Comfort food can be enjoyed any time of year, but it takes special meaning during winter. Customers enjoy comfort food for its nostalgia, feelings of home and familiarity. It is also a fun opportunity for your kitchen to play-up tried-and-true recipes with new twists of flavor.
According to poll data, comfort food consumption rose in 2020 due to the pandemic. Those surveyed said they reached for comfort food to bring feelings of happiness. But, those same people said they plan on enjoying the same amount of comfort food even after the pandemic.
The timeless nature of comfort food makes it a menu staple for foodservice operations. However, it is not an excuse to cut corners and produce tired, bland recipes. If anything, cooking comfort food requires extra diligence because your customers are so well versed with how the meal should taste that flavor deviations need to be expertly executed.
This winter, warm your guests and customers with these cozy favorites, which can be enjoyed traditionally or with your own variation.
Autumn squash soup
Some of the most beloved comfort food recipes succeed because they are simple. Autumn squash soup is one such example. We love this dish because it’s quick to pull together. When temperatures drop, you likely have some kind of squash available in your pantry, whether it’s butternut, acorn or pumpkin — or a combination of all three.
This recipe pairs squash with cinnamon, nutmeg and other root vegetables in a blended soup for a warm, earthy flavor, that can be thickened with cream, or prepared dairy-free. We love autumn squash soup topped with pumpkin seeds and served with a side of hearty artisan bread. Yum.
Shrimp and grits
This lowcountry favorite is packed with spice and brings the heat when you most need it. Shrimp and grits’ humble history in the south and Gullah-Geechee culture as a staple breakfast dish has expanded over the years. The meal has now earned widespread recognition across the country for its versatility.
A simple preparation of shrimp and grits combines chicken stock, whole milk, butter and sharp white cheddar cheese with stone-ground grits. The grits are then topped with plump, peeled shrimp, bacon, garlic, crushed red pepper, lemon, parsley, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Chefs love to play with shrimp and grits’ variations by adding cheddar cheese, andouille sausage, kale and more.
Tender beef stew
Is there anything more hearty, warm and authentically “comforting” than beef stew? Old fashioned beef stew combines root veggies, potatoes, stewing beef and red wine in a luscious beef broth that can easily feed a crowd.
What we love about beef stew is that it doesn’t require a rush. The longer stew sits, the better its flavors combine. The beef becomes more tender and the sauce thickens. Isn’t that the best part?
For an international twist, try preparing Hungarian goulash, which uses chuck beef with onions, bay leaves, garlic, caraway seeds and Hungarian paprika for a smoky, savory flavor. Serve with a side of potato dumplings, your best red wine list or hot, crusty bread.
Chicken pot pie
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that people want comfort food and they want it fast.
Demand for grab ‘n go is on the rise and no longer limited to single servings. Family-style meals generate grab ‘n go revenue and so can comfort food recipes, like chicken pot pie.
Chicken pot pie is a comfort food all star because of its serving versatility. It can be sold cooked and ready-to-eat, or frozen to be cooked at home. A whole pie — filled with creamy chicken, onions, peas and carrots — can serve a family. Or, baked in a ramekin or muffin tin, chicken pot pie can serve one.
If prepared after the holiday, chicken pot pie can easily become turkey pot pie. And if the holidays cleaned out your pie crust — no problem. Top the filling with mashed potatoes and you have a rendition of shepherds pie, which just needs your favorite casserole dish.
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