When paired together the words comfort and food conjure up all kinds of possibilities in my culinary imagination. Generally, I think of homey favorites like garlic cheese grits or a warm chicken spaghetti casserole with crunchy garlic toast. Really stick-to-your-ribs kinds of dishes that come from my mother, mother-in-law or lately Paula Deen. We’ve all got our favorite comfort foods. When I am sick I immediately wish for my mother’s Matzo Ball Soup. For birthday breakfasts we always have pigs-in-a-blanket. My nephew turned three this weekend and I have never seen so many pigs-in-a-blanket before in my life. I must have eaten a baker’s dozen myself. After all it was a birthday party and the taste of the flaky biscuits and the salty sausage was expected even before the pigs were in sight. During the first few weeks of one of my pregnancies all I wanted was avocado & tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Unfortunately for my waistline, during my last pregnancy my comfort food consisted of PB&J sandwiches and large quantities of milk. Hmmm….
So, when Husband asked me to make him Strawberry Shortcake I looked at him quizzically. This was not something I expected him to request. He went on to explain that Strawberry Shortcake was his father’s favorite dessert. Pawpaw (as our children affectionately called him) died two years ago this month. And husband has been missing him a lot lately. With this in mind, the children and I set out to make Daddy the best Strawberry Shortcake ever. We washed our hands, mixed the dough, kneaded the dough and used an old mason jar to form perfectly shaped biscuits. For afternoon snack the children begged to taste the biscuits hot out of the oven with butter and honey drizzled all over. We sweetened the strawberries and let them rest in their vanilla-sugar bath in the refrigerator.
Dinner was delicious, a healthy and simple affair. Inspired by the cookbook Pace of Provence, I served artichokes for a first course. I found the most beautiful purple baby artichokes at Whole Foods this morning and couldn’t resist. Little Bit ate the most. She quickly mastered the tooth scraping technique and savored the nutty flavor of the purple gems. The main course called for Monkfish. My fishmonger, Brayden, didn’t have Monkfish today and recommended the gorgeous fresh sea scallops instead. Not a cheap substitution, but the scallops delicately wrapped in basil and prosciutto then steamed on a bed of green onions were delicious. With a dollop of Farmer’s Cheese atop each scallop our dinner was perfect.
Finally, after much anticipation the children revealed to their Father the big surprise for dessert. Brimming with excitement they retold the recipe and how each of them participated in a special way to make the shortcake. While we were all indulging in the decadent dessert I briefly imagined Pawpaw at the table with us. Oh how his eyes would have glistened at the sight of his grandchildren measuring, kneading, baking and tasting his ultimate comfort food.
Reflecting on memories and savoring the present joy of today, I’ve added Strawberry Shortcake to my list of Comfort Foods.