A big bowl of comfort

26 Jan

I posted this picture of our first winter snowfall this past Saturday on my way to meet my brother and his girlfriend for brunch.  We left The Smith almost three hours later following a 35 minute wait for our table, a spicy bloody with olives and pickles at the bar, and (for me) salmon benedict with the hollandaise on the side (delish!)  I’ve lived in the city long enough to have known better than to expect the same picturesque winter scene post-brunch.  No, instead I found myself meandering through sidewalk puddles and jumping over corners that looked like this:

and this:

But I had no choice.  Sure, I had substituted a side salad for the home fries but regardless, the thirty block walk home was my penance for that hollandaise sauce.

Less than four blocks into my walk home and I knew I wanted to get there and stay put for the rest of the day.  It was just that cold and gross out.  I’d been flirting with the idea of this recipe for a few weeks but hadn’t been able to find any time to get down to business with it.   Once home though, weighed down with bags of ingredients, I was actually thrilled for the weather outside…it was suddenly the perfect excuse to hole up alone, cooking and drinking wine all evening.

The results were this!

Potato, Cheddar, and Ale Soup 

(source: The Crepes of Wrath)


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large Idaho potatoes, diced and separated (skin on or off, whatever your preference)
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 12. oz Ale-style beer
  • 3/4 cup shredded jack and cheddar cheese (or whatever you like/have), plus 1/2 cup for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • a big handful of pretzels (for garnish)
  • sour cream (if you like)

1. Set a large pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil once it’s hot. Saute the onions for 5-7 minutes, or until soft, then add the garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.

2. Add 1 diced potato and brown a bit. Stir to prevent sticking, and add the beer and broth after about 8-10 minutes. Let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or so, or until the potatoes are tender. Fill a small pot with water and add the other diced potato. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Drain and set aside.

3. Use an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth. Add in the salt, pepper, paprika, and apple cider vinegar and blend. Then add in the cheese and blend. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Return to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Stir in the other diced potato.

4. Ladle into bowls and garnish with crushed pretzels, cheese, and sour cream. Serves 2 for dinner, 4 for an appetizer.

Just three key learnings from novice me!  First, I think I over-simmered the onions and potatoes in the broth and ale (step 2) slightly because the mixture was thicker than I had anticipated.  I also used 75% reduced-fat cheddar later in the recipe which led my “soup” to a consistency that would probably better be described as a stew.  Second, if you’re going to crumble pretzels as garnish, or serve with crackers, cut the salt in half.  The pepper and cayenne are season enough.  Finally, if you’re going to invest the time and effort into making this soup/stew, I highly recommend you double the recipe so as to emerge from your kitchen with more than just enough for two dinners.  Of course, I can’t testify to how well it will freeze…but definitely worth a shot.

Inspired by the smell of my kitchen (or maybe my second glass of wine), I also baked a loaf of bread while I was at it.  Yes, random.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Banana Bread

(source: Chef Marcus Samuelsson)


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit, nuts, or a mixture of any of these

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a standard-sized loaf pan.

2. Beat together the eggs, honey, banana, brown sugar, and vanilla until well-combined.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Mix into the egg/banana mixture just until combined.

4. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips, just until combined.

5. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let rest for 20 minutes before removing from the loaf pan.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

I’m generally not a fan of chocolate chips, raisins or nuts in baked goods so I threw two handfuls of dried cranberries in instead (and no, they’re not “practically” the same thing as raisins).  Regardless of what final ingredient you decide on, you’ll be eating what I originally thought of as “one tiny loaf of bread” for days…but that’s not a complaint!

On the topic of recommended recipes for comfort food, I thought I’d throw out this recipe for Orecchiette all Norcina as well.  The recipe is this blogger’s take on the creamy mushroom and sausage pasta dish from Landmarc Restaurant.  I made it a few weeks ago when my brother and his girlfriend came over for dinner.  I didn’t take any pictures (because I was meeting her for the first time and didn’t want her to think I’m a freak…) but go ahead and imagine that my dish looked just like this.  Really, I won’t mind.  In all honesty though, it was – in my opinion – absolutely delicious.  Highly, highly recommend you try it.

Bon Appetit!

One Response to “A big bowl of comfort”


  1. Pinned it Tuesday: Greek Yogurt Blueberry Banana Bread « Unwedded Bliss - July 12, 2012

    […] bread in my apartment except on the rare occasion when I make banana-something-or-other-bread (like this).  I generally try to avoid massive amounts of sugar, butter, and oil (I can think of so many […]

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