What odd foods did you grow up with?

oxtail soup on the stove
My mom cooked oxtail soup. Now it’s one of my specialties. I cooked these two pots of soup for Christmas week when we had our son’s girlfriend’s family stay with us.

My mother had a few recipes that I couldn’t stomach. Mom loved the odd cuts of meat (like organs) and learned how to cook them from her mother and grandmother. I don’t remember many of our neighborhood moms cooking the same things.

I liked her chicken hearts that were dusted in flour and fried. But I passed on gizzards.

Beef tongue was a hard pass.

Mom’s beef heart I could handle. She’d stuff the heart and bake it in the oven. Then she sliced it and I’d have a thin ring of heart around delicious stuffing.

The oxtail soup I shied away from until I hit junior high. Then I discovered oxtails were the most tender delicious meat I’d ever eaten and the broth was rich but so flavorful. Years later, I made oxtail soup for my “at the time boyfriend.” I overheard him telling a friend that he had to marry me because of my oxtail soup.

“How can she make something so amazing out of !!#!??”

I discovered this recipe in one of my great-grandmother’s cookbooks that she published in the early 1900s and sold to Ladies’ church auxiliaries across the country. It’s my dream to bring the little cookbooks back to life. Great-grandmother Nellie’s recipe is not how I cook oxtail soup, but it’s the same general principle.

My dad’s side of the family had some oddball dishes too. Christmas meant Lutefisk and fish head stew. I could not get myself to stop staring at the eyeballs staring up at me from the stew. It definitely killed my appetite.

If you haven’t heard of Lutefisk this is from Wikipedia:

Lutefisk is prepared as a seafood dish of several Nordic countries. It is traditionally part of the Christmas feast; Norwegian julebord and Swedish julbord, as well as the similar Finnish joulupöytä.

 Finnishlipeäkala [ˈlipeæˌkɑlɑ]; literally “lye fish”) is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling and burbot are also used). It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish), or dried and salted cod, pickled in lye. It is gelatinous in texture after being rehydrated for days prior to eating.

Besides the recipes I mentioned, my mom also served us canned Chef Boyardee ravioli, Swanson’s TV dinners, Space Food Sticks and Tang.

What are some of the foods you grew up with? Did your family cook anything odd?

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?