Stories of Comfort, Mashed Potatoes to Polenta

You know that dish, the one your Mom, Dad, Grandma made you as a kid? The dish that took away sadness, aches, hunger, a cold winters chill replacing it with a warm hug from the inside out? This post, is about a family with two versions of comfort food, American and Italian, Mashed Potatoes and Polenta.

In my house, comfort came in the form of Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes served with a side of what my Mom called “Chicken Savers.” A biscuit fried in the same pan as the chicken, capturing all the savory chicken seasoning and juices and delivering them in a crispy, perfectly fried bite.

When my Mom was a kid in Iowa, Chicken Savers made the meal stretch further for the farm hands, thus their name. Later, when I was a kid, Mom made them in memory of her Mother and because we, her two daughters LOVED THEM!

Nearly 30 years later, I can remember digging my crispy Chicken Saver into Mashed Potatoes heavily laced with real butter and then, that savory flavor bomb would hit. Oh, ok this is too much, I’m so hungry and my mouth is actually watering! Yeah, I’m that American and yes, I was that lucky as a kid.

As I told my Husband this story for the first time, he quickly brought up Polenta. My initial reaction, was “really? That stuff that comes in a tube?” I was dreaming of Mashed Potatoes and Crispy Chicken flavor, how could that possibly compare? Now it was Bello’s turn to say “really?!”

In response, he had my butter loving butt hiking 1,768 meters up a snow covered mountain to Refuge i Re Magi in Bardonecchia for my first steaming bowl of true Italian Polenta Concia.

It should be noted, Bello said “it’s a little steep for about :20 minutes, then it flattens out.” In reality, during that hour and a half hike, up a very, very steep incline, I found myself sweating through a winter coat thinking “I don’t even LIKE Polenta!”

Well, I found out quickly, I was dead wrong. At the end of that monstrous hike, while physically exhausted with freezing cold extremities, I tucked into a bowl so simple, yet so comforting and delicious I was an instant convert. Polenta can be pimped out just like mashed Potatoes with loads of butter, herbs or melty cheeses.

Enjoying Polenta Concia in Refuge i Re Magi
Enjoying Polenta Concia in Refuge i Re Magi

I now love Polenta as much as Mashed Potatoes, if not more. Well you know, unless you throw in a Chicken Saver, then I’m a Mashed Potato gal… or wait a minute. Polenta Concia with Fried Chicken and Chicken Savers, yep that’s happening when I return to the US and can cook with my Mom.

Second Helping of Polenta

  • Polenta at 8 Angell Street, a Homemade Tale - Polenta is to Italy what Mashed Potatoes are to America, the ultimate Comfort Food. Both are derived from humble inexpensive ingredients, able to be transformed in countless ways from bland to Oh, My, God good. Comfort Foods Are Economical We’re talking the kind of good that usually only comes from Mamma or for us Americans, Mom. Polenta is one of […]

Polenta Recipe

  • Pantry Must-Have: Polenta - I’m a little obsessed with Polenta this week. Can you blame me? Every time I have it, I’m reminded how it’s the ultimate Italian Comfort Food. How easy it is to doctor it up, how an inexpensive ingredient can create a satisfying, hearty, delectable meal. Plus, you know, if you keep a pantry, you can always […]


    1. I don’t know but I can help you fix it! It’s going to take a few months since Bello and I are still traveling but when I get home, I am seriously breaking out the cast iron with Mom and getting to work on those Chicken Savers and making sure I can make them as good as she does. Will share that recipe! Which right now, it’s all in Mom’s head. Love meeting other Iowa folks. Born there myself same Hospital as my Mom:)


  1. Brandy, you can tell Bello….my American side…ate polenta with maple syrup!!! That’s how my family ate it…so you can imagine my thoughts when John’s mom pulled out polenta with spaghetti sauce..which is what his family…not John ate it. John doesn’t like it! Too funny!

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Did you swap recipes with my Mom? I seem to recall that happening once in our house too! Bello will think we’re all nuts when he hears that. Jokes aside my Mom was one heck of a cook and no body ever beat her Comfort Foods. Oh man Chicken and Homemade Egg Noodles with Mashed Potatoes was another yummy one. Oh and her Kringla (Norwegian pastry.) Wow homesick!


    1. Haha fair enough. What’s your favorite way to have Potatoes? Mashed with loads of good butter and a little roasted garlic goes over very well in my house. Also pretty keen to slice it paper thin and wrap and pan fry a fish fillet with it – hello!


      1. The mashed with a ton of goodies 😉

        But I like potatoes almost every way they can be made lol. Part of the DNA 🙂


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