The Ultimate Guide to Comfort Foods from the Farmers at Cabot Creamery Co-operative
During the cold, dark days of winter, we often conjure up nostalgic memories of playing in the snow and then coming inside for a mug of hot chocolate or a bowl of Mom’s chicken noodle soup. Even as adults, we still crave comfort food — especially on frigid New England nights.
The 1,200 farmers of the Cabot Cheese Co-operative know a little something about spending time in the cold. They have animals to care for and chores to do on the farm. When they finish their day’s work (which usually runs well into the night), they need some comfort food to warm them up and get them ready to do it all again the next day.
Andrew Worthen’s Chicken Garden Chili
Jonas Worthen works the family farm in Mercer, ME, that his great-grandfather Libbee settled in 1850. He and his wife, Mellori, raise Holstein cows that produce milk used to make high-quality Cabot cheese. Like most farmers today, the Worthens live off the land. They also raise chickens and grow fruits and vegetables that Mellori preserves to feed the family all winter long.
The Worthens’ son Andrew is a fifth-generation Worthen Dairy farmer, whose goal is to make use solar- and wind-powered energy to make the farm as green as possible. He’s also a pretty good cook and shares his recipe for a chicken garden chili that uses all the good ingredients produced on the family farm.
This chili is nicely spiced and much healthier than a traditional beef chili. Chances are, you have the ingredients on hand and can whip up a batch tonight.
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 skinned and boned chicken breasts (about 2 lb.), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 (16-ounce) jars mild or medium salsa
1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (15.8-ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, undrained
2 cups fresh (3 ears) or frozen corn kernels
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine chili powder, cumin, salt, dried oregano, and coriander in a shallow dish.
- Dredge chicken in spice mixture until coated on all sides.
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown chicken in hot oil 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add salsa, green beans, Great northern beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and brown rice, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Alternatively, you can also transfer browned chicken to a slow cooker. Add salsa, green beans, Great northern beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and brown rice, and cook on low 5 to 6 hours.)
- Stir in 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, and ladle chili into bowls. Serve with toppings, if using.
Echo Farm’s Au Gratin Potatoes with Cheddar-Stout Sauce
Bob and Bonnie Hodge had successful city careers, but their dream was to move to the country, buy land, get a horse and maybe have a few sheep. In 1987, they purchased Echo Farm Puddings in Hinsdale, NH. They met the Schofield family, who had a barn and owned some Jersey cows. The Hodges had five milking shorthorns. As their friendship developed, the two families started the “family” that today consists of 100 jerseys and milking shorthorns, and 80 young cows.
The cows are truly treated like family, and all have names rather than numbers. On cold winter days, the Hodges have been known to bring newborn calves into the house. The cows are happy, and happy cows produce really, really good milk.
Bonnie Hodge, who is Irish, has created a favorite family recipe using potatoes and stout (Irish staples) and some delicious Cabot milk products. You might want to try her au gratin potatoes with cheddar-stout sauce for your winter holiday gathering.
2 pounds (about 2 large) Russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons Cabot Unsalted Butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark beer, such as stout or porter
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces Cabot Sharp Cheddar, grated and divided (about 2 cups)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat and add sliced potatoes. Stir to separate, reduce heat to medium and cook potatoes at a simmer for about 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 3-quart baking dish.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in flour and salt and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes until flour is golden. Whisk in beer and increase heat to bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in milk and cook 3 to 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
- Remove saucepan from heat and stir in 11/2 cups grated cheese. Add pepper and more salt to taste.
- Layer potatoes in prepared baking dish. Pour cheese sauce evenly over potatoes. Top evenly with remaining 1/2 cup grated cheese. Bake 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Savory Bread Pudding
Beth and Bob Kennett, who own Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, VT, with the help of their son David and his family, know a little bit about farming during cold New England winters. Beth’s family has farmed since 1641 and Bob’s since 1742.
The Kennetts’ dairy farm includes 270 award-winning Robeth Holsteins. As a side business, the two also own and operate an 1825 “guest farm” inn on their property. The barn door is always open for guests who want to experience country life and milk a cow or two.
Farming is a 24/7 business, but it’s also a labor of love. Beth, who was honored in 2013 with the prestigious Vermont Chamber of Commerce Innkeeper of the Year award, says farm life is all about food and family. She enjoys preparing good, hearty meals for her family and for guests at the inn. One of her favorites is a savory bread pudding — ideal for a Sunday brunch or a potluck dinner.
6 large eggs
1 cup lowfat (1%) milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dried or fresh herbs to taste
3 cups cubed bread (leftover dinner rolls or extra bread from stuffing)
3 cups diced mixed cooked vegetables (such as onions, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, fennel, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots)*
8 ounces Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated and divided, (about 2 cups)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 7-by-11-inch baking dish.
- In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings. Fold in cubed bread, vegetables and 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
- Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until set all the way to center.
*For vegetables, use leftover crudités, diced and sautéed in olive oil or butter, or leftover cooked vegetables, diced.
For a Mexican flavor, use Cabot Chipotle Cheddar plus some chopped olives and a little salsa.
Garganelli Mac ‘n Cheese with Roasted Jalapeños and Bacon
The Pitcher Inn, located in Warren, VT, is not a farm; it’s a luxury Relais & Châteaux property three miles from Sugarbush and 15 minutes from Mad River Glen — two top Vermont ski areas. When you want to warm up and fill up après ski, there’s nothing like the ultimate comfort food: the inn’s to-die-for mac ‘n cheese with jalapeños and bacon.
2 fresh jalapeño peppers
4 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced
3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Cabot Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups whole milk, heated to just below simmer
12 ounces Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cabot 3 Year Cheddar or Cabot Farmhouse Reserve Cheddar, grated (about 3 cups)
Salt to taste
8 ounces dry garganelli or penne pasta
- Roast jalapeños directly over stovetop gas burner or under preheated broiler, turning with tongs, until skins are blistered all over.
- Transfer peppers to small plastic bag and let stand. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard stems, skin and seeds. Chop flesh into fine dice and set aside.
- Cook bacon in skillet until lightly browned; transfer with slotted spoon to small bowl. Add breadcrumbs, along with small amount of bacon fat to moisten, combining well.
- In medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Let cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in milk. Continue cooking, stirring often, until sauce is simmering and thickened. Let sauce bubble gently until quite thick, about 10 minutes longer, stirring often so it doesn’t scorch on bottom.
- Remove from heat and stir in cheddar; when cheese is melted, season sauce with salt as needed.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain and return to pot. Add cheese sauce and reserved jalapeños and stir together.
- Transfer pasta to 2-quart baking dish or six individual ramekins. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned on top and bubbling throughout.
The farmers who are part of the Cabot Co-op live and breathe farm life, and believe in sustainability. The responsible care and concern they show their animals — and the land they live on — shows up in the quality milk the cows produce. See for yourself when you try their incredible comfort food recipes.