Comfort food, with a light twist

Local chefs show us how to feel better and feel good about it

(Sarah Pastrana, Baltimore…)
February 27, 2013|By Kit Waskom Pollard, For The Baltimore Sun

The season's chilly weather calls for comfort food, but that's no reason to pack on the pounds. After all, spring is right around the corner.

We asked local chefs to share their comfort food favorites, lightened up a bit in honor of the season ahead. Many of our chefs gravitated toward seafood, and some added fresh vegetables and herbs.

Eat and enjoy!

Cyrus Keefer


1520 Clipper Road, Baltimore


"I've always found pasta comforting," says Cyrus Keefer. He describes his sophisticated take on pasta — homemade spaetzle (egg noodles) tossed with finely shaved escargots — as "light and velvety and very nutty, with escargots and truffles for sinful and simple decadence."

Parmesan Spaetzle with Shaved Escargot

Serves 8-10


9 whole eggs

1/2 quart fresh ricotta

1 quart Parmesan cheese

1/2 quart whole milk

1.5 quarts purpose flour

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Shaved escargot:

1 can of helix snails (drained)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons small diced carrots

1 teaspoon minced shallot

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon thyme

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 quart chicken stock

1 teaspoon white truffle oil

1 Tablespoon butter

1. For the spaetzle, whisk the eggs until smooth and pale yellow in large mixing bowl. Add the ricotta and Parmesan.

2. Add the milk and whip with a rubber spatula and then incorporate the flour. Add salt, and whip until you have the consistency of thick pancake batter.

3. To cook the spaetzle, you will need a large sauce or stock pot and a colander, or a spaetzle maker.

4. Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil, turn down to just above a simmer and press the batter through the holes in stages. Let the spaetzle float and, using a pasta strainer, remove from the water and place on a sheet tray or a large plate. Let the spaetzle cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. For the escargot, place the snails, garlic, carrots. shallots, bay leaves, thyme and kosher salt in a pot, cover with chicken stock, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and discard all except for the snails. Cut into shavings with a sharp knife and add a pinch of salt and white truffle oil.

6. To serve, heat a large nonstick sauté to near high heat with a tablespoon of butter.

Sauté spaetzle until lightly brown. Add 1 tablespoon of the escargot shavings and toss until warm. Garnish simply with fresh parsley, shaved Parmesan, a little salt and even a little truffle oil

Eric Houseknecht

Thames Street Oyster House

1728 Thames Street, Baltimore


"This was the first soup I learned how to make when I moved to Providence," says Eric Houseknecht of his popular clam chowder, which is lighter than many other seafood stews. "It still always reminds me of cold rainy days and fishing in New England."

Rhode Island Quahog Chowder Recipe

Yield: 1/2 gallon

6 quahog clams OR 2 cups of chopped clams

1 cup diced applewood smoked bacon

4 stalks celery, diced

1 medium Spanish onion, diced

3 ears fresh corn (cut off the cob)

3 Tablespoons all purpose flour

3 cups red potatoes, diced

1 quart fresh clam juice or canned

2 bay leaves

1 cup water

2 cups cream

About 1 teaspoon each of fresh chives and thyme

Salt and pepper

1. Open clams making sure to save all the juices. Remove clam meat from shells and slice thin. Put in a container with the juice from the opened clams and set aside.

2. In a soup pot render diced bacon until crispy. Add celery, onion and corn and cook until the vegetables become soft. Add flour and mix together well.

3. Add potatoes, the quart of fresh or canned clam juice, bay leaves, water, and slowly simmer until potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes.)

4. Add cream and chopped clams with their juice, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Justin Moore

VIN 909

909 Bay Ridge Avenue, Annapolis


"Fresh, properly seared scallops are one of my favorite things to eat," says Justin Moore. "The natural sugars in the scallops caramelize and make a great dish." Moore pairs scallops with homemade slaw, given a modern edge by roasted cardamom and coriander.

"Pairing the scallops with fresh homemade coleslaw keeps this dish light and refreshing," he says. "It doesn't weigh you down. You feel like you could still go running after you eat!"

Pan Seared Scallops with Cardamom Slaw

Serves 6 as a small appetizer

1 head Napa cabbage

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 orange

1 cup mayonnaise

1/8 cup chopped tarragon

1/8 cup parsley

1 medium carrot, grated

1 shallot, sliced very thin

Lemons or lemon juice

1 teaspoon Sriracha (or, to taste; for heat)

Salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon butter

6 very fresh scallops with no chemicals added

Extra virgin olive oil

1. Chiffonade the head of cabbage. Mix the cabbage with roasted cardamom and coriander.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.