5 Comforting Dinners to Make This Fall
When the temperatures begin to drop our response is often instinctual — just like other animals, all we want to do is burrow into a warm nest, and spend several months sleeping, and living off food that we’ve already gathered. While jobs, children, and other social obligations make this enticing prospect more of a fantasy than a reality, we can still ensure that our fall season is cozier than ever by whipping up a series of hearty and delicious dinners that take advantage of the last days of seasonal produce.
Making comforting meals is a great fall activity — it helps keep us busy in the evenings as the days get longer, and ensures we’ve got a belly full of warm, nourishing food before we turn in for the night. Here are some of the most comforting dinners that you can make this fall.
1. Chicken Pot Pie
If you’re interested in a meal that’s a hearty combination of succulent meat, flavorful gravy, and rich pastry, then chicken pot pie is definitely the best option for you. Chicken pot pie is essentially a rich chicken stew that’s ladled into a pastry-lined ramekin or baking dish. Then, another sheet of either pastry or biscuit dough is pressed on top, and the entire thing is baked until the pastry is golden brown on the top, and the liquid inside is bubbling.
To make this dish, you’ll first need to choose whether you favor a pie crust, or whether biscuit dough is more your style. Either way, the dough should be quick to make from scratch, or you can go the easy route and use a store-bought pie crust.
Chicken pot pie starts with a roux, which is used to thicken stock, to which aromatics like celery, carrot, and onion are added. The most traditional chicken pot pie has plenty of pre-cooked chicken, along with peas, carrots, and sometimes red or pimento peppers. These ingredients are stirred into the thickened stock, then the liquid mixture is poured into the crust and sealed with dough. Let rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Another hearty dish that’s perfect for fall is chili. There are tons of different options, and depending on your location or nationality, you may have a preference towards one or the other. Whether your favored recipe is the meat-and-pepper chili of Texas, or the chile verde of New Mexico, there’s truly a chili out there for everyone.
Most recipes start with the central ingredient, which is usually either cubed pork, ground beef, or beans. Brown the meat, if you’re using that, and ensure no pink or raw spots remain. Then, most recipes will have you introduce the various other ingredients in stages — beans first, if you’re using them, then other vegetables, to ensure they’re cooked before the introduction of the liquid. Spices get added before the liquid, then everything is left to simmer. Once the chili is cooked through and is flavored to your liking, you can serve it in a variety of ways. It makes a great meal all on its own, or you can serve cornbread on the side. Serve it over rice, or even over spaghetti, which is traditional for Cincinnati chili.
3. Pork Chops with Apple and Onion
Somehow, the addition of apple to any dish, be it savory or sweet, makes us think of fall. This rich and savory dish, which uses apples and onions to flavor hearty pork chops, is a great dish to make when you’re pressed for time, but still want a meal that fills you up and tastes great.
To make this dish, you’ll need the best pork chops that you can possibly find — since there are so few ingredients, it really pays to use the best. The pork chops, once trimmed of fat, can be seasoned with salt and pepper, then laid into a hot pan to sear until they’re golden brown. This searing is important to create the proper browning, which will impart tons of flavor to the pork.
It’s important to not overcrowd the chops in the pan, or rush this process — you need that flavor. Once the chops are browned, melt some butter in the same pan, and add your sliced onion and apples. Once they’re softened, and the onion has begun to caramelize, add in a cup of liquid — depending on what kind of flavor you want, this can be anything from apple cider (to beef up that apple flavor), beer, or stock. Simply, put the pork chops back into the pan, and cook everything together until the meat is cooked through.
4. Beef and Barley Soup
Although it doesn’t get much love from home chefs, barley truly shines in the fall, and nowhere is it better featured than in this delicious beef and barley soup. If you’re looking for a dish that’s hearty and filling without making you feel like you’re creaking at the seams, a protein-rich soup is a great choice.
For an excellent beef and barley soup, start with the beef — instead of the usual stewing beef, look for short rib, which includes lots of collagen, fat, and bone marrow that breaks down and makes the meat extremely tender and the soup more flavorful. Brown the meat whole, then take it out of the pan, and chop it up into bite-sized pieces. Sauté chopped celery, carrot, and onion, take those out, then add in stock and aromatics like rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves.
Then, all you need to do is simmer it all for an hour or two, and add in the add the barley in the last half-hour of cooking, so it cooks up plump and flavorful. Add your sautéed veggies back in and cook until they’re heated through. Serve with a loaf of hearty bread, and you’ve got a fantastic fall meal.
5. Stuffed Peppers
There are so many ways to make stuffed peppers, and once you start, you’ll never want to stop. From the filling to the type of peppers you use, you can make a new variety every day of the week and never get tired of the dish. If you want to be inspired by the flavors and heat of New Mexico or Arizona, whip up an authentic meal of chiles rellenos, which use a simple mixture of cheese and oregano to turn roasted poblano peppers into a satisfying meal. The entire dish is then doused with red chile sauce, and topped with even more cheese.
If you’re looking for a quicker way to stuff peppers, you can use these suggestions from Serious Eats, which generally include a pre-cooked protein like beans, crab, chicken, or pork, along with a mixture of vegetables, and something that binds it all together. As long as the mixture comes together into a cohesive mixture, you can use the pepper as a cooking vessel to make a perfectly portioned and delicious dinner.
Vary it up by using different types of bell peppers, or get creative and reach for poblanos, Shepherd peppers, or Anaheims.