Food, glorious food! The North Coast and Long Beach Peninsula are blessed with terrific chefs, each of whom has a specific style. A few have been gracious enough to share their favorite comfort food.
Michael Lalewicz, chef and co-owner of The Depot Restaurant in Seaview, Washington
“Comfort food? It has to be pasta,” Lalewicz said. “I do love a roasted chicken too, but pasta is so warm and creamy and rich. And for me simplicity is everything — something that is soothing and easy to make with complex flavors from simple ingredients done well.”
Lalewicz chose one of my personal favorites, bringing up a fond memory from a visit to The Depot, when I was sitting side by side to a couple whose crab mac had just arrived on their table. The aroma wafting my way and the look of it ... well, they must have seen the expression on my face.
As my “Oysters ‘Scargot” arrived I could see similar envious glances at my plate. Pause. Then, almost simultaneously, we were asking each other if we’d like to share. No hesitation. Yes! And my first taste of that swoony crab mac. Even if those kinds of interactions with strangers are on hold for a while, at least we can have for ourselves Lalewicz’s heady, indulgent crab mac to-go.
The Depot Dungeness Crab Mac
(Serves two as an entrée or four as an appetizer.)
2 cups Cavatappi or elbow pasta noodles
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons light olive oil, not extra virgin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ cup white wine
3 cups heavy cream
5 ounces fresh Dungeness crab
4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons Parmesan Reggiano, grated
3 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs, toasted
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Boil good quality pasta for about five minutes. Do not rinse pasta.
At the same time, place chopped garlic, black pepper, olive oil and unsalted butter in large sauté pan on high heat. Cook until butter is melted. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and white wine to mixture and reduce until liquid is nearly gone. Add heavy cream and the cooked drained pasta while still hot. Bring cream and pasta mixture to a boil and reduce heat. Then add fresh Dungeness crab and shredded provolone cheese. Simmer for two minutes.
Lalewicz serves the crab mac in a large bowl, sprinkled with grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese and crunchy toasted Panko breadcrumbs. He suggests a light, medium-bodied, crisp white wine such as Barnard Griffin’s Fume Blanc from Columbia Valley, Washington to pair with his rich dish.
Andy Catalano, prepared foods manager at Astoria Co+op
Catalano is busy treating us with no muss, no fuss options including soups, salads, sandwiches, yummy “world bowls,” intriguing “heat & eat” globally-inspired meals, and a new item: cassoulet, an aromatic, rich, meaty casserole stew with beans.
“I decided to make cassoulet, which I had never made before, because this time of year is all about comfort food, especially in a year that has been all about comfort food,” Catalano said. “In short, this is the dish I want to eat in front of a roaring fire with my wool slippers on, so I wanted to share it with the community.”
“Cassoulets are basically a white bean stew. We did two versions, meat and a vegan. The more or less traditional meat adaptation is made with duck legs that we confited in house and our house made pork sausage, but the vegan option was a significant challenge. I’m glad to have taken that on though, using tempeh sausage and housemade seitan, a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. The flavors are repeated in the sausage mixture, the seitan mix, the duck cure, breadcrumbs, and the tempeh crumbles.
“As far as a recipe goes,” Catalano continued, “for me cooking is all about responding to what is around you and what feels right. To that end, I’m foregoing specific amounts and using a rough guideline.”
White beans (traditionally Tarbais, but cannellini, great northern, or navy beans are fine). After soaking in water overnight and draining well, add the beans to a pot of chicken or vegetable stock, with aromatics such as fresh sage, rosemary, garlic, onion, and black peppercorns.
Bring to a simmer, reduce to very low heat, skimming and discarding any foam that develops. Season with salt (liquid should taste slightly over-salted). Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until beans are fully tender but not mush (approximately two hours). Remove from heat, and cool the beans in their liquid at room temperature, then refrigerate (a crucial step that will make these beans very flavorful).
Meat and assembly
In a cast iron pan over medium-high heat, sear sausage and confited duck leg(s) until deeply browned on outside (it’s OK if sausage isn’t fully cooked at this point). Slice sausage then mix into the cooked beans. Transfer the bean mixture to a casserole dish and nestle duck leg into beans, so the skin is just exposed. Cover liberally with seasoned toasted breadcrumbs (sautéed beforehand in duck fat or olive oil), then cover and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until internal temp reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, (about 45 minutes). Remove cover and continue baking until breadcrumbs are crunchy on top, (about 10 minutes).
Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before diving in.
Geoff Gunn, chef de cuisine at Bridgewater Bistro
“I truly am a comfort food kind of guy,” Gunn said. “Whether it be the ultimate grilled cheese with fresh tomatoes and basil or the perfectly braised lamb or wild boar with foraged mushrooms and truffles, I love deep inviting flavors. My favorite these days is the old standard, coq au vin. My version is a bit unconventional and takes time and patience. This is a great recipe for family gatherings and will serve 10 or so.”
Bridgewater Bistro Coq Au Vin
10 pounds chicken hindquarters (thighs and legs)
3 heads of fennel, thinly sliced
2 yellow onions thinly sliced
1/4 cup fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black pepper, ground
3 tablespoons kosher salt
6 bay leaves
1 cup whole garlic cloves
1/4 cup dry oregano
1 tablespoon de la vera dulce (sweet smoked paprika)
2 tablespoons porcini mushroom powder
2 bottles of decent red wine
5 lbs high quality wild mushrooms
Place the chicken and all the ingredients, except for the mushrooms, together in a very large container. Cover the chicken and let it marinate for at least 24 hours.
Remove the chicken from the marinade liquid and sear the chicken at a very high heat to get a nice crust on it. Add the marinade and make certain all of the chicken parts are submerged. Cover and cook for 2.5 hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the chicken is fork tender.
Once tender, remove the chicken and put what has now become the braising liquid in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return the blended liquid to a pan and turn on medium heat to reduce the sauce. When the liquid is reduced by one-third, add the mushrooms and cook until tender. When the mushrooms are done, pour sauce over the cooked chicken, and your favorite starch and vegetables.
For me, it’s always fun to read recipes and procedures, but maybe not so fun to assemble. Just a reminder then, that most area restaurants are open for take-out, chefs working diligently to keep us happy with new (or favorite) culinary delights.