My Ultimate Comfort Food


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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40 Responses

  1. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    I am a child of a single mother and I’m a vegetarian, so macaroni and cheese was *the* comfort food for me. Mashed potatoes is a close second.

    Since I care about my health (that velveeta stuff will kill you, but I don’t judge) and I love vegetables, especially squash, this is my favorite recipe.
    If I have to make it from a box, I like Annie’s.

    Sometimes I’m a stereotypical Oregonian. I’m okay with that.Report

  2. Definitely can’t beat variations on Mac and cheese for comfort food. We recently discovered a gem in a cookbook that we’ve had for years andnuse for a bunch of stuff: Mac and Cheese Shepherds Pie. Its a generous layer of homemade Mac and cheese shells on the top, with a mixture of ground beef, peppers, onions, and barbecue sauce on the bottom.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I have fallen in love with adding salsa to my Mac and Cheese. The little tiny bit of bite immediately rounded out by the waaaay too much cheese I’ve already added. It’s a hug for your tummy.Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley says:

    For me it’s a good grilled cheese sandwich, or a bowl of mashed potatos and gravy.

    For Johanna and daughter#1 it’s a Dutch soup, that has meatballs with nutmeg, chunks of beef, celery, carrots, onion, chicken stock, and a soup bone, then you season your serving with soy sauce and sambal oelek (a hot chili paste), and some Louisiana hot sauce. Good stuff, but it takes too damn long to make when you want your comfort food quickly.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      A grilled cheese sandwich is probably #2 on my list. They are fast to make and have the right flavor profile and bring up all of these great childhood memories, just like macaroni & cheese. My favorite these days is a grilled cheese using swiss cheese.Report

  5. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    Cheese and crackers! I always think of it as my favorite meal, but it’s because it’s so comforting. There are so many variations, too! Last night was goat cheese, eight grain crackers, dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds, and Zinfandel. The best!Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Miss Mary,

      Whenever a light lunch is called for cheese and crackers, a little bit of sliced sausage or prosciutto, olives and fruit is a staple with our family. I like to serve it all on a large cutting board restaurant style.Report

      • Avatar Miss Mary says:

        I miss sausage with my cheese and crackers. Sausage was my favorite. I don’t mind confessing that I’m the world’s worst vegetarian.Report

    • Avatar Bert The Turtle says:

      I’m not sure if it’s my favorite comfort food, but I’ve eaten way too many plates of Triscuits with melted cheese on top of them. They must be the original style though, not reduced fat/sodium or the “flavored” kinds with all kinds of powdered dextrose on them. Also, I have to check each individual cracker to ensure that I place the convex side down on the plate prior to microwaving (that’s the heavily salted side). Extra sharp cheddar or pepper jack are good, but most of the time I just use the bagged shredded stuff. 25 seconds on high will get you gooey cheese, 45 seconds makes it crispy. Top with Old Bay or garlic salt or cracked pepper afterwards. Yum.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Puttanesca, although roast chicken has been coming on sting as of late.Report

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    I can’t decide, but either carbonara, migas with avocado, or arroz a la cubana with maduros. These may be at the top of the list because they’re pretty much the only things I can make well.

    But thinking of Kentucky food makes me want Skyline chilli and a Ale 8 One.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Carbonara holds a special place for me too. It was one of the first times I realized there was more to Italian food than spaghetti and meatballs.

      Ale 8 is getting harder to find lately. I used to be able to stop at any country gas station and grab one but I don’t see them as often as I used to. I like it but my favorite regional soda has to be Big Red.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Big Red is huge in Texas, and we now have Sun Drop. Ale 8 One remains Kentucky only though.

        My mom made Carbonara with raw eggs when I was a kid, and it was always my birthday request. She now makes it with a poached egg, a do I, because people freak out if they think you’re putting raw egg into something (the pasta cooks it, but still).

        And migas are one of man’s greatest inventions. I should have mentioned that.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        We haven’t done migas in ages but I agree they are great. They used to be a dinner staple at our house.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Is Big Red regional? I guess I haven’t looked for it, but I haven’t noticed its absence anywhere.

        Sun Drop is a big thing out here. I was only vaguely aware of its existence a while back. Since there’s no Citrus Drop out here, it’s the closest substitute I’ve found. Citrus Drop is the only generic Mountain Dew that doesn’t actually try (and fail) to replicate the taste of Dew as closely as possible. Sun Drop seems to vary in the same direction. Kind of a cross between Mountain Dew and Mello Yello.

        Migas are pretty awesome (assuming you’re not talking about the original Portuguese dish, which also looks good but I’ve never had. I’m a sucker for egg-based foods.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        In Austin, there seems to be almost as much competition for the best migas as there is for the best bbq.

        A couple years ago, my girlfriend called me and said, “I just had this awesome new soda!” I asked her what it was called, and she said Sun Drop. I laughed and laughed and explained how we used to get Sun Drop after soccer games even I was 5.Report

      • Avatar Miss Mary says:

        I’ve only seen Big Ted once since moving from Texas to Northern California and Oregon.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Who is Big Ted? I picture a lumberjack.Report

      • Avatar Miss Mary says:

        LOL He’s Big Red’s mascot. You know, typical red flannel wearing lumberjack. 😉Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I think Big Red is less regional than it used to be. We went to South Carolina a few years ago and as a cultural study I checked for Big Red at every gas station we stopped at. It seems that the Big Red line runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our friends in Greenville had never heard of it. Their local favorite is Cheerwine. We gave them a bottle of Big Red on our next visit but it failed. They reported that it was like drinking ‘liquid candy’.

        In Louisville you can get Big Red at White Castles which is a great combo, also augmented with Grippos potato chips.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        For whatever it is worth, Big Red the soda is listed above Big Red the gum on Wikipedia.

        I have never heard of the soda until today.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        They also make Big Blue and Big Peach (and Big Red Zero). I find them all undrinkable, but my son would drink them exclusively if I let him.Report

  8. Avatar dhex says:

    definitely macacroni and cheese, but none of that other stuff. cracked black pepper, aged white cheddar, and some siracha on the side.Report

  9. Avatar zic says:

    For me, eggs are the comfort food. Poached, scrambled, fried, boiled, baked. I do go out of my way to purchase local farm eggs due to the bright yellow yolks (high in omega-3’s). They cost about $4/dozen, which breaks down to $.33 cents a dozen; well worth the price for eggs that are fresher, healthier to eat, and humanely raised.

    One of my favorite egg comfort-foods is a frittata; a quick fix, good for using up leftovers, good vehicle for browning a cheese crust, and awesome cold and leftover (picnic food here!). I start with sweating onions in a bit of butter and olive oil (covered) until they’re beginning to turn golden. Maybe add a bit of garlic, and at the same time, preheat the broiler. Next, some chopped bitter greens (arugula, chard, kale, etc. all work well, raw) or chopped cooked vegetables vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, eggplant, potatoes squash — whatever’s on hand leftover), and some seasoning that compliments the vegetables. I might deglaze the pan with a dash of balsamic if I want a bite to the dish. Then I crack and mix up the eggs — 2 eggs/person with about a tablespoon of water per egg, pour it over the veggies without stirring, and top the whole thing with grated cheese of one sort or another. It sits on the heat, no stirring for a few minutes, until the bottom’s beginning to set, and then goes under the broiler to set the top and brown the cheese.

    And another comfort food is just plain pasta, cooked al dente, and topped with butter and parmesan cheese, greens tossed with olive oil and balsamic on the side.

    (Notice an Italian theme here?)

    And I totally agree with @miss-mary and @mike-dwyer on the cheese/crackers (or bread), olives, meat — though I can’t eat meats preserved with nitrates any longer, migraine trigger — and fruit. Roast garlic is good here. As is all sorts of chopped salads, blood orange and onion with fennel, perhaps served in little boats of endive leaves.

    Finally, the ultimate comfort food is cinnamon-sugar on buttered toast (made with my own bread, we don’t eat much store-bought bread) with an apple. Joy in every bite.Report

    • Avatar Miss Mary says:

      Cinnamon-sugar toast!!! My dad made that for me as a kid. ?

      I’m a total carb-aholic. When I was queasy while pregnant cinnamon and raisin toast with peanut butter helped every time. Mm, bread.Report

  10. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I have many but I will stick with a medium rare steak, roasted or friend potatos, spinach, and a good porter.Report

  11. Avatar Damon says:

    Well, I’ve got several comfort foods:

    Grits with real butter. I’ve taken the habit of dropping a over easy egg on top of them and mixing it all up.
    Cheesy chicken curry casserole.

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Mmm… you just reminded me of another one, which I can’t get anywhere in Austin, and wouldn’t even attempt to make: shrimp ‘n grits. There are few things in this world that can make me as happy as good shrimp and grits. Which means I need to spend more time in Georgia and South Carolina, where they’ve reached shrimp and grits perfection.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Ain’t no better hangover food than shrimp and grits. Put some bacon and jalapeño in there while you’re at it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        My experience with South Carolina shrimp & grits has been disappointing. We vacation there fairly often and I have tried them in at least a dozen restaurants. With one exception the grits have been extremely bland every single time. As in, “We boiled the grits and didn’t bother to season them at all”. The shrimp are usually good but the dish as a whole fails. By contrast, every time I get them in KY they are fantastic. The chefs here seem to understand that both the shrimp and the grits need to shine. Just last week I had some huge grilled shrimp over roasted red pepper and cheese grits with a redeye gravy on top. Fantastic.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m trying to find the place where I had them in Charleston, but I can’t remember the name. I’m hoping it’s still open, because it was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life (was in ’04). It was on the water. Had great sweet tea, too.

        Any time I’m in Georgia (which is about once a year), I make a point of stopping at Mary Mac’s Tea Room for lunch just for the shrimp and grits.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        We were told to try AW Shucks in Charleston and those were so bland that we barely ate them. We took them back to our condo, stopping at the store on the way, and the next morning I mixed in some chunks of velveeta before I microwaved them. That saved them.

        Ironically the best I have ever had in SC were at friggin’ Bubba Gumps, also in Charleston. They were packed with all kinds of extra things like sausage and onions but oh, so good.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        The best recipies for shrimp and grits have cheese in the grits. I prefer a smoked gouda. I season the grits and the shrimp. Each is delicious, but the combo is…divine 🙂

        And to quote “slate”, if you’re not seasoning your grits, you’re “doing it wrong”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Shrimp with cheesy grits is probably the one exception I make to my “Never put cheese on seafood” rule.Report

  12. Avatar Kim says:

    1) to be comfort food, it must be something you can make while sick.
    Deep in the heart of winter, grabbing some ropa vieja and tossing it over some rice…
    In the sizzling summer, it’s tzadziki and chips (with the tzatziki busy marinading for a day or so…)Report