Diners turn to comfort foods in uncertain times. Update classic applications for the warmer months with a fruit-forward twist.
By DOLE Foodservice
From grilled cheese to green bean casserole; pot roast to pizza—comfort food dishes appeal to the child in all of us. These feel-good favorites are a source of delight, and the comfort food category is a great place to introduce signature flavors. DOLE Foodservice examines some spins on comfort food classics, with tips for using fruit in condiments, batters, salsas and more.
Bridging the gap between nostalgic and new
When you hear the term “comfort food,” what comes to mind? In the U.S., comfort food is synonymous with fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, casseroles, gravy, meatloaf, pot pie, chili—the list goes on. These dishes offer up a taste of nostalgia and homestyle appeal, with a focus on irresistible rich, creamy, buttery and/or fried flavors. Just because the category often evokes a “retro” feel doesn’t mean comfort foods need to feel old-fashioned.
For example, enlivening classic dishes with house-made condiments and other premium ingredient touches can bring them into the modern era. Regional barbecue, a perennial comfort classic, continues to dominate menus. Playing off this popularity, chefs can serve up succulent grilled short ribs with an unexpected twist, such as a blackberry barbecue sauce that balances sweet and savory flavors.
At breakfast, elevate a standard sausage, egg and cheese sandwich with a crisp hash brown patty and strawberry chutney for a dynamic combination of comforting flavors. The global comfort food category can be an exciting area for innovation as well. Dishes such as Georgian khachapuri (bread boats stuffed with molten cheese and a runny egg), English pasty (baked, stuffed hand pies) or Indian vada pav (seasoned potato fritter served on a bun) range from shareable appetizers, to entrées, to grab-and-go snacks.
Though the dishes themselves might not be completely familiar to Americans, these items and other international dishes feature a mix of exciting ingredients as well as recognizable flavors and textures that create a more universal comfort food experience.
Comfort cuisine with a fruit-forward twist
From breakfast through dessert, comfort food adds a taste of home to any dining experience. These recipes, featuring DOLE fruit, are inspired by consumer favorites— with a signature twist to enliven your menu offerings.
Potato skin bowls with peach sour cream: The game-day classic takes on a sweet twist with the addition of candied bacon, DOLE diced peaches and a drizzle of DOLE peach frozen purée. Try them for breakfast and brunch meals too.
Steak milanesa with piña criolla: Lighter and brighter than a chicken-fried steak, our version is served with a cool DOLE pineapple, tomato and bell pepper salsa.
Blackberry cobbler with crème fraîche: This mouthwatering skillet dessert showcases blackberries two ways: juicy frozen DOLE blackberries are folded into the batter and DOLE blackberry frozen purée is whisked into crème fraîche for additional flavor and color.
Barbecued chicken pizza: For a colorful, tropical twist on your standard pizza offerings, top with broiled BBQ chicken strips, DOLE pineapple tidbits, roasted red pepper, mozzarella and parsley.
Watch a video of the above comfort food creations from DOLE Foodservice and see how to create a fruit-forward twist on well-known comfort foods.
On trend, on the menu
Hearty comfort food dishes that incorporate fruit appear in everything from appealing sweet to savory flavors.
Strawberry pineapple milkshake: chopped pineapple and strawberries spun together in vanilla soft serve ice cream.
National Brewpub Chain
Hawaiian pork egg rolls: luau pork, pepper jack cheese, peppers, onions, grilled pineapple-mango salsa and sriracha ranch.
All-Day Breakfast Chain
Peach supreme pie: creamy vanilla crème supreme filling, topped with sweet peaches and real whipped cream in a flaky pie crust.
Family Dining Chain
Apple cider BBQ chicken breast: grilled chicken breast seasoned with smoky Southern spice, topped with apple cider BBQ sauce and a fresh Gala apple and dried cranberry chutney
Chef James’s Chef Tidbits
DOLE Chef James Bickmore-Hutt Comfort says that foods tend to be associated with happy memories, and that connection truly shapes the flavor perception of a dish. He suggests trying these tips to elevate the comfort food experience.
Nothing better than baking: What’s more familiar than the joyful simplicity of freshly baked goods? Serve up cobblers filled with DOLE fruit and top with sauces or crème fraiche made with DOLE frozen fruit purées.
Eliminate the cleanup: Dig into fun and hearty appetizers with your hands— no utensils needed! Dipping sauces featuring DOLE frozen fruit purées add a sweet touch to wings, tots and more.
Don’t make it complicated: Some of the most comforting dishes can be made with as few as five ingredients. Consider simple beverages that remind people of their favorite vacation spot—like piña coladas made with DOLE pineapple juice—or colorful fruit salsas that complement the flavors of fried foods.
Enjoy it while it’s hot: Remember the “hot food, hot plate” rule, because the temperature of a dish plays a huge role in a diner’s enjoyment. The smell of a freshly prepared dish is essential to its flavor experience. Aromatics are more active in hot food so be sure to keep them as such!
Photos courtesy of DOLE Foodservice.