By Gini Rainey
I just asked my husband what his concept of a “comfort food” meal would include, and without hesitation, he said “chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, peas and fried cornbread.” That boy would make his mama proud of him with that answer! The cookbook I’m looking at right now, “Adventures in Comfort Food” by Kerry Altiero does not have any of the above mentioned items included. We determined that “comfort food” must be regional. This book was published in 2014 by Page Street Publishing Company and is a 240 page collection of recipes from Altiero’s Café Miranda located in Rockland, Maine where Altiero is the chef/owner.
His recipes are loaded with lots of fish, seafood, and pasta and are about as far away from our concept of comfort food as
Maine is from Texas. This isn’t to say that the recipes don’t sound amazingly delicious, but in trying to find something to whip up for dinner, I decided if we want comfort food tonight, it probably won’t be inspired from this book. Filled with absolutely lovely color photos of the executed recipes, it is a virtual compendium of what makes Maine’s food great.
Not only is this book filled with great recipes and their history, but the creative and fun names Altiero has given them is a good read all by themselves. Names like Lobster on a Shingle, I Dreamt of Jerry (a deconstructed hamburger), No Excuses (a “stealth vegetarian” dish used to get his kids to like their veggies), P.M.S (a pasta, mussel and sausage dish), Asparagus Debris (asparagus cooked with brie), and Feta Up (baked feta with garlic, peppers, onions and Roma tomatoes served with Focaccia). Not only does he share his recipes for fresh pasta and Focaccia, but he also uses them in some really great sounding dishes.
Perhaps I will get myself into the kitchen a little later this afternoon and make my husband some of his comfort food! The chicken fried steak that I make is so easy and yummy, that I’m pretty sure it will happen. I use pre-tenderized beef cutlets and sprinkle them liberally with seasoned salt. Then I drag them through flour and press the flour into the meat with my hand, dip in milk and drag through flour and press again, building a nice coating. In a cast iron skillet with about a half inch of hot vegetable oil (be sure it’s hot), I fry the cutlets until they are browned on both sides. I usually put them into an oven-safe dish with a little bit of water in the bottom, cover, and place in a 300° oven until the rest of the meal is done. To make my cream gravy, I sprinkle what is left of the flour I used to coat the cutlets into the oil. If you have more than 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil left, drain it off, but leave all the nice crumbles from frying the cutlets in the pan. With your frying pan over a medium heat, stir the flour into the reserved oil and when the mixture starts to simmer, stirring constantly, gradually pour in milk – or cream – until it thickens. Salt and pepper to taste and it’s ready to serve up and enjoy!