What Is Comfort Food?


As human beings, we’re blessed with this crazy obsessive toolbox we call the sentient mind. We think and feel, weigh and consider, wonder and learn. Everyday we put ourselves out there in a way that no other species does, because we understand the tradeoff of making decisions and going about our daily lives, as opposed to trucking forward because we don’t know any better. We look around and absorb the colors and flavors of our surroundings, whether they be good or bad, having no choice in the matter but to soak in blinding, searing heat reflected by the world we live in.

For some, comfort food is what we turn to when that dynamic mind turns inward, acting less like a scale, balancing our experiences with the abstract processing mechanism that makes each of us us, and turns to more of a weapon, slicing and grating against the more sensitive facets of our being. Our tender sensibilities begin to wilt like summer wildflowers left on the dashboard in the noonday sun, our once-vital shoots curling inward, brittle and cracking from an intensity that we weren’t prepared for.

And so we seek comfort, often in the form of a familiar dish. It warms us when life goes awry, when outside factors overshadow the internal balance we try so hard to maintain everyday. It salves the bruises left behind when what we believed with all our heart turns out to be a horse of an entirely different color, bucking and biting against its once-hopeful trainer. It holds us close when we miss someone so, so much, but all we have to wrap our heart around is the melancholy patter of rain on faded wooden planks outside the window, the murmur of a cold breeze rustling through the blinds, kissing our bare fingers like the chilly ghost of better times.

This pecan chicken salad recipe is a healthy summer dish filled with greens, golden raisins, and artichoke hearts. It’s light but still comforting for hot summer days, or perfect for when you need a culinary bear hug but a bowl of macaroni and cheese just doesn’t jibe with your mood that day.

Pecan Chicken Salad Recipe

Yield: 4 for lunch or as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 green onions, chopped finely
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped finely
  • 1 tart apple, peeled and chopped
  • More salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 4 big handfuls of spring salad mix
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 6 pickled artichoke hearts, cut into quarters
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Recipe method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 300 F. Spread olive oil around the surface an oven-proof baking dish, such as a cast iron skillet. Lay down chicken thighs and sprinkle with half of the salt and pepper. Turn thighs over, spreading them out and laying them flat, and sprinkle with the rest of the salt and pepper. Move them around in the pan to make sure they are evenly oiled. Bake chicken thighs for 25 minutes. Once they are done, turns thighs out onto a plate and allow to cool completely.
  2. Bake chicken thighs for 25 minutes. Once they are done, turns thighs out onto a plate and allow to cool completely.
  3. While thighs are baking, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the nuts and roast until they become fragrant and begin to darken, about two minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully.
  4. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise and yogurt until fully combined. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, nutmeg and parsley, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Dice or shred chicken into small chunks and mix into mayonnaise and yogurt. Add in chopped onion, celery and apple, mixing until completely incorporated. Season with more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
  6. Place a small frying pan over medium heat. Toast pecans until they begin to brown and turn fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. Into four large bowls, place a handful of salad greens. Sprinkle each bowl with toasted pecans, golden raisins and artichoke hearts, then place a few heaping spoonfuls of the chicken mayonnaise salad into the middle of each bowl. Arrange hard boiled egg slices around the chicken salad and serve.

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Comments

  1. Casey@Good. Food. Stories. says:

    I just read a piece in Saveur that called bibimbap (the Korean comfort food) THERAPY food – I think I’ll be appropriating that from now on!

  2. Alexandra says:

    This recipe sounds delicious and perfect for the hot weather we have been having. On food blogs, I do not usually encounter such good writing, so this visit was pure pleasure. Loved the term “culinary bear hug.”

  3. I usually associate comfort food with soups or mac and cheese, especially when the weather is cold.But when it gets hot, a cold salad, Bbq, and a tall glass of lemonade can always make my day.

    • Stephanie Stiavetti says:

      Indeed. While I love me a huge bowl of cheesy goodness, sometimes it just isn’t what the day calls for.

  4. notblueatall says:

    This is what I’ll call new comfort food. I, too, associate those terms with mac ‘n cheese or chicken soup: hearty & hot! This? This is what I crave when I want something else! Thanks!

  5. Made this salad today for a friend and it was comfort food to the nth degree.

  6. I wanted to say that my friend normally does not like vinegary food (marinated artichokes) or sweet like raisons in meat dishes. I made it anyway and there was something about the combination of ingredients that combined together and made a very delicious whole. I have been reading your blog for a long time and it seems you really know your foods and what works. I bought the flavor bible to learn this art but have not taken the time to really read it. So for now, I can rely on bloggers like yours. ; )

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    [...] Best pecan chicken salad recipe ever! [...]

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