Amid the vicious cycle of midterms, papers, presentations and projects, I like to distract myself from impending despair by eating. During the long, cold, late-autumn nights, food provides nourishment, warmth and a sense of security. While I love to experiment in the kitchen, there are a few recipes I turn to time and time again — recipes I can whip up with no thought and that never fail to satisfy my cravings.
No matter your skill level, rest assured that you too can learn to make these five fall comfort foods.
French toast. Growing up, my mom would make this almost every weekend. Whenever I make it now, I can practically feel the nippy New England morning chill and hear the leaves crunch beneath my feet.
This recipe is deceptively simple: Mix three eggs, half a cup of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla and a teaspoon of cinnamon in a shallow bowl, then dip slices of soft white bread — preferably challah or brioche — into the mixture. Fry on both sides until golden and top with whipped cream, chocolate chips and maple syrup. Serve with bacon and home fries, if desired.
Potato curry. This is a relatively new addition to my recipe rotation. I love it because it’s chock full of carbs and makes enough for two or three servings. Mince one clove of garlic and cut three potatoes into bite-size chunks. Fry the garlic and potatoes for three minutes, then add about a teaspoon each (depending on your taste) of cumin, chili powder and turmeric. Pour in two cups of water and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft and the water has evaporated. Stir in a handful of chopped cilantro and serve over rice. (Fair warning — your kitchen will smell like cumin for a few hours after you make this.)
Brigadeiros. I originally made this Brazilian dessert as an assignment for my Modern Latin American Culture class, and they’ve since become a favorite. Mix one can sweetened condensed milk, a quarter cup of cocoa powder, a couple tablespoons of butter and a pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the mixture thickens and it becomes difficult to stir. Let cool. Coat your hands with butter and roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls, then roll the balls in chocolate sprinkles. You can also just eat the mixture straight out of the saucepan. You do you.
Fried rice. If you have leftover rice from the curry, why not use it to make fried rice? Dice a quarter of an onion and add it, along with some frozen peas and carrots, to a large oiled skillet. Fry until soft, then move the veggies to one side of the skillet and scramble two eggs on the other side. Season with salt, then add the rice and stir to combine. Pour in a few glugs of soy sauce and you’re done.
Veggie fried rice is surprisingly filling, but you can add shrimp or chicken if you need extra protein. Like the curry, this makes enough for at least one serving of leftovers.
Pecan pie. My family has strong Southern roots, so it’s only natural that pecan pie would be one of my favorite fall desserts. The filling for this is basically a sickly sweet gelatinous sludge, which, despite having zero nutritional value, perfectly complements the crunch of the pecans (by the way, is it PE-can or pe-CAN? I use both interchangeably).
Whisk together three eggs, half a cup of sugar, a cup of corn syrup, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla and a quarter cup of butter. Stir in a cup of roughly chopped pecans and pour into your pie crust — homemade is great if you’ve got the time, but frozen is perfectly fine. It usually takes about an hour to bake at 350 degrees. I recommend checking the pie after 45 minutes and then every five minutes after until the center is set but still squishy and a knife inserted into the pie comes out clean.
Whether you need a break from the FFC, are struggling through your first semester without a meal plan or have been cooking for years, I think you’ll find that these recipes are exactly what you need this fall. I associate each of these foods with peace and stability. Biting into a soft brigadeiro or spiced potato, my body is filled with substance and nourishment that reminds me that I’m alive, I’m safe and everything’s going to be okay.
Setting aside some time to cook these foods gives my life structure, a reference point in my crazy schedule. I know I’m not going to solve all my problems with a slice of pie, but that pie puts me in the right mindset to deal with those problems one by one.