8 Twisted Comfort Dishes for Fall

By Olga Boikess  |  October 14, 2013

Crisp fall weather is sharpening appetites for hearty comfort fare. But who wants to go with the same old standards all the time? That’s why creative cooks are mining an international mix of traditions to come up with interesting twists on the classics. Read on for eight examples to try.

  • Boundary Road: Braised Pork Shoulder

    Looking to Bavaria, and the local farmer's market, to inspire a riff on choucroute garnie, this Atlas District saloon is slow-cooking pork with apples, sauerkraut and a German sausage called Jagerwurst. It’s served with butternut squash spaetzle, pears and baby turnips (202-450-3265).

  • Café DuPont: Duck Confit Salad

    Chef David Fritsche came up with his new take on duck confit salad for his DuPont Circle bistro after shopping for vinegar in Eastern Market. Experimenting at home, he settled on a ruby red grapefruit-white balsamic version that he uses in the salad dressing. He cures Muscovy duck legs for 24 hours in sea salt, then he cooks them in duck fat with aromatics. The salad is garnished with duck-skin cracklings and dried apple chips, for another burst of fruity flavor (202-483-6000).

  • Daikaya Izakaya: Chicken and Waffles

    In Chinatown, this Japanese tavern reinvents Sunday brunch comfort classics with an imaginative sensibility. Check out its chicken 'n' waffles - a fish shaped, grid-patterned pancake, enlivened with a red bean-paste filling and topped with nuggets that are fried using a tempuralike technique (202-589-1600).

  • Mintwood Place: Escargot Hushpuppies

    Chef Cedric Maupillier’s Gallic take on a Southern staple has become something of a classic in its own right. He explains: “The hushpuppies are made with buttermilk, cornmeal and bacon fat in the most traditional way. We mix into it some braised helix snails sauteed in butter, shallots, garlic and lots of parsley." Served on the side is a chervil and Pernod remoulade (202-234-6732).

  • Mio: Kan Kan Pork Chops

    At this Downtown Latin, chef Giovanna Huyke prepares her Puerto Rican specialty with a custom-butchered, two-inch-wide cut of pork that includes the belly. Her complex preparation involves two brines - the first of which seasons and prepares the meat for absorbing the hearty flavors of the second (with notes of annato, garlic, cumin and lime zest). The chops are slowly cooked and then fried just before serving, with a rice and red bean dish, tostones and twice-fried green plantains. It’s “all about the duos of flavors," she says (order ahead, 202-955-0075).

  • New Heights: Pasta Carbonara

    This Woodley Park New American is known for fare that’s creative without being trendy or faddish. The latest example is a fresh take on a tried-and-true pasta dish. Housemade fettuccine is prepared with bacon, black pepper and an egg that's poached for an hour at 63 degrees Celsius (or 145 Fahrenheit). The chef, Takeshi Nishikawa, notes that in Japan they use hot springs to poach eggs to that temperature (202-234-4110).

  • 1905: Shrimp and Grits

    A Southern favorite, shrimp and grits are perked up with pickled green tomatoes and squid ink-blackened breadcrumbs at this Shaw New American pioneer. For additional flavor, the shrimp get a long dunk in coriander, Vidalia onions and parsley before cooking (202-332-1905).

  • Zentan: Uni Risotto

    Chef Jennifer Nguyen credits her time in Japan for inspiring her take on the Italian classic at this Logan Circle Asian. She notes that cheese is surprisingly used in many of the dishes there, and feels that uni, with its umami flavor, is underutilized. Here she crafts a complex sauce with dashi, marin, shoyu and sake so that the uni’s brininess is not overpowering, and she uses sticky rice for a twist on risotto, finishing it with Parmesan cheese (202-379-4366).