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Comfort food for when you are cooped up for days


Since late Sunday the fires have raged here in San Diego County.  All my loved ones are safe, either here with me or evacuated to places safe, secure, and less smoky.  The first tense days spent eyes glued to the local television stations as the mandatory evacuation zones grew and homes burned produced a kind of watchful, sleepless paranoia that has morphed days later into caged boredom.  I don’t for a moment minimize the pain that others less fortunate are going through.  Here on my home front the only challenges are entertaining my 10 year old and reassuring him that we are safe just outside the Witch Creek fire zone ( and spending more time than at any point in the last 5 years with my ex-mother-in-law. 

Suddenly this large apartment was very small indeed…but given the nature of the circumstances, all parties were on their best behavior.

Essentially, in times of uncertainty or stress or celebration or joy (so pretty much anytime) I cook.  Its just something in the DNA of a chef to want to cook to feel better, to comfort others and to just improve life.  It’s probably the same gene as in Italian grandmothers.  At any rate, with the fire situation, I felt the need to cook. 

We had shopped earlier for ingredients for stew and had purchased a 4 pound pork shoulder roast on sale for next to nothing.  Half the roast combined with leeks, onions, carrots, potatoes, chicken stock and spices had gone to make the stew.  The other, leaner half now went into the big pot for a pork roast.  About 2+ pounds with the bone in, one sliced onion, several sprigs whole fresh thyme, one half cup of Spanish sofrito (fried tomato sauce), fresh garlic, lots of fresh ground pepper, and two cups chicken stock went into the pot with the lid on.  Turn on the oven to 450 degrees for 30 minutes and then turn down to 300 for 2 ½ hours.  I kinda forgot about it for a while.  It turned out so tender that we just shredded it up in the cooking broth and ate it like a soup. 

To accompany this favor-laden meal, I opened a great bottle of 2002 Heitz Cellars “Trailside Vineyards” Cabernet which helped sooth our jangled nerves and really matched the fare. It was perfectly followed by some Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge ice cream for dessert.  Food as balm for the soul and nerves.

Now back to watching and praying for the fires to end and planning for dinner tomorrow.


Chef Chuck Samuelson
Leader, VinVillage-San Diego
Chuck Samuelson Catering