Friday, January 25, 2019

Comfort Food

Sometimes you just need something warm and soothing and satisfying to your inner child. Not “healthy” food—I’m sure we all eat our share of that. Not even a dessert, although desserts can be comforting in their own way. I’m talking about something that makes you feel good, period. Comfort food!

It also helps if it’s easy to make, assuming you don’t have a willing slave to cater to your every whim. And so we come to . . . macaroni and cheese. I know, not terribly original—we’ve got some lovely recipes here on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. (Any one of you cooks here, raise your hand if you don’t have a mac & cheese recipe tucked in your recipe collection!)

I wanted simple. I wanted basic. I wanted a mega-dose of cholesterol—I can diet tomorrow. And I found a great recipe in a pasta cookbook I’ve had for years. It dates from 1996, and it was sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (I have no idea why I have this, but it's a testament to the fact that I never throw anything away, least of all books).. And the recipes are sinfully good.

In case the original recipe wasn’t rich enough, I substituted heavy cream for half of the (whole) milk. I used full milk cheddar cheese—none of the “lite” stuff. And since this was a main dish for dinner, I added a half pound of diced ham.

Heart-Stopping Macaroni and Cheese


8 oz. (2 cups dry) elbow macaroni or similar pasta

1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 Tblsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups milk (or cream), heated

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded medium or sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup soft bread crumbs


Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain well.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion (I happened to have half a red onion left over, so I used that) and saute until soft. Stir in the flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until bubbly.

Slowly whisk in the milk/cream (make sure there are no lumps) and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

Add the grated cheese and stir until melted.

Add the macaroni (and the ham, if you're using it) and mix gently.

Spoon the mixture into a greased 1-1/2 quart baking dish. (Don’t you love the vintage Corning Ware casserole? It was my mother’s.)

Melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter in a skillet. Add the bread crumbs and cook over medium, stirring, until golden (don’t let them burn!). In theory you could skip this step, but the sautéed crumbs give a nice crunch to the dish. Sprinkle the crumbs over the macaroni.

Bake uncovered in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Serve immediately—and wallow in the experience. You’ll definitely feel better!

Here's a mini-contest for you! The 7th County Cork mystery came out this month (The Lost Traveller), and I've just finished the draft of the next one--which doesn't have a name yet. But one important thing that happens in that book: Maura and friends are improving the kitchen at Sullivan's, so they can serve food! Believe it or not, the "real" pub (Connolly's) is doing the same thing. When I was there this past summer, I always stop in (sometimes on music nights). This time I walked around the corner to the back entrance and discovered that what had been the kitchen now looked like it had been hit by a bomb. But the old one wasn't big enough to make meals for a crowd, so they're expanding it just a bit.

The contest? Rose Sweeney will be doing most of the cooking at Sullivan's. What dishes would you like to see her make for the pub? I'll draw one name for the person who will win a copy of The Lost Traveller.


  1. Well, it would need to be simple fare, yes? A nice stew or perhaps a shepherds or hunters pie. Of course, corned beef and cabbage and bangers and mash. Also, colcannon, which is simple, yet hardy.

    1. I've been trying to remember pub meals I've eaten, but I'm not sure I was paying much attention. I do recall one place in England that had pheasant on the lunch menu, so of course I had to try that, but I think simpler food is more practical. Your list covers good traditional dishes (and I confess I'm addicted to bangers) and I'm sure tourists stopping at a pub on a main road (all of two lanes) would enjoy them.

  2. Yes, bangers and mash and lamb stew.
    Bubble and squeak (spelling?)
    Brown bread (duh)
    Treacle cake
    Leg of lamb with the fixings

    Now I'm hungry!
    libbydodd at comcast dot ent

    1. Oh yes! Although I'm wary of leg of lamb because I'm not sure how long it takes to cook. (I have the same problem with roast beef.) And don't forget seafood! Leap overlooks a harbor, and there's a fishing fleet at the other end.

  3. Chicken pot pie, steak and kidney pie, fish chowder.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  4. Shepherd's Pie, some kind of hearty sandwich, and fish and chips, and Maura could add your macaroni and cheese comfort food as a nod to her life iin the U.S.A.~

  5. Irish stew, steak and Guinness pie, chocolate Guinness cake, whiskey cake, colcannon, cauliflower cheese using a sharp cheddar. Am getting hungry. And very little beats a good mac and cheese for me.

    1. And should have added little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

  6. I'm just going to go with that mac and cheese. Comfort food around here always includes tuna casserole but I can't imagine that in a pub! How about a nice, thick meat loaf sandwich?

  7. Irish stew--I remember having a delicious one in Ennis, maybe? Good local cheese and bread. A seafood soup like Cullen Skink. Hand pies like pasties. Scones. Can't wait to see what Rose comes up with!

  8. How about boxty, Irish potato pancakes?
    lola777_22 at hotmail dot com

    1. Ooh, I like the potato pancakes idea. I'll have to experiment.

  9. Definitely a nice comfort dish, like chicken pot pie or shepherd's pie. JL_Minter (at) hotmail (dot) com

  10. I met friends for early dinner New Year's Eve at an Irish-styled pub. I ordered bangers with colcannon, which came with a delicious mushroom gravy and a hunk of dark brown bread that was a little slice of heaven. I'm sure Rose could serve that up with one hand behind her back! kimmwrtr at yahoo dot com

  11. This is fun, since I'm in the midst of building (at least on paper) the kitchen. From all your suggestions, I think I need to add a warming oven, since many of these dishes can be made early and kept warm. I'm sure Rose can handle it, and Maura's mother is donating the appliances--cast-offs from the hotel.

  12. Shepherd's pie, corned beef hash, hearty soups with fresh bread, potato pancakes, & fish & chips. (The best fish & chips I've ever had was at a pub in Ireland. Can't remember the name or where that pub is located.)
    turtle6422 at gmail dot com

  13. Corned beef and cabbage, Boxty, Coddle, Lamb stew, Shepherd's pie, Fish and chips.

  14. Steak and kidney pie, Shepherd's pie, lamb, fish and beef stews, fish and chips, soups and salads, and definitely bread.

  15. Comfort food like Shepherd's Pie. doward1952(at)yahoo(dot)com

  16. A potato bar would work for me!! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

  17. Pasties, stew, fish and chips,Roast beef this is what I look for in a Pub.
    Marilyn Watson