Top Ten Fall Meals That Will Bring You Comfort

Fresh Shepherd's Pie, Made in a Cast Iron Skillet

I like to cook. Most people who can’t afford to eat out cook. Even more pretend they actually enjoy doing it. During fall, your tastes change and you need to alter your diet to reflect the fact the sun is somehow never there. It’s as cold as Sevastopol and apparently you have to do more work because the academic calendar insists. Basically your body needs more food to stop you from becoming ice and better food to prevent you cosplaying as Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” 

10) Chicken Fricassee

Nothing says fall like stew. Hunter stews like fricassee or chicken cacciatore are hearty and simple peasant dishes. More importantly they’re tasty. A good one is so deeply nourishing you almost can’t tell it’s dark at 5 p.m. and that you can’t feel your fingers. In practice, throwing together chicken thighs, mirepoix, mushrooms, herbs, cream and wine almost seems like a life hack. An hour and a half later, you have enough food around to feed the whole of Marseille’s midfield. More importantly you have a nice plate of delicious chicken, veggies and sauce to pair with a nice locally sourced baguette and natural white wine. Assuming you respect yourself.

9) Grilled Cheese

Carefully eliding the fact that grilled cheese is traditionally neither grilled or involved with cheese, since American cheese is simply a delivery vehicle for calcium, grilled cheese rocks. Quick, fast and yummy as all hell, grilled cheese is easily confused for something far more lewd. Everyone has their own take on it. Personally, I believe that a mix of sourdough, havarti, Gruyere, shredded velveeta and red pepper flakes is the way to go to achieve peak satisfaction, but the beauty is that there are no rules. Simply heat up a pan, find some bread, cheese and some butter or mayo and there it is. Extra points out however if you manage to pair it with a tomato based soup.

8) Grandma Pie

You like pizza. I like pizza. Rational humans like pizza. If you don’t, I refuse to believe you can read and therefore this doesn’t apply to you. Grandma pie is remarkably easy to make. Messy but easy. Grab together flour, yeast and water and make the dough. A nice can of san marzano tomatoes and a little basil. Quality aromatics like garlic and onion. Fresh mozzarella. Capicola, sopressata, somehow more basil and balsamic vinegar. You see where this is going. I think as a form of self care we should all attempt to be our own grandmas. If only I had a scarf and reading glasses to really sell it. Grandma pie is perfect for fall because it’s filling and helps you maintain mass during the wasting months of winter. Also I can’t reiterate enough that pizza is divine. 

7) Quiche

Quiche or quiche lorraine is actual heaven. Or just an excuse to eat a carton of eggs. I first fell in love with it when my mother, in the throes of her Weight Watchers infatuation, used it as a delivery system for spinach and whole wheat crust. Joke’s on her; it tasted great. Then I had the normal version of quiche and nearly puked. But in a good way. I’m not sure who thought up the idea of what is essentially egg pie but I have to imagine they were some mixture of despot and warrior poet. 

6) Stout Cake

I’ve been pretending I’ve been eating healthy as of late and generally have been. But after the light dwindles in autumn and you are able to play Billie Holiday’s charming rendition of “Autumn in New York” without implied irony, choices are made. If I’m not gonna leave my house after 7 p.m. for four months I should at least enjoy my time. Now stout cake is basically Guinness Beer and unconscionable amounts of sugar in cake form. Obviously eggs, flour etc. are needed but the main point is the guiness and the sugar. This tastes so amazing I genuinely wonder if its existence could have prevented the troubles in Ireland. I feel like Thatcher and stout cake equal a free and united Ireland. But really this cake is a savior on cold fall nights. 

5) Pigs Trotters

Pig trotters are so good. Borderline poisonous to prepare if done wrong, but still so good. After soaking in saltwater and scraping off the hairs and then soaking again (lest we forget they are literally the feet of pigs), trotters are deliciously prepared in so many ways. According to my Jamaican grandmother, trotters are a fall tradition. A repurposing of British colonizer cooking, I’ve normally had them in a heavily spiced bean stew over rice. Resisting the urge to go “oink” ironically will be hard I concede, but the fall-off-the-bone pork is truly something else. Definitely worth a try. 

4) Veal Liver and Onions

I know liver is a part of the holy trinity of “oh cool my parents don’t like me” foods but when made correctly I promise it’s actually good. Retired Brit Marco Pierre White in a decades old broadcast I found on YouTube showed how it ought to be made. Rather than cooked till grey and depressing it should only be taken to medium rare so you can still taste the sugary blood found in young liver. After a dip in flour first it is a unique and flavorful meal to treat yourself to as the leaves fall. The onions are a nice touch after the fact. I usually take them al dente but to each their own. 

3) Lamb Shank and Potato Puree

Last year I was tasked with preparing my own late November birthday dinner with family on account of having plans out with friends. In the process I found a beautiful new method for making lamb shanks. It turns out that after getting a light sear for color and jous material you can roast them in wine and spices. The amount of outright orgasmic flavor released was terrifying and inspired a viking impression. To sop up the sauce and flavors and because potato puree is great, throwing together some yukons, cream and butter in a blender is very much the right move here. Will this make you over gorge yourself until you look like Jimmy Glick? Maybe. Should you care? No.

2) Split Pea Soup

Simple. Nourishing. Soup. My mother makes this every year during the holiday season. It’s not so complicated. Just get some peas together, ham bone broth, ham and peppercorns. Slow cook until the Detroit Lions are good at football. It tastes amazing and it tastes like home. I like to sit on the couch with it in a mug akimbo with a chunk of rye. I suggest the same for anyone else.

1) Croque Madame

Okay so I’m dating myself with the decadence here. But what says fall like decadence? It involves cubed ham so if you are a space cadet with sharp knives, cut thumbs are in your future. It’s porn on a plate and I mean that. Put more tame, it’s a combination of the best principles of french peasant cooking and high minded cuisine. You take what’s essentially a jumped up grilled cheese and after some hollandaise, a boil and an egg on top for good measure you have a dish that says: literally everything will be fine. You are okay because you’re eating eggs and ham and bread and cheese and cream and that’s all you need.