Life as a single Mother-Empty nest, Dating, Ex-husband, Best Friends, Full-time Employment, Unemployment, night school...How do these all relate to one another? Come with me:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cooler weather calls for Stew

When we were children, I don't recall my mother having a dislike for any foods. I found out later in my adult life that there were a few things that she didn't like, but she never told us. This made us both quite hearty eaters. Rarely did we complain about the food we were served, and honestly, I cant think of a reason to complain about it. My mother was/is a great cook and I learned at a very young age many of her cooking tips and recipes. I have passed on both of them, and the joy of cooking and food to my children also.

My mother grew up in the same small town that I now live and my children have spent the majority of their lives in. She was the oldest of five daughters born to my grandparents. Grandma was a homemaker and Grandpa was a body/fender man. The years of my mothers childhood, were hard times. Times of war. Where grandpa himself would have been, if not for a fellow soldier mis-firing his rifle and hitting grandpa in the head in basic training no less. He survived, was given an early medical discharge and sent back home.
But post war times were tough on the economy, and feeding a family of seven on a single white collar income was not easy. Many times, grandma would ask the butcher in town, for the parts of the cow that many butchers would just throw out. Parts that are often found these days to be delicacies... the best cuts. She would often get them for little or no charge and knew how to 'make something out of nothing' really.

Although my mother wasn't too impressed with a lot of those cuts, one recipe stuck with her. This one was a favorite of ours growing up. My mother has passed it on to my sister and I. It is a darn good thing that I didn't know what an oxtail was when I was little. Or at least I never put it together that an oxtail was in fact, an Ox's (or cows) tail. Or I may never have been able to coerce my own stomach into even tasting the stew. But Whoo eeee. It is good eatin'!

I remember making this stew for my now ex husband, he liked it. I thought I had made it for my kids also, but they swear they don't remember. I also recall the oxtails themselves being the cheapest cut of meat at the market... not so anymore!

Oh well, here is my recipe as I made it Sunday.

First, I browned the meat (6lbs- this sounds like a lot but they are half bone) on all sides in a skillet. In my experience, the smaller the bone, the sweeter and more tender the meat. However, if they are too small, there is no meat at all.

I bought two packages that had a mixture of many sizes as that was all they had at the time.

Next, chop up one medium onion white or yellow, your choice.
10 carrots also cut into bite sized pieces, I used a bag of baby carrots, less chopping. Add them to the onions. This can all be stewed in a large pot, until tender but I used a slow cooker.

Then I added the meat on top of the vegetables.

Pour in two cans of tomato soup. I used one carton of tomato basil. I think I may try substituting a can of diced tomatoes in place of the soup sometime. But it will need something to thicken it up. I love to mix-up my recipes once in a while. It is sometimes necessary when you are on a limited budget but then, that is how I invented some of my best creations. But this time, I did it as mother intended.

Pour one quarter cup of granulated sugar over the soup.

Then Two cups of water.

Season with good ol' stan d-by's salt and pepper.

Then sit back and relax, or head off for work, or get some cleaning done, or leaves raked. Simmer covered for 3 1/2 hours. No need to stir. (In the slow-cooker, I let them go for 5 hours and it was just right.)

Our Dog, blackjack helped

With the waiting part.

When there are only about 20 minutes left to simmer, boil some water and cook your choice of noodle, Mom uses large egg noodles (I chose some vegetable induced egg noodles) al dente'. (still a little firm)

And pour right into the stew.

and serve it up!

I think that mine could have simmered just a little longer, the meat was tough. When done right, this stew makes the sweetest, most tender, fall off the bones meat. Like little mini ribs.

If you can get your mind past the origins of the meat. You will not be disappointed with this dish.

And on a day like this,

curl up with your warm Labrador dog,

eat some oxtail stew

and re-live your childhood. Like mine when we would cuddle with a blanket over the heat vents in the floor and let the warm air create a warm bubble of warmth...aaahhhh to be a kid again.

I think I want to curl up with some leftover soup. Thanks mom!

Tip: If your fingers and hands smell of onion or garlic after you chop them, (As mine are prone to do the following day, and more)
Just cut a lemon in half and rub onto the smelly surface. In a pinch, lemon juice works as well. ta-da odor is gone!

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