I'm a born and bred Southern gal, and when it comes to food, the more butter, the more fried, the better; and nothing can beat comfort food from home. When you're having a bad day, when you need that little pick-me-up...comfort food is there.
I've now lived in New York City for about 8 years, and I've yet to find a great Southern style restaurant that hits close to home. I've eaten at "high-end" Southern cooking restaurants (yes, those do exist for these yankees), and I've eaten at hole in the wall establishments here as well. Nothing quite hits the spot like the signature dishes my mother and great-grandmother cooked for me during my youth. So, I thought I'd share their/my special recipes =)
My great-grandmother's mashed potatoes were famous in my household. One of my fondest memories from childhood is cooking with my great-grandmother, Bessie. She taught me how to cook scrambled eggs, yellow boxed cake with the most delicious homemade chocolate frosting, and of course, her mashed potatoes.
Another food treat has been my mother's mac-and-cheese. No fancy cheeses, no elaborate concoctions...just a basic roux and some cheese and noodles. But it's a reminder of home, the simplicity of life back in the South.
So here are my versions of my grandmother's mashed potatoes and my mother's mac-and-cheese recipes. I also throw in a can of black eyed peas, because it's the only kind of black eyed peas I can find in NYC (I'm biased and prefer purple hull peas fresh from the garden, but I only get those when I come back home).
I typically peel and dice half of a 5lb bag of potatoes for my husband and I (obviously to have leftovers for the next couple of days).
I add these to a pot of boiling, salted water and let them boil for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
I drain the potatoes and dump back into pot.
For each potato peeled, I add a tbspn of butter (this is where my recollection of my grandmother's mashed potatoes and my mother's and sister's differ...they swear she put mayonnaise in her potatoes, but I don't EVER recall watching her do this).
Add as much milk as necessary to reach your desired consistency. Some people like more soupy mashed potatoes, others like more chunky...it's up to you. I've actually never measured...I just eyeball and taste.
Add salt. I add lots of salt; my husband adds pepper, whichever you prefer.
Boil 16oz of your preferred pasta (I particularly like mini farfalle) until al dente, drain, and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt a stick of butter and once melted, add 3 tbsp of flour and mix well.
Once mixed, slowly whisky two cups of milk until well-blended.
Continue to stir/whisk until sauce has thickened.
Add cheese of choice. To this day I still use Kraft singles (about 12 slices total), but you can add any type of cheese you'd like.
Stir until well-blended and add pasta.
For my black eyed peas, I just pop the can, add a beef bouillon cube, and boil until cooked. If I had fresh blacked eyed peas, it would be different. I'd need a ham hock and some bacon. But there's only so much you can get outside of the South.
What are some of your comfort food recipes? I'd love to hear about them and try them out! Feel free to share in the comments below!