Comfort Foods - Maryland Style

By Kathi Ferguson
 
The month of February gets a bad rap. By the time it comes around, winter has already dished up a portion of not so pleasant weather a month or two before. The thought of more to come before catching any sign of spring can be pretty bleak. Some of us escape to warmer climates until it all “goes away”, but if you are left to tough it out, there is always comfort food to help you through. And Delmarva has plenty to choose from.
 
Considered one of those “love it or hate it” foods, scrapple is an essential Mid-Atlantic meat. For some, breakfast is not eaten without it. Others would claim the less you know about its making, the better off you are. So, I will leave that up to you! One thing for sure, it is suited for pork lovers! Eaten solo, right out of the frying pan, with eggs, or pressed in a sandwich, this slice of pure pork crunch with a velvety soft center is oh so pleasing to the pork lovers’ palate. 
 
Now, what is a pot pie without…oysters! Yes, Maryland may be the epicenter of the chicken world, but the mighty oyster gives its chicken version a run for the money. This simple, rich dish is the quintessential classic, comforting pot pie, delivering that delectable briny oyster flavor with each and every bite. Succulent oysters are steeped in butter, potatoes, cream, celery, onion, thyme, and other seasonings, before being baked in individual crust-lined ramekins. One can barely resist breaking open the crust before the pie is cool! Rumor has it that the white sauce can also be used for chipped beef. Now, that’s a twofer!
 
This writer has not had the pleasure of trying this particular comfort food, but after learning more about Southern Maryland stuffed ham, I fully intend to seek one out. Largely passed down through oral tradition, this recipe goes back many generations and is still considered a centerpiece on holiday tables. Although there are variations on what the “stuff” is, greens, onions, and spices are common. Kale, collard, and mustard greens are also called for in some households. The stuffing is packed into pockets of a corned fresh ham, with what is left over pressed around it. The ham is wrapped in cheesecloth and boiled for several hours, then drained. Into the refrigerator it goes until it is cooled and ready to slice…thinly, please! The ham is served as a main dish or between slices of white bread or potato rolls. What, if any, condiments to use is anyone’s guess.
 
It was my first visit to Old Salty’s on Hoopers Island where not only did I learn of baked pineapple, but immediately became a fan. Our waitress informed us the recipe came from a local island church cookbook. Simple, sweet, but not overly, crushed pineapple is mixed with sugar, eggs and flour, topped with cubed bread, drizzled with melted butter, and baked. Served hot or cold, baked pineapple is offered as a side dish in area restaurants, but can easily serve as a dessert. The best part is we left with a handwritten copy of the recipe! How cool is that?
 
There are so many more dishes that can qualify as area comfort foods. All of us have our personal favorites, and it is tough to name them all. But one thing is certain. They all warm the soul, satisfy the taste buds, and bring a smile to our face.