oil
5 firm heads of garlic separated and peeled (about 60 cloves)
3 Tbs. cognac
1¼ c. of sweet red wine, such as Orange Muscat
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Fill a large, enameled, cast iron casserole with four quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully add the lamb and boil for 15 minutes. Drain the lamb and pat it dry. Dry the casserole pot. Heat the oil in the casserole until sizzling. Add the lamb and cook over moderate heat until it is nicely browned on all sides. Pour off the fat in the pan and add the garlic cloves. Add the cognac and carefully light with a long match to burn off the alcohol. When the flames die down, add the wine and season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Cover with a crumbled sheet of wet parchment paper and a tight-fitting lid. Bake the lamb in the oven for about six hours, turning it over halfway through. Remove the casserole from the oven, uncover it and let it stand for 30 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a serving platter. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and arrange the cloves around the lamb. If there is a lot of liquid left in the casserole, boil it down until it thickens a little. Serve the lamb with the juices.
Utensils you will need: Chef’s knife, cutting board, large cast iron casserole with lid, long match, parchment paper
2.) Sweet Potato Soufflé
For as long as I can remember, this was the traditional accompaniment to our Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner. I have continued to serve this comfort food dish.
4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
1 stick of butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 c. honey or maple syrup
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. grated orange peel
small bag of mini marshmallows (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the sweet potatoes in a pot of water about 30 minutes, until a fork pierces into them easily. Allow them to cool until you can peel the skin off without burning your fingers. Process the potatoes through a sieve or ricer into a bowl (get the strings out of them any way you can). This can be done a day ahead. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, butter, honey or maple syrup and brown sugar together with a small hand mixer until smooth. Add the spices and mix everything together with the potatoes. Pour the mixture into a tall-sided baking dish and bake for about one hour, or until firm in the center. When we were children, my mother used to dot the top of the soufflé with mini marshmallows and brown them during the last five minutes of cooking. I don’t use marshmallows anymore.
Utensils you will need: Chef’s knife, cutting board, tall-sided baking dish, sieve or ricer, two mixing bowls, electric hand mixer
READ MORE: Top 5 Pumpkin Spice Goodies
1.) Peach Cobbler
North meets South in this compromise to my husband, Tim’s, southern-style taste and my northern-style cooking. We both enjoy this one, and it’s top on my comfort foods list.
1 c. unbleached white flour
2 Tbs. raw sugar
1½ Tbs. baking powder
3 Tbs. soft shortening (Crisco)
1/3 c. milk
5-6 ripe Georgia peaches
¼ c. raw sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. grated orange peel
½ c. water
¼ c. cornstarch
2 Tbs. butter
To make the soft dough for the cobbler, mix the first three ingredients in a small bowl and cut the shortening into the mixture with a pastry cutter until it resembles cornmeal. Add the milk and form a soft, smooth ball. Divide the dough in half. With half of the dough, cover the bottom of the casserole dish or baking pan.
Fill a medium pot half full of water and bring to a boil. Carefully place the peaches in the boiling water and roll around with a large slotted spoon for about 3 minutes, until the skin is easily removed from the peach. Drain the boiling water and run cold water over the fruit while removing the skin. Slice the peaches into a medium pot.
Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel and place over low heat. Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and add to heated mixture. Spoon the hot peaches over the dough in the casserole dish or baking pan. Roll out the remaining dough and place over the hot peaches. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with some raw sugar. Place the dish on a cookie sheet covered with foil. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 40 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Try to let it cool before you spoon it into your bowl.
Which of these comfort foods sounds best to you? Let us know if you try one of these recipes! Grace, Soul and Mother Wit is available at www.daphnemaxwellreid.com.