Food is love.
That's probably the last thing any nutritionist or dietitian wants to see in print, but if we're being honest, we have to admit that many of our strongest memories involve food: A favorite dinner cooked by Mom on our birthday; Grandma's apple pie, warm from the oven; or even an overcooked hotdog (just the way I like them!), grilled by Dad at the first cookout of the year.
Holidays, first dates, weddings, baptisms -- food evokes memories of not only good times, but of family and friends.
When some of those people are no longer with us, those memories become even more precious and comforting.
What comfort food does is help us to relive, for a few minutes at least, some of those memories.
Comfort food is also, simply, food that makes us feel good. A bowl of chicken soup when we have the sniffles; a juicy, ripe tomato or ear of sweet corn at its peak of freshness; or that annual loaf of rich eggnog bread from a friend that says "Merry Christmas."
Recreating those recipes and the memories they foster can also bring us joy.
And that brings me to this new food feature.
I have hundreds of recipes from my parents, both of whom cooked professionally, and I have many of my own as well.
Some were passed down to me, some are tried-and-true family favorites my kids grew up loving, and some are relatively new -- the result of successful experimenting in the kitchen. (We will skip the not so successful ones, I promise.)
In addition to those recipes, we will visit with some home cooks and professional chefs, to share some of their favorites recipes.
(There will even be some special guests now and then, too, so make sure you check out "Comfort and Joy" every Wednesday in the TIMES NEWS.)
To kick everything off, this first recipe is one of my all time favorites. It's not one we eat too often, as it is everything one would expect from "comfort" food. Suffice it to say, if you started the new year with a weight loss resolution, you may want to stop reading now and just check back next week.
If not, you just may want to jog over to the fridge to pick out the ingredients for this delicious Corn and Potato Chowder.
I have been making this soup for years. Every time I tweak it, it gets even better.
Corn, potatoes, cream, bacon ... what's not to love?
Of everything I make -- other than the Poppy Seed Tea Bread I bake at Christmas time -- this recipe is the one most requested by my family. When my kids are celebrating a birthday, I always offer to make their favorite dinner. Regardless of the main course, this soup is almost always on the menu.
I've already warned you that it's rich -- and even borders on being decadent -- but it also comes together pretty quickly, so it's a good option for a weeknight dinner, or a simple Saturday supper, curled up by the fire.
Corn and Potato Chowder
Makes six first course servings, or four main dish servings
4 small to medium Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cans (1 pound, 1 ounce each) cream-style corn
1 cup frozen corn
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper
Peel potatoes and cut into uniform chunks, about 1 1/2 inches in size. Boil in lightly salted water until tender; about 10-15 minutes. Drain and let cool until easy to handle. When cool, cut potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.
In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels.
Pour off drippings, leaving four tablespoons in the pot. Add onions, celery and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to drippings in pan, then sauté until onion is translucent.
Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour and stir into onions and celery until well blended; simmer for about two minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
Stir in milk and cream. Heat to boiling, then boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
Stir in corn, cooled potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper and heat through. Add bacon, reserving some as a garnish if desired.
For a more festive presentation, in addition to the bacon, sprinkle with paprika and chopped scallions if desired.