James Beard Award Winner, TV personality
Credit: Courtesy of Travel Channel

We asked food experts from various lands to tell their comfort food tales, then created lighter—but still deeply comforting—recipes inspired by their stories.

Andrew Zimmern plays the role of the food guy who'll eat anything. But anyone who watches Bizzare Foods soon realizes he eats these foods not so much as a stunt as an affirmation that one man's "ick" can be another's true passion and joy: Zimmern will play the goof, but he's an ambassador of comfort and connection through food. For him, the ultimate comfort food, world over, is soup. "A warm mug or whole bowl slurped or scooped puts you in very close proximity with your food."

He tells this story with typical, infectious Zimmern detail: "We're in Morocco, and we're in the souk in Marrakech, and there are 10 different lamb stalls, starting with whole roast lamb. And as you went down the lines, the pickings got slimmer, all the way to a thin lamb broth, made just with the bones. The merchant would walk up to the top stand and give [the vendor] the roasted lamb bones, and he would make broth in the little tin cups. He always had a bigger line than anywhere else. Everyone remembered the broth from their childhood. There were more smiles at that stall than anywhere else in the city!"

Childhood soup memories can mean posole in Mexico or udon in Japan, but, "I'm a Jewish kid from New York, so for me it's chicken in the pan."

He poaches a whole chicken in rich chicken stock, reinforcing the flavor. In this version of matzo ball soup, we roast chicken wings to make a rich broth and use flavorful dark meat for the soup. We cut the schmaltz—chicken fat, unctuous but calorie-packed—and added a bit of chopped fresh dill with the matzo balls for a surprising but comforting zing. It's a beautiful thing.