Sunday, September 30, 2012

Comfort Food - Mac and Cheeeeese!

Guest Post - Pavlov

When you think comfort what dish do you most associate comfort with? Mac n Cheese, pot roast, lasagna, meatloaf with mashed potato or chicken noodle soup are probably the most common. There is something instinctive in these foods that bring us back to our childhood and reminds us of the time we scraped a knee or sprained an ankle and mom or dad made a dish of something that made all the sadness and hurt go away.

For me it was chop suey, some folks call it American chop suey but as I grew up in a town with only one Chinese restaurant and chop suey wasn’t a menu item it just got shortened to chop suey. In some homes it was even called goulash…don’t ask me why as we’re a funny lot in the northeast. That being said ask anybody in Northern New England what browned beef, onion, green pepper, tomato sauce and elbow macaroni combined makes and you’re likely to get one of the two as an answer.

The reason it feels like comfort to me is simple. It uses one quart of spaghetti sauce that my mother canned each fall. No matter how down and out I may have been or felt, no matter where I was in life where things weren’t going according to plan...nothing would make me feel better or more loved and cared for than a quart of mom’s sauce and a few simple things thrown in a pot.

That flavor is unmistakable and reminds me of the good times when it was made especially for me and the loved ones I ate it with. Good times like when I was in a rock fight and got eight stitches on the top of my head. The day I tried to jump seven Tonka trucks and got a bottle of Bactine’s worth of cuts and scrapes and the realization that hey you know what…Bactine hurts like hell when applied to open wounds. Then there was that time I had chicken pox… what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the good times…

I make sauce with my mom now and I go crazy with different cuts of meat, herbs and wine in mine. Not mom, she sticks with her traditional ingredients never adding anything different or “interesting.” (This is what she calls my ingredients) When it comes to making chop suey a few times during fall and winter… I always ask for a quart or two of hers. So with good times in mind, let’s make some chop suey, American chop suey, goulash or whatever quirky name you call it at your house…

1 lb. elbow pasta or radiatore (or whatever shape keeps you awake with excitement)
2 lbs. Ground beef browned (More if you want to take care of the cow population problem)
1 green bell pepper chopped (Yes or red bell pepper… heck use a ghost pepper if you feel froggy!)
1 sweet yellow onion chopped (seriously any kind of onion will be fine…except perhaps onion powder)
1 clove garlic minced (more or less is fine depending on how much you love garlic…or your partner)
1 qt pasta sauce or meat sauce (Mom’s sauce has meat which doesn’t scare me… but use your own judgement)
1 small can of fire roasted tomatoes diced (or fresh and roasted if you have the energy and time)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste.

Common Sense… (use as little or as much as you like but as long as you cook these things and put them together in one pot you may consider it a success… short of that maybe make a PB&J)

In a large skillet brown the hamburg on medium heat and drain.

Then add the garlic, green pepper, onion, sauce and tomato to the browned meat and cover, turn heat to low.

In a large pot add 4-5 qts of water and cook pasta per instructions to al dente then drain but do not rinse pasta… We don’t rinse because we want to keep that starch on the pasta which will hold onto the sauce.

Lastly dump the meat mixture into the pot with the drained pasta and mix together… heat for 4-5 minutes and plate then top with cheese.

Okay so we didn’t invent the wheel here, but we did make something warm, nourishing and more importantly… From the heart. So with that in mind we send this to you Donna and Bob, with hopes for a speedy recovery and many more pots of chop suey and good times to come. From my hands and heart to the both of you.