ASPIRESIDE Chat: Comfort Food

Three designers share their family recipes and restaurant recommendations for autumn.

Clodagh | Clodagh Design in New York City cites vegan shepherd’s pie as her top comfort food. “It’s nostalgic comfort food; it conjures memories of coming in from school on a cold Irish day with the smell of log smoke and the family gathering around the table, each with their own individual dish,” she says.

“I used to be an omnivore. When I was growing up in Ireland, you had a Sunday roast, ate leftovers on Monday and made the remnants into a shepherd’s pie on Tuesday. I love the creamy layer of mashed potato browned in the oven to be crisp on top. Now being a vegan, I substitute the meat with a vegan meat. I serve it with a spicy salad of bok choy, white cabbage and arugula with a vinaigrette using some lemon juice, mustard and olive oil. I like to cook them in individual earthenware/gratin dishes.”

Clodagh’s Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
A savory pie with a golden cheese and potato crust. The meatless filling is redolent of herbs and spices punctuated by the occasional salty bite of an olive or a sweet raisin.
4 large potatoes
2 large onions
1 pack of Lightlife smart ground/vegan meat substitute
2 tablespoons of raisins
2 tablespoons of chopped and diced olives
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 vegetable broth cube

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F.
Mashed potatoes:
Peel and then cut potatoes into cubes. Boil the potatoes with a little salt until very soft. Drain off the water and mash the potatoes to make a thick, creamy purée. Add a little vegan butter or some soy milk to clarify, if it is too thick to spread.
Chop the onion into small squares. Fry it over high heat for about 4 or 5 minutes until onions are transparent, stirring constantly. Add ground vegan meat and all remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes over low heat. In each of four ovenproof gratin dishes, spread a quarter of the filling. Note: I sometimes sprinkle additional raisins and whole olives over each filling at this point, before spreading on an even layer of potato. You can also sprinkle mozzarella or Parmesan vegan cheese or both. Put the gratins in the oven for about 20 or 25 minutes, until golden.

Andrew Wilkinson | Wilkinson Architects in New York City lists a classic childhood pick as his number one comfort food. “As autumn rolls around, nothing is better than coming in from the bracing cold of New York City to a hot bowl of mac-n-cheese,” he says. “This recipe is from someone very special to our family who is originally from Grenada. And I would safely guess that mac-n-cheese is not a native dish for her, but this version she makes is out of this world. The right amount of garlic, mixed cheeses and then the real magic – baked to get a perfectly browned and crisp crust – turn what can be an ordinary dish into the comfort food both myself and my family love to come home to.” A feeling of home is what sets this recipe apart, he notes. “This particular dish – whenever I would have it – reminds me of our three girls sitting around the dinner table with my wife and me discussing the day’s events, while also moderating the occasional argument!”

1 lb. macaroni elbows
16 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
8 oz. heavy cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. Boil macaroni per package directions. Beat egg with heavy cream until slightly thickened, and set aside. Drain boiled macaroni and return to pot. Add most of the cheese to macaroni and put some cheese aside for later. Continue to stir macaroni mixture in pot, then stir in the egg/heavy cream mixture. Pour entire mixture into a medium baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and remaining cheeses on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a light brown crust forms.

Ken Foreman | Manhattan-based Ken Foreman Design says his culinary tastes run along the same line as one of his favorite design mantras: Make it simple, fresh and unique. There are two restaurants in New York City that meet this standard. One is Sant Ambroeus and the other is Blue Hill. Both are intimate and casually sophisticated, yet somewhat different.

“Sant Ambroeus is Northern Italian. I enjoy their delicious risotto topped with shaved truffles. This dish will instantly transport you to Milan without needing to buy a plane ticket,” he says. “Blue Hill, on the other hand, is the best of American, farm-to-table food. The restaurant grows its own produce and celebrates freshness with a range of seasonal dishes. Eat their duck or monkfish and it will remind you of another of my favorite mantras: Behind Simplicity is often Great Complexity.”

Foreman tries to leave room for something sweet at the end of each meal, he notes. “Dessert, however, is where I indulge, and all the above-mentioned criteria falls by the wayside. After all, dessert is pure confection, ethereal, somewhat decadent and certainly a delight for the eyes as well as for the taste buds.”

No dessert meets this description better than the delicious Floating Island or, as the French say, île flottante. “It’s a simple concoction of a crème anglaise (lake) with meringue, an (island) of brilliant egg whites topped with a wacky hard caramel strand and almond slivers. Le Coq Rico is the place to enjoy this marvelous dessert, along with a glass of champagne.”

According to Foreman, “Eating well is largely a matter of educated tastes, but even more so, it reflects one’s basic likes and dislikes. The same can be said for architecture and interior design and a host of our everyday products.”

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