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Comfort classics: Warm a winter's night with these favorites

Comfort classics: Warm a winter's night with these favorites

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Reprinted from CV Home & Garden magazine

Winter lingers like guests who have worn out their welcome. Spring is still months away.

So when the night falls cold and dark, we’re hungry for delicious and hearty comfort food. Chef Corey Nolta of the Caraway Café at the Diamond Event Center in Cedar Falls, has a recipe box filled with comfort classics. Among his favorites are Beef Stew, Shepherd’s Pie, Smothered Pork Chops and Salisbury Steak. A good meal deserves a great dessert, and Nolta offers his "go-to" recipe for homemade apple pie. 

“The apple pie is to die for,” he assures us.


Beef Stew

  • 2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cubes beef bouillon, crumbled
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown beef in oil over medium heat. Dissolve bouillon in water and pour into pot. Stir in rosemary, parsley and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour.

Stir potatoes, carrots, celery and onion into the pot. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 teaspoons cold water and stir into stew. Cover and simmer 1 hour more.

Optional: Add 1 cup beer to water. Guiness Stout is Chef Nolta’s choice.


Shepherd's Pie

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups frozen vegetable medley (peas, carrots, green beans, corn)
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 3/4 cup beef broth

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash. Mix in butter, finely chopped garlic and 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

Bring another large pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, mash and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add ground beef and cook until well browned. Pour off excess fat, then stir in flour and cook 1 minute.

Add frozen vegetable medley, ketchup and beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread the ground beef mixture in an even layer on the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. Next, spread a layer of mashed carrots.Top with the mashed potato mixture and sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.


Smothered Pork Chops

  • 4 thick, bone-in pork chops
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a shallow dish, mix together flour with garlic powder and chili powder. Coat pork chops in flour, shaking off excess. Reserve 2 tablespoons seasoned flour.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, heat 1/4 cup oil until shimmering.

In batches, cook pork chops until golden, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Wipe out skillet.

Reduce heat to medium low, pour in remaining oil and add onions.

Season with more salt and pepper and cook until very soft and slightly caramelized, 15-20 minutes.

Add butter and let melt, then sprinkle in reserved flour. Cook until flour is no longer raw, about a minute.

Stir in chicken broth and heavy cream and bring to a simmer, until sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Return pork chops to skillet and cook until pork is cooked through, about 10 minutes more.

Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.


Salisbury Steak

For the patties:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the gravy:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To make patties: In a large bowl, combine beef, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and form into 4 oval patties.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil.Sear both sides of the patties until a crust forms, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

To make gravy: Wipe out skillet and add butter.Add onions and thyme and stir until onion becomes translucent, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until browned and tender, about 4 minutes.

Sprinkle onions and mushrooms with flour, and stir until they are fully coated. Cook another 2 minutes.Add Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and beef stock. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Bring the gravy to a simmer and return patties to the skillet. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 more minutes, until the patties are done and the sauce has thickened.

Plate the patties and top with more gravy. Serve.


Fresh Apple Pie

  • 1 9-inch double pie crust
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly.

Cover with a latticework crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.


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