Comfort foods of the world! I wish to cook and eat you!
May 17, 2012 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I want to amass a collection of comfort food recipes, and I want them to be from as many different cultures and cuisines as possible!

After some recent successes with Okonomiyaki and budae jjigae, I want to start expanding my International Comfort Food repertoire. The kind of thing you'd cook for yourself or your immediate family on a Wednesday night when you just want a tasty meal that doesn't take a huge amount of prep or effort. Books or web links would be great, family recipes would be even better!

I live in NYC and have great access to specialized ingredients, and I'm a capable cook who's good researching substitutions in a pinch, so don't hold back on that front.
posted by Narrative Priorities to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh, I just saw that my friend has locked that LJ entry since the last time I saw it! Here is a different link for those who aren't familiar with budae jjigae.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:54 AM on May 17, 2012

There are many versions of chicken soup - the American kind with dumplings, Jewish with matzoh balls, Thai with lemongrass, Pho, etc. I'm about to leave for work do I can't post recipes, but they are easily googleable.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:55 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cook okra, with as little oil as possible, until it is no longer slimy. Keep it on low heat, stirring often so that it does not scorch.
Stir in half of a small can of tomato paste and large container of chicken broth. Salt to taste. Add peeled and cubed potatoes (I prefer red). Cook until potatoes are done. Serve over rice with crackers.

You can add chicken. You can boil the chicken and use that broth, adding more tomato paste. You can throw in a high quality sausage.

All ages love this comfort food. If you don't have okra, thinly slice a white potato to cook in, it will melt away and give you a thicken your broth almost as well as the okra.

Louisiana comfort food.
posted by myselfasme at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2012

PIcadillo ("peek-a-dee-yo") is Cuban comfort food, very easy to make and is much better the next day. We use the recipe from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen.

Caldo Gallego (Gailician spinach/bean/sausage soup) is a close second. This recipe is close to the one we use which is in a book that I can't get to at this second (ours doesn't call for hunto)
posted by jquinby at 7:06 AM on May 17, 2012

Nigella Lawson has tended to stick pretty close to comfort food. Watching some old episodes of Nigella Bites could really contribute heavily to this repertoire.
posted by jph at 7:08 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

For us, that would be Mattar Panneer, a recipe from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking. The beauty is, you can make the sauce ahead of time, like you would with spaghetti sauce, and then just use what you need to make a curry. We store servings in small freezer bags, and freeze them flat, so defrosting them is fast and easy. And the sauce is gorgeous, deeply flavourful and just spicy enough.

We can buy fried paneer cubes frozen in bags at the store, so throwing Mattar Paneer together is super easy. Plain boiled rice to go with, and you're done!
posted by LN at 7:09 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Rice and beans, lazy version: chop an onion, saute in a tablespoon of butter. When translucent, add a can of black beans, drained. You can get fancy and add some tomatoes, or a chopped pepper, or maybe some leftover chicken. Add some water; you want a thick, stew-like mixture. Then, dump in the equivalent of a can of leftover rice. Stir. Serve. Pass around the Lizano salsa.

Haluski: start some salted water to boil for egg noodles. Slice a large onions (not too thinly, maybe 1/8 an inch wide) while you melt a stick of butter in a big heavy pan. Whack the onions into the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Slice up some cabbage. How much is up to you; for the amount of egg noodles that come in the typical bags, I use a little more than half of one. After the onions have gone about 10 minutes, add your cabbage. Add some salt. Mix it all up. Stir occasionally. You want to cook the onions and cabbage until they're pretty well wilted; haluski should not be challenging to eat. You should have put the egg noodles in the water, and hopefully they'll finish around the same time; drain 'em. Add those to the vegetable mixture. Add salt, pepper, and caraway seeds to taste.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:11 AM on May 17, 2012

New Mexican green chile is a comfort staple and it freezes well. There are recipes on the internet but basically it's shreds/chunks of fatty pork (or chicken if you must), fat, onions, chicken stock, green chiles, flour/starch, water, other seasonings to taste. Sometimes tomatoes.

Quick lunch or dinner, you serve it as a soup with tortillas. My grandmother always had some in her freezer.

Heat your tortillas! Nothing sadder than a cold tortilla out of a bag...yikes. A few minutes in a pan with butter, or leave then in a low oven in aluminum foil while you're cooking everything else.

Breakfast burritos: tortillas with scrambled eggs, cubed potatoes, green chile (the sauce as above) and/or green chiles, leftover skirt steak cut into strips (you can substitute lots of different meats but I'm from beefland). Wrap in foil, stick in oven to reheat, and they stay warm for a loooooong time.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:16 AM on May 17, 2012

Onigiri (Japanese rice balls) are a simple, warm treat for enjoying good rice. They are also very easy to make.
posted by CheshireCat at 7:35 AM on May 17, 2012

Here in Minnesota it's tater tot hotdish. Crumble a pound of raw ground beef into the bottom of a casserole dish (11x17 or 9x11). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour frozen mixed veggies (traditional is the bag with carrots, corn, peas, green beans, and lima beans) on top of the hamburger, shoot for about a 1:1 ratio of veggies and meat, but it's not an exact science. Mix 1 can of cream of mushroom soup with 1 can of cream of chicken soup, plus 1/2 can of water. Pour the soup over the meat and veggies. Top liberally with frozen tater tots to cover the dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes.
posted by vytae at 7:36 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a local restaurant that specializes in exactly this sort of thing. You might get some ideas from their menu.
posted by yerfatma at 7:45 AM on May 17, 2012

Cholent is a traditional thick, hearty Jewish stew which is cooked overnight (at least 18-24 hours). Traditionally, for the Orthodox, the dish is started on Friday afternoon before the Sabbath starts and is ready by the next afternoon. During the cooking process, no stirring (work) is required other than maybe adding a bit extra water. I love this dish on a cold, wet rainy weekend afternoon. There are a thousand different recipes and variations but this is the one that belongs to my family and is for a LARGE crockpot.

This recipe will feed 6-8, depending on appetite size.

Put some water on to boil on the stove & turn your crockpot on high.

Cut up 2-3 pounds of chuck roast or brisket into chunks

Into a bowl big enough for the meat, mix the following ingredients:
1/2 C Ketchup
1 Squirt of honey like.. 1-2 tablespoons
2-4 Dashes Worcestershire
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Cayanne
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp paprika
3-4 diced garlic
1/4 tsp pepper

Toss the meat to coat it in this mixture and set aside for a few minutes.

Add these ingredients in this order into your crockpot, already set on high:
2 white onions, cut into rings
3-4 Potatoes, peeled & cut into large chunks - I like yukon gold, but regular potatoes are fine too.
The now-coated meat, scraping any extra mixture into crockpot.
1 Cup Pearled Barley
1/4 Cup White Bean
1/4 Cup Kidney Bean

Add boiling water to fill to the top of the crockpot. Let cook for at least 12 hours, but longer is better - I usually eat it 18-24 hours. DO NOT STIR, don't open the lid to peek at it all the time, you'll just increase cooking time. For my crockpot, I put it on high for the first 8 hours then switch to low for the rest of the cooking time. You know your crockpot, though! You may need to add a little boiling water after 12 hours or so. The photo of this vegetable cholent is exactly the thick texture it should be when it's ready, though if yours isn't quite that thick, it'll still taste delicious.
posted by trixare4kids at 7:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

One of my favorite sandwiches, which I first discovered when visiting Graceland, as it is Elvis' favorite comfort food, is a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

You make it just like a grilled cheese sandwich, but instead of chease on the inside, you have PB&J.
Oh man, is that a tasty sandwich. Classic American heart-attack food.
posted by Flood at 7:50 AM on May 17, 2012

My friend's mom, who is Japanese, likes ochazuke when she wants to make a hot, easy snack/light meal. He explained ochazuke to me as something that you can throw together with leftovers. It's also something that kids can make on their own if they are home alone and hungry, or something you can eat for breakfast. It's basically hot green tea poured over rice with salmon flakes and other seasonings. So good and so easy!
posted by zoetrope at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2012

Amazing desert: Kartoshka (translates to potato, though no potatoes are involved). The recipe mentiones possible raisins. I personally much prefer crushed walnuts.
posted by pyro979 at 7:59 AM on May 17, 2012

One area where British food doesn't do too badly:

Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie

Bangers and Mash

Bubble and Squeak

Spotted Dick

Steak and Kidney Pudding / Steak and Ale Pudding

Roast Beef etc.

Any Crumble and Custard

In fact, most UK deserts

Personally I put it down to the country being rather grey and wet. I mean, our weather doesn't exactly shout "Salad time" does it?
posted by rhymer at 8:11 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

family recipes would be even better!

Okay, so when I was a kid, my mom "made" this "recipe", and I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world. It was an often-asked-for thing when I was sick, but I remember it being served most often when I came in from playing in the snow, served with a mug of hot chocolate.

So you take a round piece of pita bread, like a gyro would be served in. Slip a knife into the edges at its circumference, and pull it apart, so you have two discs. Use softened salted butter to generously butter the rough sides of both discs. Put it on a baking sheet and cook it under a broiler, butter-side up, until it's golden-brown. Serve (as mentioned above) with hot chocolate, or alongside liquid-yolked sunny-side-up eggs. You can dip it in either, or just eat it plain.

Look, I know it sounds like I just gave you a recipe for bread and butter, but something about the texture of the pita bread under broiled butter works REALLY REALLY well, with alternate portions of the pita being soft and crisp depending on its thickness, and just the barest hint of salt from the butter as the rest pools into the warm crannies of the pita.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:12 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

jph: "Nigella Lawson has tended to stick pretty close to comfort food. Watching some old episodes of Nigella Bites could really contribute heavily to this repertoire."

That is so true and although this 7 hour lamb is the very opposite of a quick meal on a Wednesday night, it is laughably easy to prepare on a weekend late morning to be ready for supper and the leftovers are just... out of this world and the reheating of them would definitely fit the easy weeknight supper brief.

The only tweaks I would suggest are to cut each carrot in quarters, not sliced and to add significantly more than four.

Since reading this recipe on 4 April I've made it with lamb twice, with beef (Guiness instead of white wine) and pork (cider instead of wine; sage & thyme instead of rosemary).
posted by humph at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sullangtang is another Korean comfort food that's relatively easy to make. It's an ox-tail noodle soup that's not overly spicy.
posted by cazoo at 8:48 AM on May 17, 2012

I'll share a recipe for risotto-style peas and carrots that I made last night and that I've loved ever since I was a child. This dish is really just known as "grašak" ('gra-shak), which means "peas".

I'm Serbian, and this is typical treatment for vegetables: while not gentle to them, the result is very tasty, particularly the next day.

- one small onion, chopped
- half a cup of chopped carrots
- 2 lbs of frozen peas
- 2 or 3 chicken thighs
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- two tablespoons flour
- a dash of paprika powder
- chopped parsley

Sweat the onion and carrots in some olive oil in a deep frying pan (be a little more generous with the oil than you think is good for you), add the chicken thighs and brown each side, add the peas and a cup of water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 20 mins on a medium-low fire. If water evaporates, add a quarter cup more. Stir occasionally. Add chopped parsley to taste. Cook for another 10 mins.

It is ready when the peas begin to wrinkle. There should be a little bit of liquid left. Up to this point it is not unlike how you'd make risotto (minus the wine).

In a small saucepan prepare roux: stir the flour into a quarter to a third cup olive oil so no crumbs remain, add the paprika for a bit of colour. Cook on low for a few minutes till mixture begins to bubble, and then for another couple of minutes.

Add the roux to the peas, stir well.

This is also great without the chicken - in that case use bouillon for a more flavourful result, although plain water is also fine.

You can also omit the carrots.

If you use French beans cut into 1" lengths instead, you've got "boranija" (bo-'ra-nia), which means "French beans".

You can also just use carrots cut into quarter inch disks. Oddly enough I don't know if that has a name. :-)

Disclaimer: this is how my Mum taught me to make the dish. Other Serbian Mums may not do it quite like she does, but the end result is essentially the same, slightly mushy, seriously yummy.
posted by Dragonness at 9:00 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found a copy of Cook's Country Lost Recipes at my local Marshall's and picked it up for a song. Haven't regretted it yet. Hot dish, grits, and other regional American classics, often with an ethnic touch.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:15 AM on May 17, 2012

Minnesota is famous for hotdish. Hotdish is a variety of baked casserole that typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/ or frozen vegetable, mixed together with canned soup. So I present to you Recipes from the 2012 Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition!

To stir the dish, so to say:

Rep. Michelle Bachmann's St. Croix River Crossing Hotdish
Bridging Minnesota Meat and Wisconsin Cheddar

8 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked
12 oz. cooked and crumbled Hormel® bacon
1 lb. cubed Gold’n Plump® chicken breast, cooked
12 oz. evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups 2% Kemps® milk
2 Tbsp. Land O’Lakes® butter, melted
3 cups shredded Wisconsin cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

Spray 5-qt Crock Pot, or larger, with non-stick cooking spray. Mix together pasta, bacon, chicken, evaporated milk, 2% milk, butter and cheeses; add to Crock Pot.
Set Crock Pot on low for 2-4 hours.
posted by lstanley at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2012

Dal. Love this recipe.
posted by blue t-shirt at 9:50 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Then, of course, there is always my favorite -- Macaroni & Cheese
posted by patheral at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2012

Darnitall! I hit post too soon and forgot to add the link to Greasy Honky Pie, which I have made, and everyone liked. It's definitely comfort food, and not to made very often or when you're on a diet.
posted by patheral at 9:55 AM on May 17, 2012

So you take a round piece of pita bread, like a gyro would be served in. Slip a knife into the edges at its circumference, and pull it apart, so you have two discs. Use softened salted butter to generously butter the rough sides of both discs. Put it on a baking sheet and cook it under a broiler, butter-side up, until it's golden-brown. Serve (as mentioned above) with hot chocolate, or alongside liquid-yolked sunny-side-up eggs. You can dip it in either, or just eat it plain.

Look, I know it sounds like I just gave you a recipe for bread and butter, but something about the texture of the pita bread under broiled butter works REALLY REALLY well, with alternate portions of the pita being soft and crisp depending on its thickness, and just the barest hint of salt from the butter as the rest pools into the warm crannies of the pita.

Huh, my mom did this exact same thing! Though she would sprinkle parmesan and dill on it to broil, and cut it up into triangles at the end. She calls them pita crisps.
posted by threeants at 10:15 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite comfort food dishes while growing up is native to the Indian state of Karnataka is Bisibelebhath -- literally "hot rice lentil mixture." It's spicy but oh so comforting in texture -- something like a risotto. Here is a recipe that comes close to how my family prepared it. We always served it with a cooling raita made with thinly sliced red onions and cilantro leaves. Try it!
posted by peacheater at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Someone upthread mentioned Olivie (or Russian salad or Hussar salad in some countries). This is pretty much the opposite of what you're looking for - difficult to prepare (EVERYTHING must be cut into tiny pieces by hand) and it's traditionally served at holiday dinners and weddings. Not an everyday food.

Here's my contribution of best comfort food ever and it's from Netherlands (not only for pot and legalized prostitution!). Boerenkool. Once I slice the sausage I throw it back in the pot and mix with the mashed potatoes to distribute the fatty juice. Best thing in the winter!
posted by Shusha at 10:44 AM on May 17, 2012

Irish food is in the same happy stodgy ballpark as rhymer's British comfort food compendium:
Colcannon (Irish Republic)/Champ (N.Ireland)
Irish stew
Leek and potato soup
Corned beef with cabbage

The Hairy Bikers are great for traditional British food, even their French or Indian-inspired dishes have a joyous solidity to them:

Fish pie
Welsh rarebit
Gammon and pease pudding
Creamy chicken, ham and leek pie
Beef, stout and chestnut casserole with leek colcannon
Devilled kidneys
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and creamed horseradish
Cullen skink
Liver and bacon with onions and gravy

If you can stream or otherwise get hold of any of their TV shows, they're comfort food in themselves.

Myers of Keswick in the West Village is good for picking up British comfort food ingredients if you can't find them locally.
posted by pickingupsticks at 2:05 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Leftover pie dough rolled out, spread with butter, sprinkled generously with sugar and cinnamon, rolled up and sliced into cookies. Place on lightly buttered cookie sheet, and put in 375 or 400 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes until they turn a light golden brown. Serve with favorite comforting beverage, like milk tea maybe. Eat cookies by meticulously peeling apart the spiral with your bottom two front teeth. If that doesn't bring back long forgotten childhood memories, I don't know what will.
posted by marsha56 at 5:19 PM on May 17, 2012

Mujadara is awesome. Looking at the list of ingredients, you will think, Meh. But somehow all put together is totally delicious. I love meat but I could eat that all day long and be happy, happy, happy. The key is to properly carmelize the onions, and that takes a while, but it's worth it.
posted by karlos at 7:57 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

And I'm so making some budae jigae this weekend. I've never heard of such a weird concoction but it sounds fabulous.
posted by karlos at 7:58 PM on May 17, 2012

posted by barnone at 9:24 PM on May 17, 2012

Bangers and mash, with a jar of fruit chutney added to the sausage pan near the end. The mashed potatoes must have lots of butter, sour cream and milk; if you're feeling fancy, add bacon and caramelised onion too. Probably not very good but its delicious in your mouth and warm & comforting in your tummy.
posted by Wantok at 9:29 PM on May 17, 2012

By which I mean, good for your health. By any other measure, it's excellent.
posted by Wantok at 9:30 PM on May 17, 2012

Check out this previous AskMe. Enjoy!
posted by yoHighness at 7:56 AM on May 18, 2012

I don't know if I can mark any best answers, because ALL OF THESE sound delicious! Fingers crossed a few more get posted, but as it is, I have quite the cooking checklist to get through now!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:29 AM on May 18, 2012

I love this recipe for Puerto Rican black beans and rice (also has a recipe for pernil, which I haven't made, but which sounds awesome).

When I was a kid, my Jewish-German mom would often make bauernfruhstuck, or "farmer's breakfast" - basically, eggs scrambled with onions, bacon and potatoes - and noodle kugel, a sweet noodle casserole.

I just had a hell of time googling bauernfruhstuck because we always pronounced it "bowen freeschtick."
posted by lunasol at 4:40 PM on May 18, 2012

Oops, forgot to link to the black beans and rice recipe!
posted by lunasol at 8:04 PM on May 18, 2012

Kichdi! It's an Indian (Gujarati mostly, I think) dish made with rice and lentils. Here's our family recipe, taught to me by my dear mummy. If you use a pressure cooker, it's about 5 minutes of prep time, and a one-dish meal.

Toor Dal (found at Indian grocery stores)
Rai (mustard seeds)
Red chili powder
Dhana-jeera (coriander-cumin powder)
Mixed vegetables

I will give you directions as my mom has given me. I don't have measurements. I ask her over the phone, how much of X? And she just says "not too much." Seriously. Still, I've given this recipe to friends and somehow it works every time :) Get ready to get your hands dirty.

Put two moothi (translate: fistful) of rice and two moothi dal in the pressure cooker. Rinse these with water a few times until the water looks clear. You can do this over the sink: fill, swash around, filter with your hand as you pour the water out). Then, fill the cooker with a final batch of water until you have about one finger-crease worth of water sitting on top of the rice/dal mixture. One finger-crease-worth. Got it?

Keep that aside.

In the smallest pan you have (I have one of these, called a vagharyu) heat up a few spoons of oil. Add some mustard seeds and make them hot until they pop (but don't burn the oil!) - this is called a vaghar. Once they've popped for a few seconds, take it off the stove for a few seconds and then add the oil to the rice/dal/water pressure cooker (careful, it'll sizzle!). Mix in small spoonfuls of the chili powder, turmeric, dhana-jeera, and mixed vegetables (you can add potatoes since they cook quickly in the pressure cooker!). Take your salt shaker and shake as if to cover the surface of the mixture with a thin layer. Mix it all together, then cover with the top of the pressure cooker, and put it on high heat. After 2 whistles at high heat, turn to medium heat and let it blow 3 more whistles.

I have fond memories as a kid while my mom was busy getting un-ready from work, to wait for 2 whistles to blow and then go turn the burner down. The fondness comes from the delicious smell of kichdi filling the house.

Open the pressure cooker slowly, and enjoy! I eat mine mixed with crunchy pieces of papadam and yogurt. SO GOOD.
posted by TessaGal at 10:02 AM on May 23, 2012

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