Comfort Me with Schmaltz

— By Camille DePutter

It’s November. Cold, wet, and perfect for comfort food. 

For me, cooking itself is therapeutic – especially if I have lots of time to dig into a project, without pressure of impressing guests or filling growling bellies. The kind of cooking that is done for the joy of it. Or for the comfort. 

Cooking up a comfort-food classic, meanwhile, just adds a double whammy of the feel-good kitchen vibes. And I don’t know about you, but as we launch into November, I could use an extra dose of those vibes. So I decided it was time to try something new, something a little adventurous yet solidly traditional. Something that would deliver a good comfy feeling while I cooked in sweatpants and sipped red wine. 

It just so happens that I recently bought Michael Ruhlman’s fabulous new book Schmaltz. And very little conveys comfort food like the smell of onions gently frying in chicken fat. So on a chilly, rainy November evening my husband and I launched ourselves into the project of making kreplach – traditional dumplings made with egg pasta, stuffed with beef and onions, and fried in schmaltz. Ruhlman recommends serving it on a bed of braised cabbage, which is exactly what we did.

(above: Making the schmaltz)

The multi-step recipe took some time but it delivered layers of comfort: first, the pleasure of working side by side with my husband in the kitchen (even using my pasta roller for the very first time, at last – huzzah!); secondly, the comfort of making something traditional and cozy feeling; and thirdly, of course, the delight of eating the results – rich, flavourful, a bit fatty (of course), a little crisp, a little soft and yielding; an indulgence but not overdone. While it took time to make, it was simple, not fussy. Just like a good comfort food should be. 

(above: Once the dough is made and stuffed, they are gently boiled before getting a good schmaltzy fry-up.)

(Below: The end product – kreplach with braised cabbage)

Like I said – frying onions in chicken fat is hard to beat, if not for the smell alone. But comfort means something different to everyone. 

What are you comfort foods? They needn’t be as indulgent as this one; caring for yourself through healthy food can be an enriching form of comfort, too. Sometimes comfort food just so happens to pack its own nutritional punch – case in point: a good butternut squash soup.

Regardless, we all need a little comfort now and then. And sometimes, as the evenings get darker faster, and the crisp notes in the air get a little more blustery, it’s time to turn on the stove and heat up whatever feels good. 

So go ahead, cook, savour, take comfort and enjoy the many yummy posts that will keep on coming from our great mix of farmers’ market bloggers this month.

L’Chaim! 

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