Cheese, Rice, and Onions as Comfort Food

We like comfort food around here. Even during summer, a bowl of homemade macaroni & cheese is a beautiful thing. But when winter gets here, that’s when the need really kicks in, and if you kept up with the recipes I wrote for the Commercial Appeal all summer, you could see the way they started trending that way. The fact that they ended on a bread pudding says a lot about me, I suppose.

Some comfort food takes hours, and that’s fine. A roast braising in the oven makes the whole house smell delicious. A pot of chicken stock on the stove just makes you think about the chicken & dumplings and chicken noodle soup and all of the other lovely things it’s going to show up in.

Some comfort food takes effort, and that’s fine, too. When I make mac & cheese from scratch, it means a lot of shredding since I like to use at least 3 different cheeses for the mix. Baked spaghetti is good; baked spaghetti with homemade marinara is better.

But not all comfort food takes so long or so much effort. One of our favorites here that I’ve mentioned before is cheese and rice and onions. It’s just what it sounds like–fluffy hot rice with shredded cheese and diced onion stirred in to taste by each of us. I like adding a little butter to mine. Patric likes to leave off the cheese and use soy sauce. Paul is a purist. AND… it’s a cheap meal that makes everyone happy.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be dressed up a little–it can still be easy and get a little bit of oomph. We had it last night, and I decided to make it special since it was Paul’s birthday eve dinner.

All it took was rice, butter, cheese, onion, salt & pepper, and rice vinegar. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it my way.

And that’s all there is to it. The rice vinegar is the only “fancy” ingredient here, and it’s really not that special or expensive. I buy it at Viet Hoa (They really are a great place to keep variety in the house.), and I always look for the bottles of it that have as little English on them as possible. I know–great scientific method there, but I like the way the bottles look, and I haven’t had any that was bad yet.

It took a little more effort that just putting it together in the bowls, but really it wasn’t that much. The payoff was that it made something simple into something special without costing money or calling for something that most people won’t have on hand. I like rice vinegar because it’s mild and just complements the rice, but any vinegar really will work. It just brightens the flavor of the onions and helps the whole dish come together without any overpowering change. I think red wine vinegar might actually be really interesting.

So, a simple meal, full stomachs, and a happy family. It doesn’t get more comfortable than that.

The Elixir of Life
A Story For Lindsey – I’m So Sorry