Some people hate “top ten” lists, so I won’t call this a Top Ten list…except for the fact that it does happen to have 10 items…call it coincidence!

I was thinking about my favorite meals. I have many, so narrowing it down to just a few took some serious consideration. Here’s my list; surprisingly filled with familiar comfort foods instead of exotic items:

1. Pizza

The perennial “desert island” food. You could eat 365 variations and never exhaust the possibilities.  I like both the thin-crust Neapolitan style with just a few ingredients, but I also like the much-maligned Greco-Roman version – a medium thickness crust with about an inch of toppings. It’s all good.

2. Shepherd’s Pie

My passion is probably due to extreme deprivation. My wife has refused to make it more than 2-3 times over the last 35 years, claiming that it must be made with leftover ground meat. THERE ARE NO FREAKING LEFTOVERS IN THIS HOUSE….WHY CAN’T YOU GET THIS THROUGH YOUR HEAD? So I’ve taken up the challenge myself, making it about once a month just to torment her. A favorite variation is with duck-meat confit and caramelized onions topped with a 50/50 mix of boiled cauliflower and potatoes mashed together with some good cheese.

3. Chili

What a versatile dish. Eat it straight from the bowl with some cheddar cheese, or spoon it into tortilla shells (hard and soft) for everything from a snack to lunch and dinner. And like pizza, you can make a few dozen varieties and not exhaust the possibilities. I like it with loads of hot peppers and some beer in the mixture.

4. Mussels and fries

5. Steak tartare and fries. Preferably horse-meat in the traditional rendition from France, with a raw egg, anchovies, capers, and Dijon.

6. Steak and fries. The operative word in the three above is “fries”. Preferably Belgian style: Thin and crisp rather than soft and greasy.

7. Pasta Fagioli

A thick soup of pasta and beans in a rich tomato sauce with tons of garlic. Preferably with fresh canneli beans, hand-shucked and frozen at Summer’s end. My wife just finished shucking this year’s batch.

8. Spaghetti with Bottarga

Spaghetti tossed with olive oil and garlic and drizzled with freshly grated red-mullet bottarga (dried caviar).

9. Home-made hamburger. Another perennial favorite that can be prepared in hundreds of combination. My favorite: Coarsely ground bison in a hallah roll, sitting on a bed of arugula, and topped with goat cheese.

10. Maryland-style crab cakes

Variants can be made with lobster or even left over salmon. Gently pan-fried in olive oil and served on a bed of greens with some lime mayo.

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