Guest Chick Monday: Comfort Food Extraordinare and Golden Heart Finalist Kimberly Kincaid

This Chick’s mouth was watering when she read Kimberly Kincaid’s gravy recipe, OH YUM.  Kimberly writes contemporary romance novels that split the difference between sexy and sweet, taking the traditional idea of boy-meets-girl and infusing it with a sassy magic all her own. She believes in fiery yet flawed characters destined for a crash-course in falling in love (usually the hard way) and injects her trademark humor as well as poignant touches into her writing to create her stories. An avid foodie and active at-home cook, Kimberly’s current project— a multi-book series of foodie romance— brings together the best of both worlds. Feel free to visit her website, www.kimberlykincaid.com or say hi on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kimberly.kincaid1) and Twitter (@KimberlyKincaid).

Comfort food.

It’s highly likely that as each of us read those two words, the images they brought to mind were as unique as our fingerprints. Some of us are comforted by the exotic and wonderful spices of chai tea, while others prefer the crisp tartness found in Lemon Zinger. Tea’s not your bag? (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) Perhaps you find comfort in the bold richness of Columbian coffee, or the decadent glide of hot chocolate. Whatever your pleasure, many of us are comforted by the items in our pantries. Indulging in the comfort of good food can erase some of the crummiest of bad days, as well as heighten the triumphs of the good. Either way, comfort food doesn’t just nourish the body. It nourishes the soul.

One of my favorite things on the planet is a simmering pot of gravy. I come from an Italian-American family, and we take our gravy very seriously. Most of you are picturing turkey right now, or perhaps even meatloaf, right? Not so fast, readers! In my house, gravy is what most people call “sauce,” and even though the staples are usually the same, there are countless ways to make your gravy your own.

Here’s a basic recipe, along with some other ideas to substitute according to your preferences. This is the kind of recipe you should absolutely play with (sometimes I go according to what I have on-hand). I will admit to the fact that not many things comfort me like the smell of this on the stove, and that my family has— more than once— eaten a loaf of bread and a pot of gravy for dinner.

Ingredients:

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large carrot, diced fine
2 cloves garlic
2 fresh bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes (organic preferred)
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth (half and half with water is fine for lower sodium), plus more for thinning
Pinch allspice
Chopped flatleaf parsley (a generous handful) for garnish

*Please note— this is the vegetarian version (to which you can add meatballs or sausage and simmer for a while— keep reading for more on that). If you like meat directly in your gravy, you can add a pound of ground beef or a half-pound of ground beef and a half-pound of bulk sausage to the sauce for something akin to Bolognese. Both versions are soul-soothingly good.

Cook those veggies!

In a large stockpot, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrot, stirring often, until soft, adding two cloves of garlic and two fresh bay leaves in the last two minutes of cooking (7-8 minutes total). Add Italian seasoning. *If you’re adding ground meat, now’s the time! Crumble with a wooden spoon until no longer pink, then proceed* If you’ve got any lovely brown bits on the bottom of the pot from the veggies, de-glaze with a splash of beef broth (red wine works well here too, the alcohol cooks off so it’s safe for kiddos by the time you’re done!). Add all three cans of tomatoes and the pinch of allspice, and heat to a low bubble.

Simmer that sauce!

Simmer, uncovered (best. smells. EVER in your house!) for at least an hour on the lowest heat setting, adding broth and/or water to thin the gravy as necessary. If you’re adding meatballs and/or sausage, now’s the time! If they’re already cooked through, then keeping your pot uncovered is okay. If not, I’d suggest simmering with the pot covered for about thirty minutes to ensure that all meats are cooked through to safe temperatures.

When you’re ready to serve (the longer you let this simmer, the better it tends to be), put this over your favorite pasta (linguine is good, as are penne and rigatoni— both stand up to the thickness of the gravy nicely), sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. I’ve used this gravy in lasagna recipes, as dipping sauce for stromboli, over pasta…you name it, and it works. It’s comfort food personified!

Dig in

What’s your version of comfort food, and how did you discover it?  One lucky commenter today will win a copy of Table Of Contents, a book of recipes from authors like James Patterson and Barbara Delinsky.

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47 thoughts on “Guest Chick Monday: Comfort Food Extraordinare and Golden Heart Finalist Kimberly Kincaid

  1. What do you get when a mostly Irish girl cooks Italian? A very, very different kind of “gravy” than this recipe!
    I never even imagined putting celery and carrots, let alone allspice, in what I consider spaghetti sauce, but oh man my mouth was watering. (Celery and carrots go only with potatoes and roast or with cabbage and corned beef, don’t you know?)
    I am most definitely going to try this. Thank you for the new to me idea…
    And good luck with your foodie romances. That’s a cool and unique twist to contemporary, right?

    • I’m so glad it gave you a new idea! I will admit that I am a sucker for the mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery). It makes a nice, hearty base for this gravy, and it sneaks a bit of veggies in on unsuspecting kids (and husbands!).

      But now I want corned beef…yummmm…

      Yes, foodie romance is a twist on contemporary. My series is set at a resort restaurant, and many of the characters are chefs. There’s a food element throughout. They’re so much fun to write! The only hazard is sometimes getting hungry while you read 🙂

    • You think allspice in spaghetti sauce is strange? My mother-in-law (of the pouding chômeur fame) always made her spaghetti sauce with cinnamon and cloves in it (along with the Italian seasoning–but no celery or carrot). She got the recipe from a Syrian lady and the Middle-eastern influence shows in the spicing. It’s very, very good, though. In fact, my kids complain if I experiment with other sauce recipes.

  2. Kimberly, thank you for your post and for making my mouth water!

    I don’t really make comfort food – I don’t think Mac and Cheese out of the box really counts, do you? Heh. But if I’m going the food route for comfort, nothing beats the smell of fresh baked bread (hmmmm… or chocolate chip cookies). There’s a local bakery near my house that makes these AMAZING raspberry rolls. Mmmmmmm…..

  3. Kimberly, you may be the only person in the world who’s ever made me wish I was in the kitchen. This sounds delish! For what it’s worth, I married into an Italian family (the first time around) and I still never know which is sauce and which is gravy. I just know sauce doesn’t go on turkeys. 🙂 I’m definitely going to try this out!

    And thanks to Abigail, now think I’m thinking about baking some bread to go with it. WalMart has frozen loaves that, when they’re done, you’d never know weren’t homemade. Some fresh bread, some fresh sauce…I think I gained 5 pounds just thinking about all this good stuff. It would be true comfort food if I wasn’t sitting in the damn office! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

  4. wow! Thanks for sharing this. I’m really hungry now. 🙂 Great recipe as well, I can’t wait to try this. I loved home cooked food and am always looking to try new things. Take care.

  5. I got the idea of adding allspice from Rachael Ray– the depth of the flavor, even in a tiny dose, just gives it a lovely kick that makes you think, “What is that?!” (and not in the bad way, hehe!) Aislinn, I could see where cinnamon and cloves would work in the same capacity. Very Middle Eastern! But there’s still that complexity that sets it apart.

    We had this with crusty bread last night, but I bought it rather than baked it. Now I’m kicking myself, because you girls are right– fresh baked is one of the best smells ever! 🙂

  6. Yum! Okay, I’m going to have to try this recipe very soon. Tonight, maybe! Thanks so much for sharing! Off to eat breakfast now!

  7. I am Italian by association more than anything. As a result, the idea of jarred sauce is, well, jarring. I have used nutmeg in my sauce, but never allspice. I’ll have to give it a go.

  8. Yum, yum. That sounds delicious. And to all you readers out there, I can assure you that Kim’s books are even better than her recipes. They are the literary version of ‘comfort food.’ Be sure to cheer her on for a big WIN at the RWA Golden Heart awards ceremony July 1st.

  9. Kimberly and Abigail,
    What a fun post. I love comfort foods/drinks. And teas are definitely my bag. 🙂 All kinds of tea. My husband is Persian, and bagged teas are kind of frowned upon in his family, but I love them all. Loose leaf blends that my mother-in-law mixes together are definitely the best. But sometimes I’m lazy and don’t feel like steeping, straining…
    I love Trader Joe’s Black Mango tea.
    For food item, I think warm breads, like banana bread and strawberry bread are just so comforting. When my kids come home from school some days, they come tearing in when they smell the scent of fresh-baked sugary breads. That and a cup of tea are comforting to me.
    What a nice post. I guess I’ll be heading to the kitchen and making some strawberry bread. That’s my kids’ favorite.

    • I know you’re going to shoot me, but I hate tea. Always have. Ugh.
      Coffee, too, and it SMELLS SO GOOD!! *sigh*

  10. OMG. I am stuck in a scientific meeting and dinner (in Greece) doesn’t come until 10pm tonight and this has just got my stomach in knots. Soooo good. And folks, I have had a sneak peek at at least one of these books, and all I can say is YUM!

    My comfort food is cookies. I don’t eat them – I make them, and feed everyone around me. Makes the house smell amazing and makes my family happy, but I rarely eat them myself. Weird, I know.

    • Oh I think smells can be just as evocative and comforting as tasting! And there’s something so, so therapeutic about baking.

      And thank you for the book-love! You girls are making me blush today…

  11. I’m going to try your “gravy” recipe, Kimberly, since I love pasta with sauce and yours looks yummy… Comfort food? Would you believe ice cream – the chocolate-y, the better – like “death by chocolate” which I found at the store a few months back – big chunks of chocolate with chunks of chocolate brownie!
    Patti

    • Oh, yum. Chocolate ice cream that’s slightly melted with chunks of chocolate brownie…. I just spent 2.5 hrs outside in 97 degree heat, so I’m ALL over this. 🙂

  12. Great post Kim! Soooo hungry now, and dinner is still too far away! Like Tracy, I have had a sneak peak of Kimberly’s books, and YUUUMM. She is such a talented writer, the world is in for a treat when the publishing world discovers her!

    My comfort food is cookies. Not eating them – baking them. My specialty is white choc chip, almonds, and dried cranberries. Then I feed everyone around me!

    • You can now, Valerie! This is so easy, and some grocery stores even sell the onions, carrots and celery pre-chopped. Mine has it over by the bagged salad mixes. Just heat the oil, toss the veggies in, add the rest and simmer. The hard part is letting it simmer. As soon as my husband smells it on the stove, he starts asking if it’s ready yet, haha!

      In this case, patience is a virtue 🙂

  13. Kim, thanks for the great post and the even better recipe! Imagine how surprised my husband will be when I attempt gravy from scratch… 😉

    My comfort food is garlic mashed potatoes. Cookies come in at a close second, however. The previously mentioned husband knows a bag of cookies from the local bakery gets as enthusiastic a reception as a bouquet of flowers!

    I’ll be rooting for you in New York City!

    • Oh, mashed potatoes! Another favorite in our house. I play with the recipe for those all the time– we’ve done “loaded” mashed potatoes with sour cream, bacon and chives, “veggies” mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower added in…so many options! And so good in the belly.

      Homemade gravy is easy on the cook and yet so impressive on the plate 😉 We just won’t tell your husband about the easy part. Let him be impressed, and enjoy every bite!

    • I’m with you on the mashed potatoes. Especially with the skin still on, and dripping in butter. YUM.

  14. Well, I know what I’m making for dinner later this week… Mmm that looks so delicious! First, let me say that foodie fiction is my favorite new genre and I look forward to reading yours.

    As for my comfort foods, I do a crockpot gravy with meatballs that soothes me after a long day. My matzo ball soup, of course. Homemade Mac n cheese… I have a million comfort foods both homemade and not (donuts anyone?), but alas I’m often too fried these days to make them…

    • I’m so glad foodie fiction is taking off– I’m really lucky to be able to write about what I love!

      Yum on your comfort foods, especially donuts! My husband makes amazing homemade donuts a few times a year. Maybe I’ll give him a nudge for this weekend 😉

  15. I already make my own er…gravy :), but I am looking forward to trying the allspice. I’ve heard about your amazing cooking, Lady! And tea is definitely my bag! My favorite comfort “food” is a cup of British Blend Tea with milk and a tiny splash of vanilla. I like it sweet, but I’ve been using Truvia rather than sugar lately because I’m a recovering sugar addict ;).

  16. Oh, yum! This looks amazing. My comfort food is a homemade, baked macaroni and cheese. One summer when I was about 14 my mom left for several weekes to help my sister with her first child. Before she left she gave me the recipe for the cheese sauce and stood with me, letting me make it over and over until I got it right. The key – never stop stirring!

  17. Allspice?! I never thought of that. I’m SO going to put some in when I make my almost identical version of this tomorrow! Thank you so much for sharing your “gravy” recipe with us. 😉

    And congratulations on your GH final! Good luck in NY!!!

  18. The gravy looks great, Kimberly! I have a recipe that my Italian uncle gave me for sauce and meatballs. We used to make it and freeze the leftovers because it’s a large recipe. Haven’t done it in a while though.

    My comfort foods are cheese and bread. And frosted cookies. 😉

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