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More Gourmet Recipes  

Comfort. (January 24, 2012)

Tomato and Fennel Soup with Pernod Cream
Cold Weather Potato Chowder with Caraway Cheese
Farmer Cheese Pie
Thai Red Curry with Roasted Duck
Banana Cake

Winter. Took forever to get here, but it finally did, and spring is a long way away. Grey skies, wind chill. Ugh. What's better than coming home to a rich, hot bowl of soup? Yes, we know, but dessert comes last, so until then, Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes will get your meal going and improve your outlook.

Food writer and TV personality Betty Rosbottom has put together an all-season collection of soup recipes that can go together in minutes for almost instant comfort and gratification. Her other cookbooks include Waffles, Coffee, and The Big Book of Backyard Cooking; she contributes to Bon Appetit and leads culinary tours to Europe. She's good, and she knows comfort!

The New Comfort Food: Home cooking from Around the World is the latest from Saveur magazine, which raised the bar on food magazines from its beginning in 1994. No one ever gives away their copies, for each issue is full of impeccable photography and finely crafted, in-depth articles on exquisite food from Singapore street noodles to three-star meals in Paris.

No wonder Saveur's newest book is such a hit; you'll find more than a hundred of the world's most beloved home-style dishes and drinks... Texas barbecue and New York cheesecake follow Korean fried chicken, a Tuscan tomato tart, Mexican chiles rellenos and, oh my yes! Hungarian chicken paprikash with made-from-scratch dumplings. For all of us on this side of the pond, you won't be disappointed, for page 188 gives us the original recipe and delicious history of the uh, classic Green Bean Casserole! (No, you already have this one!)

Want a satisfying, eat-on-the-run snack? Look no further than Handheld Pies: Dozens of Pint-size Sweets and Savories by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton. These two award-winning food writers, one in San Francisco, the other in Brooklyn, have compiled dozens of delightful recipes taking you in hand (sorry...) from breakfast right through to late night snack. Variations of these perfect little gems go from homemade pop-tarts to tiny cream pies in canning jars. They've included stories about great pie makers as well; Handheld Pies will remind you again and again why pies are the sweetest, most charming kind of handmade food!

The title of The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg says it all. Come on, treat yourself. The joy of butter, heaven of fresh cream, sublime pleasure of eggs, sugar, rich dark chocolate and lots of it! Dessert is the ultimate comfort food, and in this bordering on food porn collection, Rosenberg gives us her perfectly over-the-top and surprisingly easy-to-make recipes, many from her Boston Rosie's Bakery chain. Oink.

On today's menu:

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Tomato and Fennel Soup with Pernod Cream

Tomato and Fennel Soup with Pernod Cream

Ron adores Pernod, the celebrated anise-scented liqueur so beloved in the south of France, and was over the moon to find Betty Rosbottom's recipe in Sunday Soup. The sweetness of the tomato is complemented by the licorice accent of the fennel. Dollops of crème fraîche scented with Pernod add another hit of licorice flavour while beautifully garnishing the soup. No Pernod? Not to worry, it's still delicious adorned simply with the crème fraîche!

Serves 6

  • 4 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon, plus 6 springs for garnish
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained well
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup crème fraîche, divided
  • 3/4 tsp Pernod
  1.  Cut off and discard stalks (if attached) from fennel. Halve the bulbs lengthwise, and cut out and discard the tough inner cores. Chop enough fennel to yield 3 cups.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep-sided pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chopped fennel, onion and carrot and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are softened and starting to brown, for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped tarragon, 1 tsp salt and the red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and continue to cook at a gently simmer (reducing heat slightly, if necessary) until the vegetable are tender, for about 20 minutes.
  3. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor, blender or food mill, and return soup to the pot. Ladle a little of the warm soup into a small bowl and whisk in 1/3 cup of the crème fraîche. Then whisk this mixture into the soup. Taste soup and season with salt as needed. (The soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)
  4. To serve, ladle one cup of soup into each of 6 bowls. If desired, whisk Pernod with the remaining 1/3 cup crème fraîche in a small bowl. Garnish the center of each serving with a dollop of crème fraîche (with our without the Pernod) and a fresh tarragon sprig.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Fino or Palo Cortado Sherry at room temperature



Cold Weather Potato Chowder with Caraway Cheese

Cold Weather Potato Chowder with Caraway Cheese

Oh my, skiing was wonderful today; we're back and starving for something hot and hearty. Good thing we made up this chowder from Sunday Soups yesterday, it's going to be perfect! Chowders are traditionally made with bacon, onions and potatoes simmered in a mix of stock and milk, but Betty Rosbottom upped the ante with a final addition of grated Havarti cheese stuffed with caraway seeds. The buttery cheese blends beautifully with all the ingredients, plus it adds an extra hint of creaminess to the soup's texture. Oh, Yum!

Serves 4

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2–inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 pound red-skin potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Havarti cheese with caraway seeds, coarsely grated
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives for garnish
  1. Sauté bacon in a large, heavy pot set over medium heat until browned and crisp, for 3 to 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour out and discard all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings.
  2. Add onion and celery to the bacon drippings in the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened for 4 to 5 minutes. Add diced potatoes and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring for 1 minute.
  3. Add chicken stock and milk to pot and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook soup at a simmer until the potatoes are tender, for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let soup come to a boil. (Soup can be prepared to this point 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over low heat and proceed with recipe.)
  4. When ready to serve, add the cheese, a little at a time to the hot soup, stirring until melted after each addition. In a small bowl, mix the butter and flour with a fork to make a paste. Whisk this mixture into the soup, a little at a time and cook until completely blended, for 1 to 2 minutes. Taste soup and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed.
  5. To serve, ladle soup into 4 bowls and sprinkle each serving with chopped bacon and chives.

Tony's wine recommendation:
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or California oaked Chardonnay



Farmer Cheese Pie

Farmer Cheese Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, New York

From Handheld Pies, this is one of author Rachel's favourites. It's the perfect combination of hearty cheese, subtle herb and gentle honey. It makes a wonderful hors d'oeuvre or lunch pie and is especially good with a cornmeal crust, but a good butter or lard version will do nicely, thank you! The filling puffs as it bakes and becomes a lovely light gold. Lunch? Better take more than one!

Makes 12 to 16 pies

  • Pie crust for a double crust pie
  • All-purpose flour for dusting
  • 1²/3 cups/380 g farmer cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup/120 mL half-and-half
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  1. Have two 12-cup standard muffin tins ready. Have dough at room temperature.
  2. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/8 inch/3 mm thick. It will be about 14 inches/35.5 cm in diameter. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many circles 4 to 5 inches/10 to 12 cm in diameter as possible.
  3. Handling the dough circles gently, lift each circle and press it into a muffin cup, leaving a 1/8 to 1/4 inch/3 to 6 mm overhang and patching any tears by pinching them together or plugging them with a dough scrap. You can crimp the dough that extends beyond the edge of the cup with fork tines or your fingers so it adheres to the top of the tin and forms a rim, if you like, but it is not necessary. Gather the dough scraps, form into a ball, roll out and cut out more circles. (Reroll the dough only once or it will bake up tough.) You should have 12 to 16 circles total. If you don't have enough dough circles to fill every cup in a muffin tin, stagger the crusts rather than clustering all of them at one end of the tin. If you've filled one tin, refrigerate it while you line the cups in a second tin, then refrigerate the second tin.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cheese and eggs until smooth. Add the half-and-half, honey and salt and beat until thoroughly combined. (Or, use a large bowl and a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon.) Generously sprinkle in the thyme and stir to mix. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated.)
  5. Remove the dough-lined cups from the refrigerator. Place 3 to 4 Tbsp filling in each cup. Refrigerate the assembled pies for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
  6. Bake the pies until the filling is slightly puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. The filling should jiggle slightly when a tin is gently shaken. Be careful not to overbake or the filling will crack.
  7. Let cook on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a sharp, thin knife around the edge of each pie to loosen it from the cup. Then, using the knife tip or a fork, gently pry each pie upward so you can grab it with you fingertips and lift it out of the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The pies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Reheat in a 375°F/190°C oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

Note: Substitute ricotta or cottage cheese in the same amount for the farmer cheese. Scoop into a sieve placed over a bowl and drain in the refirgerto9r for 2 hours before using.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Beaujolais-Villages or Oregon Pinot Noir



Thai Red Curry with Roasted Duck

Thai Red Curry with Roasted Duck

Those gorgeous, brown patent-leather ducks hanging in Chinatown windows always have us slowing down to look... and make plans on how to serve them! We found this recipe in Saveur's The New Comfort Food: Home Cooking from Around the World, which quickly became a family favourite, not only for the authentic Thai flavorings but for the ease and speed of preparation! With the right spices on hand, truly instant comfort food! Pass the rice, please!

Serves 4

  • 2½ cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste such as Mae Ploy brand
  • 1/2 Chinese roasted duck, but into 2-inch pieces
  • 10 fresh or frozen Kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1½ Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Thai palm sugar
  • 6 Thai chiles, stemmed
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, left whole. Leavesfrom 10 stems basil, preferably Thai basil
  • 4 cups cooked jasmine rice, for serving
  1. Heat 1 cup of the coconut milk in a large pot over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the curry paste and continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is very aromatic, about 5 minutes more.
  2. Add the cut-up duck to the curry mixture and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occastionally, until the duck is heated through, about 7 minutes. Add the remaining coconut,milk, lime leaves and 3/4 cup water. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a medium-low. Simmer, stirring, until the flavours meld, about 2 minutes. Add the pineapple, fish sauce, palm sugar and chilies and continue to simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pineapple is fork-tender, about 5 minutes more.
  3. Skim off and discard some of the oil from the top of the curry, if you like. Stir in the tomatoes and basil and simmer the curry for about 1 minute more; the tomatoes and basil should retain their shape and bright colour. Serve the curry over steamed jasmine rice.



Banana Cake

Banana Cake

Remember when you stood in front of the fridge and ate Sara Lee's Banana Cake right out of the freezer?

You're fibbing if you say you didn't, for that cake was irresistible; redolent of sweet, ripe bananas topped with a rich cream cheese icing and oh, so available! We found this version in for The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book, where Judy Rosenberg has concocted just as sinful a version! For old times' sake you can store it in the freezer, but we bet there are no leftovers...

Makes 12 to 18 servings

  • Vegetable oil or butter for greasing the pan
  • 2¼ cups sifted cake flour
  • 5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup mashed banana (about 2 very ripe bananas, skin should be brown)
  • 10 Tbsp (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup (lightly packed) light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking pan with vegetable oil or butter.
  2. Sift both flours, the baking soda, and salt together into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a second small bowl, stir the buttermilk into the mashed banana and set aside.
  4. Cream the butter, oil, both sugars and the vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  5. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time and mix on medium speed after each addition until blended, about 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl each time.
  6. Add one-third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture with the mixer on low speed, and mix for 8 seconds. Scrape the bowl. Add half the banana mixture, mix 10 seconds, and scrape the bowl. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and the rest of the banana mixture and mix for 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl and stir the batter several times by hand to mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden, springs back to the touch, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack.
  8. Eat as is or frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Must add. Period. Especially this version loaded with butter, which adds richness and helps to give it that fluffy texture. Snort.

Makes 2 cups, enough to frill and frost a two- or four-layer cake

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp fresh lemon zest
  1. Cream the cream cheese, sugar, butter, vanilla and lemon zest in a medium-size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy 5 to 6 minutes. Stop the mixer several times to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  2. Keep the frosting refrigerated until you are ready to frost the cake. For best results, frost as soon as possible after whipping. If using later in the day, leave the frosting in the mixing bowl and rewhip right before frosting.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Muscat Beaumes de Venise, Cream Sherry, 10 Year-Old- Tawny Port


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, for Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes by Betty Rosbottom. Text © 2008 Betty Rosbottom. Photographs © Charles Schiller.


Saveur, for The New Comfort Food: Home cooking from Around the World edited by James Oseland. © 2011 Weldon Owen Inc.


Handheld Pies, Dozens of Pint-size Sweets and Savories by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton. Text © 2011 Chronicle Books LLC. Photographs © 2011 Ellen Silverman.


Workman Publishing, New York, and Thomas Allen and Son, Toronto, for The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg. © 2011 Judy Rosenberg.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (128 KB)

Find more recipes with the recipe indexes by title and type




More Gourmet Recipes