As I contemplated what I wanted to make during a cold snap, I thought I’d compile some of my favorite cold dish recipes and rank them in a top 10.
Like every ranking, this one is entirely subjective, and it is highly influenced by the nostalgic foods of my youth, not to mention my current cooking preferences. Every fall and winter, I’ll make each of these dishes at least once, and certainly every time we get a big drop in temperatures.
10. Shrimp and grits
Creamy, buttery grits (or polenta) with garlicky shrimp makes for a stick-to-your-ribs dinner.
9. Red beans and rice
Without sauce, red beans and rice is just an OK side dish, but once you add slices of kielbasa or other smoked sausage, it transforms into a rich (and easy and not too expensive) dish worth sharing.
Once I figured out how to make risotto in the Instant Pot, I stopped fearing this notoriously fussy Italian rice dish.
There’s no need to boil lasagna noodles when making lasagna, but on a cold day, sometimes it’s nice to bring a big pot of water to boil on the stove anyway. There are about a million ways to make lasagna, but it takes so long to bake in the oven, it’s perfect for a day when it’s cold and gray outside.
6. Shepherd’s pie
Mashed potatoes, by themselves, a dinner do not make, but throw a little chili, chicken noodles or other stewed concoction in a baking dish and top with mashed potatoes? That’s comfort food, squared.
5. Chicken pot pie
Some people might argue that shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie are too alike to each get their own ranking, but I disagree. Make a chicken or vegetable stew, mix in a little flour, pour into a baking dish and top with pie crust. (I keep store-bought crusts around for this purpose.) Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, and you’ll serve a piping hot dinner that’s better than anything from the frozen section of the grocery store.
My kids like to eat it with macaroni, but I prefer Fritos, avocado, sour cream and cilantro. The key is heavy chili powder and a few dashes of garam masala. I also like the combo of ground beef, pork, black beans, kidney beans and sweet potatoes, but that’s just me.
3. Chicken tortilla soup
Chicken tortilla soup has easily replaced chicken noodle soup in our house. The tortilla chips have something to do with that, but mostly, it’s the hefty dose of lime juice. The acid from the citrus balances the richness of the stock to create a bright, hearty dinner that will cure what ails you.
I like pozole just a hint more than tortilla soup because the large pieces of hominy make it even more filling, plus the leftovers keep a little better.
1. Chicken and dumplings
My No. 1 comfort food is entirely based on nostalgia and the fact that my grandmother really did make the best chicken and dumplings I’ve ever had. I’ve been trying to perfect her thick, hand-cut egg noodles over the years, but even when I don’t come close, I still feel the most comforted when I eat this dish.
And because I can’t get enough carbs when it’s cold, I insist on eating those fluffy dumplings with saltine crackers.