When you hear the words comfort food, what comes to mind?
For me it’s fluffy biscuits, piping hot with melted butter and honey, warm, juicy blueberry muffins, ooey gooey macaroni and cheese, pot roast cooked for hours until it’s fall apart tender, mangoes so ripe that juice drips down your arms as you eat them, Polish sweet bread caked with cold butter and chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Oh yeah, and a honey banana malt from The Malt Shop in Minneapolis. Everyone conjures a different vision when they think of comfort food and we build on our lists of comfort foods as we go through life. After we made Lindsey Autry’s seared scallops over “witch’s stew” with beans (click here for original recipe), both K and I agreed that this is going on our comfort food list.
This is an easily dressed up crock pot (aka slow cooker) dinner. We made it home cook friendly and paired it down to serve two.
1/2 lb beef chuck, cubed (or bone-in short ribs)
1 TB cocoa powder
1 TB dried ground espresso
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 whole clove
1 TB brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground dried ginger
1 small shallot, quartered
2 cloves garlic
1/2 carrot, peeled and large chop
1/2 can strained peeled tomatoes
1 TB tomato paste
1 cup red wine (not expensive, but good enough to drink)
1 TB orange zest
5-7 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
beef stock, chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 jalapeno, finely diced
Safflower oil (or other high heat oil)
Save 1 TB spice mix. Set aside. Combine all dry spices (through ginger above, including salt and sugar) in a mixing bowl. Coat chunks of meat in spice blend. NOTE: If you have time, refrigerate for a few hours. If not, you’ll still have a great dinner.
In a saute pan with high sides or braising pot, coat bottom with oil and heat to medium. Add meat and sear until golden on two sides. Put meat into crock pot.
Add a bit more oil to pan/pot and saute shallots and garlic until just soft. Add carrot and 1 tsp spice mix (save the other half for the beans) and saute until carrots are just getting soft. Add canned tomatoes, breaking them up and simmer until liquid evaporates. Add tomato paste and stir until incorporated. Deglaze the pan with red wine, scraping the bottom to release the delicious bits. Add orange zest, bay leaf, thyme and jalapeno. Reduce by half and add entire pan/pot to crock pot, over meat. Add beef, chicken or veggie stock until the meat is just covered. Simmer in crock pot for four to six (up to eight) hours.
The original recipe calls for Dragon beans. We couldn’t find those, but fresh green beans are an acceptable substitute for dragon beans.
1/2 lb fresh green beans, washed and dried, ends trimmed off
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Remaining 1 tsp spice mix from meat
Toss the beans with oil and spice blend. Saute in hot, dry pan until slightly charred.
Vinaigrette for scallops
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cumin (can use whole seeds or dried, ground cumin)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp minced fresh jalapeno
lime juice, to taste
small orange or clementine segments
1 TB chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in small saute pan and toast cumin until you can smell it. All garlic and saute until golden. Add jalapeno and saute for one minute. Remove pan from heat, add squeeze of lime, orange segments and cilantro. Set aside until ready to pour over scallops.
To finish the stew
1/2 small shallot, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 TB fresh Italian parsley (or cilantro), finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped (or 3/4 tsp dried thyme)
1.5 TB butter
salt, to taste
Saute shallots and carrots until tender. Add herbs and stir in butter. Add to meat and broth in crock pot and stir.
4 large fresh scallops
Pat scallops entirely dry on both sides with paper towel. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Coat bottom of saute pan with safflower or canola (high heat) oil and heat on medium-high. When oil is very hot, add scallops and cook until seared and brown (2-3 minutes). Flip and cook two minutes more.
To serve: Spoon stew into bowls. Place scallops on top of stew, spoon vinaigrette over scallops. Place beans on top of stew, alongside scallops.
The scallops were perfectly cooked — seared with a light crust on the outside and tender, barely cooked through on the inside — and sweet. The vinaigrette was fresh, tart and had a bit of heat from the jalapeno. The beans were crisp with a nice smoky char and the stew…oh, that stew. It was so very rich and warming. It was more meat than broth and the meat just fell apart when touched with a spoon. The spices gave the broth a deep complexity and every bite was closed-eyes sigh inducing.
Would we make this again? Yes. It is a perfect slow cooker meal for fall and winter. So very warming and easy to make while still feeling special and a little fancy.
Soundtrack: The Church.
So, what are the comfort foods you crave?!