Comfort Food- Not Some Passing Fad

It has gotten cold in central New England. On the days when it is not freezing it is raining. Overall, I would say the climate has reached maximum blah. Therefore, I am once again playing around with comfort food, specifically something we never ate when I was young.

Until I was about eleven years old I was convinced that Salisbury steak was something found only in school cafeterias. My family never ate it and I never saw it on the menu of any restaurant. Whatever these mysterious steaks were, they only existed every third Wednesday in little cardboard containers on lunch trays. They did not look particularly appetizing. Not until my early teens when I started poking through cookbooks did I discover that Salisbury steak is a real food that many people eat on purpose. I never actually prepared or ate Salisbury steak until about two months ago.

Oddly enough, Salisbury steak, as we know it today, is the last vestige of one of the earliest known “fad diets”. Dr. John H. Salisbury was convinced that humans should eat primarily meat as vegetables, fruits, and grains can harm our health.  Smithsonian Magazine published a very interesting article in 2011 that tells the tale quite well. Yes, fad diets are bad diets. However, I have discovered that Salisbury steak is pretty darn tasty. Here is how I make it.

The modern Salisbury steak is served in a savory sauce of caramelized onions, with or without mushrooms. I use both because vegetables most certainly will not harm my body systems. I started with three medium onions, sliced and caramelized.

Next, I put the onions, ten ounces of sliced mushrooms, and about a pound of cube steak in my beloved slow cooker. White mushrooms are perfectly delicious, but criminis were on sale this week, so I used those. Some recipes call for Dr. Salisbury’s original ground beef made into patties, but I find cube steak is almost always cheaper and leaner than ground beef, so that is what I use. As you can see by the ice crystals in the picture, I cooked this beef from the frozen state. Food poisoning is not comforting.

I topped it all off with one third cup of Worcestershire sauce, two teaspoons dry thyme, about ten grinds of black pepper, a tablespoon of mustard and water to cover. I set the slow cooker to “low” and went on with my day.

A few hours later I took some of the yummy broth that had formed in the slow cooker and put it in the refrigerator to cool. Then I put five scrubbed potatoes into the oven at 350F for an hour.

After the hour was up, I mixed the cooled portion of broth with two tablespoons of corn starch and added it back into the slow cooker. I cranked the cooker to “high” to commence the thickening. I also smashed the potatoes. This is how the cook kids are doing potatoes today. Bake in the skin, then one push with the masher.

Here it is, assembled and served with a side of even more irritating broccoli. That Dr. Salisbury was 100% wrong about nutrition, but this is some comforting dinner on a rainy, cold night.  I’m glad I looked into this classic American dish, and that we have transcended the quackery that birthed it. Vegetables are good for your body. Eating food you enjoy is good for your soul. What foods have you added to your DIYet only in adulthood? Share in the comments!

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