Every culture has its comfort foods. In the USA, our comfort foods vary from region to region. If you live in Los Angeles, a cheeseburger may top your list, or you want macaroni and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich with some hot soup, or chicken and waffles. In New York, a slice of cheese pizza, bagel with cream cheese, lox, and onion, or your mother’s chicken soup – everyone has their personal favorites. South, north, east, and west – every state and country has unique flavors.
It can be fun to try the comfort food of other countries when you travel – here are a few dishes people turn to in some of my favorite countries:
French Comfort Food
The French are world-renown for creating delicious dishes, and their comfort food is no exception.
- Cassoulet: While a cassoulet has white beans as the main ingredient, the French method of combining the flavors of sausage, pork, duck fat, garlic, onion, and duck confit takes this dish over the top.
- Croque Monsieur: The French version of a toasted ham and cheese, this sandwich goes above and beyond the USA version. The sandwich is made with Béchamel sauce, ham, cheese, and Dijon mustard and then grilled until the cheese oozes out from the crust. Super delicious.
- Gratin Dauphinois: Imagine scalloped potatoes, but simmered – twice – in rich cream, and then cooked with gruyere cheese until the dish is soft, rich, creamy, and comforting.
Swiss Comfort Food
- Cheese fondue: Dipping cubes of bread into a silky cheese sauce is a common way the Swiss, and visitors to the country enjoy creamy Swiss Gruyere cheese.
- Raclette: A traditional Swiss raclette is made with a cheese of raw milk of cows that have grazed in the mountains of Switzerland. “Raclette” means “to scrape.” The cheese was melted (in the past on fire, but now on a special heating plate). As the cheese melts, it is scraped off the cheese wheel and eaten, a restoring treat after a day on the slopes.
- Rosti: A potato pie, crusty on the outside, soft and savory on the inside – the Swiss Rosti can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, with added cheese, apples, onions, or whatever your heart desires.
- Landjager: A semi-dry Swiss sausage made of beef, port, lard, sugar, red wine, and spices. The sausage can be stuffed in a backpack before a hike or cooked with potatoes, onions, and fresh greens.
Italian Comfort Food
- Gnocchi: Gnocchi is an irresistible Italian comfort food, with light, airy potato dumplings simmered in a sauce. These little ovals were once a peasant staple, but are now served in the finest restaurants, and one of the most famous Italian comfort foods.
- Pizza: We all love it, but the Italians do it best. Rather than the American versions, which are heavy on the tomato sauce, Italian pizza is more like a crispy, cracker-like flatbread, typically with just one or two toppings, rather than loaded with multiple ingredients as people like it in the USA.
- Risotto: Endlessly open to creativity, risotto can be the perfect comfort food to warm your heart and your body. The word “risotto” comes from the Italian word for rice (riso). The Italians cook it with a special technique, adding broth while stirring throughout cooking to create a creamy (never runny) dish, enhanced with mushrooms, seafood, or any other ingredient.
There is nothing more comforting on a cold, rainy, or snowy winter day than comfort food to warm the body and bring back the flavors of home and youth.