What Chefs Make When They Need a Bit of Cooking Therapy
These dishes take time—but that’s the point.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:35 AM
Over the past few weeks, even the serial Postmates orderers among us may at some point have turned to cooking as a form of therapy. Stressful Zoom meeting? Take out your frustrations on a loaf of sourdough. Bleak news headlines? Divert your attention to handmade tagliatelle. In quarantine, comfort food takes on a whole new meaning—it’s not just about the end result, but the equally soothing process of chopping a heap of shallots and checking in on a simmering pot of tomato sauce as if it were a newborn baby.
With this in mind, we asked a few experts what’s on the menu for them. Between laborious dishes they might not typically have time for and bowls of cheesy carbs that are basically a hug in food form, their go-to meals provide an escape, even if it’s just for a few hours. Here’s what we’re adding to our repertoire.
The Family Secret
The dish: Jodi Moreno’s Bolognese
The story: This is a recipe that my grandmother used to make for us on Sundays, when our family would always gather for an early dinner. She would simmer the sauce all day, and we would often eat it with fettuccine that she made by hand. I love taking the time to add all the different layers of flavor, starting with the onions and garlic cooking in the butter, then the meat simmering in the wine, and lastly adding the tomatoes—but the real magic happens when the sauce cooks on the stove for a couple hours. It’s easy, but it takes time, which makes it feel a bit luxurious.
The dish: Jake Cohen’s Braised Brisket With Mushrooms
The story: I’ve always loved making brisket, because preparing something that takes so long for others is a beautiful expression of love and hospitality. However, in quarantine, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be giving the same care to ourselves. Since this year’s Passover Seder was virtual, I decided to make my seven-pound brisket for four people and reaped the benefits of leftovers for days. Not only that, but it was the first time my husband helped me prepare the braise since we have nothing but time to cook things low and slow with plenty of TLC! I couldn’t find dried mushrooms, so I just used half a bottle of red wine and called it a day. This is truly the time to be flexible and not sweat the small stuff.
The Simple Win
The dish: Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park’s Capellini With Garlic, Lemon, and Parmesan
The story: Nothing is more comforting to us than a big bowl of pasta, and what we find therapeutic about this dish is its simplicity. It allows us to mentally unwind while still nourishing our families. We love every part of it—from the sizzling garlic in the skillet that fills the entire room with its delightful aroma, the hit of freshness from the lemon, and the nutty finish of Parmesan, it allows us to feel relaxed in the kitchen. A bonus is that we’re currently still able to find all these ingredients.
The Sweet Treat
The dish: Adeena Sussman’s Chewy Tahini Blondies
The story: I’m all for quarantine cooking projects, but some days my “project” is taking a shower, getting dressed, and eking out as much work as I can with the most distracted brain I have ever experienced! So a five-minute recipe that delivers massive ROI is right up my alley these days. Oh, and the treats taste amazing: Tahini is like peanut butter’s jet-setting cousin, evoking far-flung destinations during a time when we’re all sticking extra close to home. I stir it into these blondies, that are, above all, easy, which is the most comforting thing about them.
The Seasonal Slow Cooker
The dish: Kayla Howey’s Spring Pea Risotto
The story: It involves minimal yet luxurious ingredients, like butter and Parmesan. I came up with the recipe by finding inspiration from exactly what I had on hand at the time…which wasn’t all that much. And in my mind, risotto is the ultimate calming dish to make in the kitchen. The process involves slowly adding water to a large pot of rice and stirring away as it transforms into something creamy. Very soothing, and the result is delicious.
See more things we’re making right now: For a Bit of Cooking Therapy, Add Flowers to Fresh Pasta Vegetarian Pasta Recipes We’d Give Up Meat For 9 One-Pan Recipes That’ll Turn Your Frown Upside Down