What’s Your Favorite Comfort Food?

oxtail soup

My mom’s recipe of oxtail soup. This is the batch I made for Christmas 2019.

With all the crazy stuff going on, I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. We have a divided country and no matter what side you’re on, you’re probably feeling unsettled, angry and distraught.

Add that to months of being locked down due to a global pandemic, this has been a strange time indeed. Then this year we sold our home of 28 years and packed up and left within 30 days to a new state. So much upheaval in my life. So what makes me feel good? Reading beach novels by Elin Hilderbrand in the sunny backyard, watching quail, walking, hiking, having my cat jump into my lap, praying and yes — thinking about cooking comfort food.

Here are two of my all-time favorite comfort foods:

I used to make chicken and dumplings from the recipe on the Bisquick box. My mom cooked it when I was a child and I’m sure besides the warm broth, tender chicken and butter melting off the dumplings, that’s why it’s a favorite. I haven’t made it in years though because my kids got tired of it — and my husband thought the dumplings were gross. But, I think it might be time to give it a whirl.

old fashioned chicken and dumplings

Photo from the chicken and dumpling recipe at Stay at Home Chef

Click here for the Bisquick chicken and dumplings recipe brought to you by Betty Crocker. Here’s another great recipe for old fashioned chicken and dumplings from scratch with more detail by The Stay at Home Chef.

Another one of my favorite comfort foods is oxtail soup. That’s another thing my mom cooked when I was young. It took me years to not turn up my nose at oxtails. I couldn’t get my mind around them as a kid. My husband told his friends that he married me because of my oxtail soup. “If she can cook something so delicious out of that — I had to marry her.”

oxtail soup cooking

Browning the oxtails first is one of the keys. Also, letting the soup cool and removing the fat is essential.

My kids didn’t like oxtail soup when they were young, either. But now that they’re young adults they love it. It’s also become quite trendy in restaurants. Maybe that helped. Christmas 2019, I had to order a mass amount of oxtails at several grocery stores. We were hosting the kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family of seven siblings and mom — many of them are hungry athletes. I cooked several large pots of my oxtail soup so it would be ready when they arrived. It was all gone before the night was through.

My oxtail soup recipe is not written down and takes a feel based on experience. Here’s my attempt:

Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Brown the oxtails in oil and place them on a platter with paper towels to absorb fat. Place them in large pot with lots of garlic and broth. Simmer for several hours, adding water or broth to cover, and take off the heat before they are tender. Put in the fridge and leave overnight. The fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to remove with a spoon the next day.

Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, or whatever you like and simmer until the oxtails and vegetables are tender.

The feel part comes in to not overcook or undercook the oxtails so they are tender and start to fall off the bone.

family portrait outside

Our Christmas crew from 2018 and 2019.

My daughter had a class in college where they were asked to share their comfort foods. I was surprised when she told me her comfort food was take-out machaca from Las Casuelas the Original! Not my home cooking!

What are your favorite comfort foods and do you cook them yourself or order from restaurants? Would you share recipes?

What is Your Favorite Comfort Food?

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Lincoln’s birthday was my daughter’s birthday and we flew up to Salt Lake City to celebrate her 20th with her, watch her swim, and enjoy Valentine’s Day together. I left perfect 80 degree weather to be in the snow–but loved the change in scenery and cold weather.

One of the more interesting conversations we had was about comfort food. In one of my daughter’s classes they talked about food from childhood, and how certain smells spark memories. I agree that sensory memory is powerful. It’s a valuable tool for a writer’s palette.

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My daughter and friend diving in the 500 free.

She told her class that her comfort food was Mexican food. I felt sad that none of my dishes made her list. I consider myself a pretty good cook, and I made dinner and lunches for my family daily!

I remember when she was little she called all my dinners “chicken.” When I made pan-fried sole she proclaimed, “This is the best chicken ever! This is the chicken I like!”

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Chips and Salsa at El Gallito.

I get it about Mexican food. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we frequented El Gallito in Cathedral City for huevos rancheros every weekend. We’d sit together, without a care in the world, reading the Sunday Los Angeles Times from cover to cover. Bill’s former roommate saw us there and asked, “Is this what married life is like? You sit there reading the paper and don’t talk?”

We’re back to reading the paper without interruptions. It’s kind of nice not to be busy with daily chores of kids, as much as I miss them.

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Inside our favorite Mexican restaurant.

El Gallito is closing soon after more than 40 years of being open. It’s a family owned business, and in my opinion, it’s the best Mexican restaurant in the Coachella Valley. The flavor of their salsa will be locked in my sensory memory forever. I wish someone would take it over and continue on with their recipes.

So sad that all things must come to an end–whether it’s our days of a houseful of kids or our favorite Mexican restaurant.

What are your favorite comfort foods?

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A dog’s life in SLC on Valentine’s Day.