When you think of comfort food, what comes to mind first? Images of macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes appear in my head (though not all on the same plate at the same time). When it comes to regions for comfort food, the midwest and southern parts of the US are the first two areas I think of.
What if I told you about comfort food in Maine?
Think about it like this – Maine is a northern state, which means for many days of the year the weather is cold. With one long edge touching the Atlantic Ocean, those seaside winds can make it feel even colder. And when it is cold, the first thing I think of is comfort food.
Adventures in Comfort Food: Incredible, Delicious and New Recipes from a Unique, Small-Town Restaurant is a new cookbook from Kerry Altiero, chef/owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, Maine, and Katherine Gaudet With the motto “because we can,” Altiero’s restaurant offers a huge menu that mixes traditional American fare with Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Thai, vegan… whatever strikes their fancy. Sounds a little like what Solid Gold Eats is all about.
Our interest in food is about nurture, not nature. As children, every food is new and we learn whether we like them or we do not like them. It is up to the parents to introduce children to new foods, but that doesn’t always happen. Comfort foods can be the ones we hold onto dearly, enjoying day after day because we know we like them. I enjoy watching limited eaters become liberated ones, trying new things little by little. “Making people comfortable, serving real, bold food that isn’t churned out by the industrial circus, getting fresh products into the mouths of the people we care about: These things change lives,” says Altiero. I agree.
When deciding which recipe to try first out of Adventures in Comfort Food, I decided to try something that I knew I liked but had a spin on it I was not familiar with. The recipe is called Neil Anderson’s Bolognese of August on page 68 and refers to the second chef Altiero ever hired. Bolognese is a hearty sauce I have made several times (like this duck bolognese recipe), but this recipe is different in that it uses tomatoes. Yes, you may think this is strange, but a true bolognese does not use tomatoes. Only a slight amount of tomato paste gives it red color and flavor, but the rest is left up to the slow cooked ground meat.
As you may be able to tell from the photos, the bolognese was absolutely delicious. It only makes enough for 3 to 4 people, so I doubled the recipe because, well, leftovers of this sauce were well needed.
NEIL ANDERSON’S BOLOGNESE OF AUGUST
SERVES 3 TO 4
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 rib celery, chopped coarsely
- 1/2 cup carrot, cut into medium dice
- 4 oz ground veal
- 4 oz ground pork
- 1 28-oz can tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound dried rigatoni pasta, cooked
- Place a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil and add the garlic; fry until the cloves are almost golden, 4 minutes.
- Add the fennel seeds, count to 3, and drop in the onion, celery, and carrot. Sweat the vegetables in the olive oil until they are sweet and the garlic is soft about 10 minutes.
- Add the veal and pork, breaking up with a spoon to distribute the meat and vegetables as evenly as you can (you’ll mash it later).
- When the meat is cooked (it should take 10 to 12 minutes) add the tomatoes, tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water.
- Turn down the heat to low and simmer for at least an hour, preferably 2. Mash with a potato masher to break everything up until it looks like a sauce.
- Add the cream. If you’ll be storing the sauce, wait to add the cream until reheating.
- For the dish, boxed rigatoni is preferred, not homemade noodles. Add the cooked noodles to the pot of sauce and stir carefully so that you don’t break any noodles.
- Distribute onto plates, pour some red wine or beer and eat.