We've got comfort covered! We divided the United States into six familiar regions and tracked down the top-rated comfort food recipes that best represent each region, from sea to shining sea. Maybe now's the time for a comfort food staycation!
Here's what comfort food is in different parts of the U.S.A.:
The Northeast has long been America's cultural stew pot. Going back to the beginning, when English immigrants and Native Americans converged along New England’s rocky coast, the culinary results were the chowders, baked bean casseroles, and stews that comfort people to this day.
Soul food for New Englanders. Oyster crackers are a must. This traditional cream-based chowder gets a little boost from a splash of red wine vinegar.
"I've paid over ten dollars for one of these lobster rolls in Cape Cod and it wasn't half as good or half as big as the ones my Mom taught me to make,' says Starr. "This is a wonderful summer (or winter) treat and makes a fancy luncheon to impress your friends."
Here's one that reflects the Italian influence on American cooking. A "hunter's style" one-pot chicken and mushrooms dish baked with tomato sauce.
"Growing up near the Chesapeake Bay you learn that crabs are as valuable as gold," says John. "My mom made crab cakes every Friday in the summer months.
Dip whole soft shell crabs in a light batter and fry. Then eat the whole shebang, shell and all!
"This makes a fantastic meat for Philly steak sandwiches," says duboo. "It also makes its own au jus, if you like to dip. To serve, saute a sliced onion and sliced green pepper in a skillet. Put meat on a sub bun and top with onion and green pepper and Swiss or provolone cheese on top of that. Leave open-faced and broil until the cheese just starts to brown."
The cheesy casseroles, pot roasts, and baked pastas of the Midwest. These are the soothing comfort foods that pull us through on chilly winter evenings -- hearty and simple rather than fancy and frivolous, flavorful but not aggressively spiced. Is comfort food from the Midwest what we mean when we say "American food"?
The famous Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is a world away from the thin-crust Neapolitan style pizza that grew to fame in New York City pizzerias. As the story goes, way back in 1943, a couple of Chicago restaurateurs presented their cheesy, thick-crust pie to a mostly pizza-puzzled Chicago crowd at Pizzeria Uno, and it was not an overnight success. In the early days, they resorted to giving away free slices of pizza with drink purchases at the bar! Not anymore. Today, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is a hit throughout the country.
"The St. Louis style of preparing ravioli is unique and delicious," says Barb. "The ravioli is breaded, fried and served with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese."
It seems almost inevitable that Wisconsin would take the leap in cheese technology that resulted in fried cheese curds. Also no surprise, they're delicious paired with a cold beer.
This quick, easy broccoli casserole is one of the comfort food classics.
If the phrase "hot dish" doesn't mean anything to you, you're probably not a Midwesterner. In this perfect autumn casserole, the comfort comes from layers of seasoned ground beef combined with creamy soups, tater tots, and French-fried onion rings.
When Americans come together bearing casseroles and other covered dishes to share a meal with friends and neighbors, it's called a potluck. When the Chinook Indians of the Pacific Northwest did it, they called it "potlatch" -- a word that means gift. As with the modern potluck, the potlatch was a "bring your own" affair, a ceremonial feast to which members of the tribe brought gifts of food culled from the rich Pacific Northwest environment, including fresh salmon and other seafood, local mushrooms, berries, and other seasonal foods.
"This is a dish my brother prepared for me in Seattle," says Wendy. "It is by far the best salmon I've ever eaten. I like to serve it with an Asian-inspired rice and roasted asparagus."
"When you feel like splurging a little, San Francisco's famous Cioppino is a great choice. This spicy fish and shellfish stew is a big red bowl of yummy, and when paired with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, it's downright otherworldly." -- Chef John
A shout out to the Inland Empire here and Idaho's "famous potatoes." Nothing is as simply comforting as creamy mashed potatoes.
Under the umbrella of Southwestern regional comfort foods, we can drill down to even more specialized expressions -- like Tex-Mex (beef fajitas), Sonoran-style (the chimichanga), Cal-Mex (fish tacos) and New Mexican-style (green chile stew and rellenos casserole). But taken together, they make up a consistent and recognizable style of cooking: Southwest style!
"I'm from San Diego and these taste just like home! We live in the south now, and nobody has heard of these! Serve with homemade pico de gallo, and lime wedges to squeeze on top!" -- BREESE823
"I got this recipe together after months of harassing my friends in New Mexico in search of the perfect green chile chicken stew," says Georgette. "This stew will keep you warm and cozy on those cold winter days! I make it at least once every month. Serve with warm flour tortillas.
This is essentially a chicken enchilada pie. It's a casserole that loves the cream soups, featuring both cream of mushroom and cream of chicken. Sour cream, diced chilies and tomatoes, bell peppers, and spices round out the Southwest flavors. Oh, and don't forget the Cheddar. You’ll layer a casserole with tortillas, chicken, sauce, and cheese. And then bake it until beautifully bubbly.
There's an argument raging in Arizona over where these deep-fried burritos were invented.
Did we save the best for last? From pithouse BBQ to crispy fried chicken and peach cobbler, the South has comfort food covered. We're just scratching the surface here. In fact, there's so much Southern comfort to be had, we've broken it out and cover it in a separate article.
"Serve these tomatoes outside with a glass of iced tea one summer night and enjoy the sunset with someone you love." -- Diana Swenson-Siegel
Seductively delicious, this traditional Southern stew is thick and hearty, loaded with beef, pork, and chicken, along with cream-style corn, tomatoes, and special seasonings.
This traditional low-country favorite features tender shrimp simmered with andouille sausage, bacon, and colorful bell peppers, all served over creamy, cheesy grits.