All people are emotional eaters to some extent. We eat to celebrate new beginnings, to lament break ups, to get over one of the many hiccups of life. We bring food to families who have lost a loved one and eat together to rejoice in the coming birth of a little one. Dinners with new lovers, brunches with friends to relax on lazy Sundays, and power lunches with the boss to work on that ever increasing network are all par for the course for human beings, social creatures that we are. Even alone, we tie food to emotion. Late night Netflix-and-stress-eat sessions and binging to cure boredom are just as intricately woven into our relationships with food as our social eating. Food has come to represent a kaleidoscope of emotions, of life itself.
It’s no different for me. Candy is usually my go-to when I’m feeling a little down. A gummy bear has never let me down, and taffy is a close friend of mine. But comfort food is something else entirely. To need comfort is to be more than a little down. It’s not just a stressful day with the kids or a bad day on the job or a fight with a partner. To reach for comfort food is a bad week, a bad month, a bad year…it’s wanting to feel alive in a way that the day to day routine tends to dampen. When you reach for food in comfort, you want the combination of flavors on your tongue and the fullness of your belly to take you home, to let you time travel, or maybe to let you remember that life doesn’t have to be all aches and pains. Finding the goodness in the world isn’t ever as simple as eating a crab cake, but fuck if that crab cake doesn’t help remind you that in little moments life can be spectacular.
For me, it’s more than eating, though. To find comfort in food, it has to be something I get in the kitchen and make myself--a recipe of my own perfected over time or even something I’m trying for the first time that brings together just the right combination of textures and flavors. I love to cook, to create, to take an idea I’ve found online, in a show, or in a book and make it mine. Cheesecakes are my go-to dessert specialty, and I fucking excel at it. There’s absolutely no reason for me to even pretend to be modest about it either. Haha. But, those aren’t necessarily what I would consider comfort food. Something savory that is a little on the simple side and definitely has a more than healthy portion of carbs and cheese aligns more closely with what I would call comforting, and the first thing I think of when I hear the phrase or feel the need for something particular to soothe my rough spots is shepherd’s pie.
Typically sheperd’s pie is some kind of veggie mixed with ground beef and mashed potatoes. And when my mom fixed it for my brother and I as kids, it was ground beef, mashed potatoes, and cheese on top. But, of course, like everything else, I do things a little differently. We rarely eat beef around here, but it works with this recipe as does ground turkey or ground chicken if you prefer. The key is to use what you love when it comes to both the meat, the type of potato, and the style of cheese, but the goal is to create an umami bomb in your mouth which is what this recipe does 110%.
What you’ll need:
1 rotisserie chicken preferably garlic butter but any will work as will 2 lbs of ground beef, turkey, or chicken.
1 can cream of mushroom
About a cup and ½ of mushrooms (this can be skipped and still be delicious)
1 can of French onion soup
5 lb bag of red potatoes
1 block of extra sharp cheddar (adding some havarti to this is also so good and colby jack also makes a good sub)
2 cloves of garlic or a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic (what I use)
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 large can or 2 small cans of French style green beans (or any canned or frozen vegetable)
I have picky eaters at my house, but fresh onions and peppers are also a good addition if you don’t have to worry about that.
Milk, cream, or sour cream for mashing potatoes
Preheat oven to 350 F
To prepare, peel your potatoes and add them to a large pot of water. Add 2 chicken bouillon cubes to the water or use half and half broth and water. You can also add extra garlic to the water. Turn the potatoes on high heat and boil until basically falling apart.
Grate the entire block of cheese (or used shredded if that’s easier).
Add your butter to a large pan on medium heat. When pan is coated well, add mushrooms and garlic to sautee.
Before mushrooms are done add onion powder, rosemary, Worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste. Begin pulling chicken from bones and adding to the mushrooms. Add your green beans Sautee until mushrooms are done, the green beans are getting soft, and flavors are mixed well. If you’re using ground beef, turkey, or chicken you will need to strain the grease from the meat. With rotisserie chicken, this isn’t necessary. (if you are using fresh onions and peppers you would add them in this step)
Add the entire can of cream of mushroom (fat free can be used without affecting the flavor). Add French onion soup to taste (I add the whole thing) and turn heat down to low.
Mash your potatoes. I aways use butter and milk like my mom did, but this is a personal preference. Do whatever works for you. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Coat the bottom of a large clear glass pan with the chicken and vegetable mixture. Add a layer of potatoes on top of this.
Put the pan in the oven and heat until your potatoes are getting stiff. You don’t want them browning just yet, but close. It takes not quite 10 minutes in my oven, but I’m terrible about remembering to preheat and my oven is wonky. Everyone’s is different right?
Add your cheese and put it back in the oven until melted and enjoy.
This is part of Sunday Confessions hosted by the gorgeous More Than Cheese and Beer. Sunday Confessions is a weekly blog challenge. We get a simple prompt and each post our take on it on Sunday (or during the week if need be). There's no need to sign up early. Just join in the fun by linking up below! Thanks for reading. Oh and this week our prompt was Comfort Food.