Do you have recipes that you turn to when you need a little self-nurturing? For some people, the hands-down winner is chicken vegetable soup. For some, it’s spaghetti with a classic marinara or Bolognese sauce. For some, it’s a cheesy casserole. (I’m not including such favorites as ice cream and apple pie because true comfort food does not rely on sweetness. At least that’s my opinion.)
For me, it’s a dish that only has the name of “The Comfort Meal” because it’s a recipe I created when I needed some comfort. The recipe has not evolved over the years because it still works: It’s comforting. I’m careful not to make it too often so that I continue to appreciate what it does for me.
No matter what has triggered the need for comfort food, I’m able to pull it together enough to make this dish. The aromas nurture. The colors nurture. The variety of textures nurture. And the many flavors that meld during cooking nurture. You might call it self-nurturing, but I think it’s the dish that does the comforting. I am a mere handmaiden in its preparation.
There is no crunch in The Comfort Meal. It has that in common with chicken vegetable soup and with spaghetti with a marinara sauce or fettuccine Alfredo. Still, including a variety of textures is part of its appeal, from firm to melt-in-your-mouth soft.
Any comfort food is about more than the flavor, but the flavor obviously matters. Herbs, more than spices, feel at home in comfort food, although I know that in many cultures it’s the memory of dishes made with spicy chilies (in one form or another) that warms their hearts.
As with all worthy comfort foods, The Comfort Meal is still comforting as leftovers.
I doubt that most people love cooking as much as I do. But be encouraged to let yourself enjoy the process of making your favorite comfort food. I believe that the preparation process is part of the self-nurturing process.
So, here you go:
The Comfort Meal
This dish can be made as a vegan or vegetarian dish. See notes after the recipe.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped red or yellow onion
- ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
- 6 ounces chicken breast, in 1” cubes
- 11 ounces red potatoes, skin on
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh green beans
- 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juices
- 2 medium carrots, sliced in discs or julienned
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place whole potatoes in a pot with boiling water and cook gently until the potatoes are just tender (15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes). Drain. Allow to cool enough to handle, then slice into ½” discs or 1” cubes.
- Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat a little olive oil, then sauté onion and red bell pepper until both are just tender. Reserve in a medium-size covered bowl.
- In the same sauté pan, add slightly more olive oil if necessary. Add cubed chicken and sauté just until cooked through. Add the chicken to the bowl with the onion and red pepper.
- While the potatoes are cooking, add a little more olive oil to the sauté pan. Add the green beans, tomatoes with juices, carrots. Rub the basil and oregano as you add them to the skillet. This will release their oils. Cook gently over medium heat until the green beans and carrots are tender.
- Return all reserved ingredients to the large sauté pan. Add just enough chicken broth to help with blending the flavors and making the dish piping hot. (You’ll need more broth if you used fresh tomatoes than you will if you used canned tomatoes.)
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.
- If your diet doesn’t include chicken, you might want to add some drained canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) when the chicken would be added or to top the dish with shredded aged cheddar cheese just before serving. Vegetable broth is a worthy substitute for chicken broth.
- Instead of boiling the potatoes whole, you can make little holes in the skin of each potato with a fork and microwave them at 70% for 3 minutes. Check with a long-tined fork that the potatoes are barely tender. If not, give them another 30 seconds in the microwave. This shortens the overall cooking time for the dish.
- Cubed zucchini is a nice alternative to green beans.
- If you like minced garlic, go for it!
- Consider deglazing the sauté pan with a splash of dry white wine after the third step in the instructions.