The cold month of January is a great excuse for comfort foods


It's January. The holidays are over, school is back in session and 2014 has begun in earnest. The days are starting to get a bit longer, there is plenty of snow for snowshoeing and building snow forts and it is cold. Really cold. All good reasons for proclaiming January the month of comfort food.

Even if you like all the snow and cold and don't mind the short days you can still use some comfort, right? Recipes to warm you up at the end of the day, meals that remind us of warmth and coziness, soothing those parts of us that need a bit of extra attention. The cheese fondue recipe that I shared last week is simple enough to whip up after a day spent outdoors and I know many people who think lots of melted cheese is comforting. It was a good start to this series of columns featuring some of my favorite comfort foods.

This week brought my daughter Marielle's 14th birthday and she couldn't quite decide what dinner she would chose to mark the date as our tradition dictates. We brought forth all the meals she loves best for consideration and nothing felt quite right. In a moment of desperation (after all, Tuesdays are work/school days for us all, not leaving much time for fancy preparations) I thought of the hot turkey sandwiches that I had been planning to put on the menu one of these nights. She considered and after substituting mashed potatoes for the toast, thought that sounded perfect.

Hot turkey sandwiches in our house really mean turkey in gravy served over toast. Not very heart healthy, but warm, cozy and pretty helpful when trying to stick with my plan to use up what we have accumulated in our freezer over the past couple of months. There were two containers of leftover Thanksgiving turkey as well as some of the skimmed turkey fat that had been saved in a moment of extreme frugality. Sounds like great comfort food to me!

It was perfect! With a fire in the woodstove and birthday cake waiting in the wings, this was exactly what our birthday girl had hoped for. It's quick and easy, can be served on toast, mashed potatoes or even over noodles and is guaranteed to make you feel warm inside.

Turkey Gravy

1/3 cup turkey fat (or butter)

1/3 cup flour

2 cups turkey or chicken stock

1 cup milk

Salt, pepper, thyme and poultry seasoning to taste

3 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces

Melt the fat in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk well until blended. Pull pan off the heat and gradually add stock, whisking continuously until smooth. Return to heat, add milk and seasonings (I used about 1 2 teaspoon of thyme and about the same of the poultry seasoning), bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes or until thickened. Add turkey and heat through. Serve immediately.

This becomes Marielle's idea of a complete meal with a large spoonful of petite peas put right on top and even though I was skeptical at first, it is truly delicious. Serve with a chutney or some cranberry sauce to cut through the richness. Of course, if you are following up with white birthday cake covered with strawberry seven-minute frosting, you clearly aren't too worried about richness. Just ask us. We are already planning some extra outdoor activities once the ice clears up a bit more, but until then, we're just going to enjoy the love and warmth that the evening brought, inside and out.


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