I was raised primarily in the south, in an Italian family. Well, my mother is Italian. My dad looks very not Italian – blond hair, blue eyes… like me. Like me, minus the nose. I had to have something to maintain my Italian “street cred”, or secure a place on “Jersey Shore” maybe. Needless to say, by all accounts growing up food = comfort in my family. Now, in my house we don’t quite see it this way. Food should be tasty, but it is first and foremost fuel. Also, the most comforting of all foods – cheese, ice cream, milkshakes… I should not eat. The lactose is not my friend.

For comfort, we turn to alcohol. Like normal people. (I kid. I kid.) But seriously, the best medicine in my house is an insanely inappropriate sense of humor. It never fails that mid-argument, either Michael or I will bust out a “one liner” so incredible that we have to stop arguing and laugh. And I’m Italian… I enjoy a good argument as much as the next person, so you know it has to be funny to distract me.

I’ve noticed that many of our “quick fix” comfort foods are based off of canned soups – neither healthy nor lactose free. “Chicken Broccoli Casserole”. “Green Bean Casserole”. Every casserole is covered in some sort of cream based soup. What’s a lactose *sensitive*, inappropriately funny, blond, Italian chick to do? Make my own, naturally. I call it “The Pan Sauce”. While you can change it up and put it on anything really, I use it in my Chicken-Broccoli-Quinoa Casserole. (Coincidentally, it’s a lactose/gluten free slightly healthier version of one of Michael’s favorite comfort foods.)

Mise En Place

4 tbsp of butter (can use margarine or butter substitute)

2 tbsp gluten free all purpose flour

2 C chicken stock

1/2 white wine

2 tsp mustard

1 sprig thyme

splash of unflavored lactose free coffee creamer

I start with my chicken pan. That’s not an ingredient so much as a pan that I’ve just cooked chicken in (and removed the chicken). It could be a pork chop pan, a beef pan…pretty much anything but a fish pan. I’m just borrowing the flavors from the bottom of the pan. In goes the butter, pan should be on medium heat. Butter has little to no lactose because of how it is processed, so I still use it regularly. As the butter is melting, I start to scrape up the chicken bits at the bottom of the pan. I actually let my butter brown just a little. (You’ll see it form tiny bubbles, and it starts to smell awesome.) Then, in goes the gluten free flour, TBSP at a time, whisking to get out all the little lumps.

Now, this is basically a rue, the base of the “mother sauces” commonly used by classically trained chefs. I saw this one episode of “Brunch with Bobby” which I’m pretty sure makes me an expert now. The gluten free AP flour is like, super rue. If you were using regular AP flour, you’d have almost equal amounts butter and flour.

The beginning and the end

The beginning and the end

Let the rue cook a minute. Then, whisking constantly, pour in your stock slowly. It’s gonna look funky but stick with it. The sauce will happen in time. Once that’s incorporated, take the pan off the heat (safety first, kids!) and add the wine. Return to the heat and whisk until combined. Add your mustard and splash of lactose free creamer (or real creamer or whatever you have on hand that won’t fill you with regret).

Add the thyme and any other seasoning you desire, reduce the heat to low and let simmer. Remove the sprig (if you tossed in whole) and pour over casserole, or pasta, or freeze it for later use. And that is all she wrote.

Chicken, Broccoli, and Fake Cheese. What more could you ask for?

Chicken, Broccoli, and Fake Cheese. What more could you ask for?

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One Response to Comfort

  1. Patty Prince says:

    Oh Yum! I’m going to try this. I’m glad you wrote the directions in a language I can understand. Great post!

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