Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, For They

Shall Have Comfort Food

This week I thought I'd share a recipe not of my own making, but one my father came up with (sorry, Rusty, I'll try to keep posting on other issues, but the recipes keep coming).

I'd have to say that my parents are the key influence in my becoming as good a cook as I am. Both my parents had a love of cooking (Mom still does), and they both shared that love with my sister and me. We were allowed to help in the kitchen from an early age, and even allowed to "take over", to do the cooking ourselves, with their "help" (read: guidance and emergency backup). From my mother I learned the technical skills required for cooking -- how to simmer vs. boiling, how to fry, how to check temperature, how to guage and regulate heat, prep, stirring, etc. From my father, I learned how to improvise, how to experiment, and a sense of presentation.

While my ability to develop gourmet dishes has, I believe, far surpassed my father's, the one area in which I believe he was still my superior before his death, and probably would still be today (or at the very least, my equal), is in his ability to throw together simple but tasty comfort food dishes.

Not long before his death, my wife, The Feared Redhead, was treated to one of these dishes, and insisted that he give her the recipe. He complied, and thanks to her, it lives on. Whenever we think of him and miss him, we think of this dish, and the simple joy he got from her delight in it. It's a food that comforts not just in eating it, but in reminiscing upon it. And so I share with you:

Charlie's Potato Soup

2 strips lean bacon
1 small onion
3 stalks celery
4 cups water
1 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1 large carrot
1/2 cup milk

Chop the bacon, celery, and oniond into small pieces. Sautee in a saucepan until the bacon is brown and the onions are caramelized. Add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heate to a simmer. Mix together 1 cup of instant potato flakes and 2 cups water. Stir the potato mixture into the soup. Peel and grate 1 large carrot, add to soup. Slowly stir in 1/2 cup milk, stir constantly until smooth. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste.

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