Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oxtail Stew

What a wringer of a week it’s been! And not a wringer in a super-busy-but-achieving-a-lot kind of way, but wringer in the putting-out-forest-fires way. It was the type of week where you feel you need a bazooka to trouble-“shoot” and a stiff drink at the end of each day. The type when you feel like it’s been a dozen days already, but realize “it’s only Tuesday??”. That very type. Unless you were born under a frightfully lucky star (in which case, pat-pat, good for you), you know this type too.

But this is not about what I had to muck through this week.

This is about a night I stood on my balcony, in the dark wee hours, feeling as I described above. I looked up at the almost starless sky, and around at the dark windows of my neighbors, compass-askew and bereft, and…just…let go. This is, by and large, a non-denominational blog, and I don’t usually talk about religion (or politics) here. But I do believe in something greater than myself, greater than us all. I believe that This Greatness is beyond anything we could ever imagine, and yet is so familiar in a very primal way. I don’t, however, think about this every day, nor do I talk about it overly much. That night though, I reached out across that dark night and called for Him.

This is also about the very next morning, when I got a phone call from someone sharing incredible news. Unconnected incidents…yet so connected. How I sat dumbstruck, almost disbelieving. And I could hear a voice in my head saying, “You’re dealing with A Professional, kid, and don’t you forget it.

This doesn’t quite have anything to do with oxtail stew except that it’s an incredibly comforting dish and slow cooking, in and of itself, helps me to de-stress. So I’d like to share it with you…a small offering in gratitude for life’s Greatness.

Oxtail Stew
(adapted from Gnocchi with braised oxtail in Jaime Oliver's Cook With Jamie)

  • Olive oil
  • 1 – 1.5 kilo oxtail, cut in chunks
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 leek, trimmed and finely chopped
  • About 1/3 of a 750ml bottle of red wine
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 400-gram can chopped tomato
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • A handful of fresh sage leaves
  • A knob of butter
- Heat a heavy-bottomed oven-proof sauce pan or pot and add a couple of glugs of olive oil. When the oil is hot add your oxtail and brown on all sides. Add the celery, onion, carrot, and leek. Cook this gently until everything is soft and the onions are a touch golden.
- When the vegetables are soft, add the wine. Let this bubble for a bit, scraping up any stuck bits. Add the crushed spices, cinnamon, tomato paste, and chopped tomatoes. Top up with a little water until oxtail are just covered. Stir everything together, make sure the oxtail is in one layer, cover the pot, and place in a 300F pre-heated oven. Cook for 4 – 4 1/2 hours or until meat is soft and falling off the bones, checking on it occasionally to stir things around and make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom or getting too dry.
- When the meat has reached your desired degree of softness, add the oregano and simmer on the stovetop for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a pan. When bubbles have subsided, fry the sage leaves in the butter until they are dark green and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
- Serve the oxtail stew topped with the fried sage leaves.

I love Jamie Oliver, and think him a genius, plus adorable to boot. This dish is a perfect example of what he is good at. Homey, hearty, real-life, grandmother-y sort of sustenance. It nourishes as well as comforts. In the original version the oxtail meat is taken off the bone and shredded, and used as a chunky sauce for gnocchi (I know, brilliant and must be tried someday!). It also uses a whole oxtail, of which I had no access, so I adjusted the quantities to suit a lesser amount. I suggest whizzing the fennel and juniper in a coffee grinder – I used my mortar and pestle and still came across some bumps in my stew. The overall flavor is awesome, what with the fennel and juniper and cinnamon and oregano and sage, and the oxtail just melts into soft and sticky chunks. Be sure to cook it gently for as long as it takes to get really tender. Be patient, it is worth it. C and I loved it, and I am happy to report that little C loved it as well. I did shred the leftovers and had it with linguine and a generous grating of pecorino --- I think I may just make another batch solely for this purpose.

The weekend is finally (finally!) here. It’s an incredibly sunny day, after weeks of typhoons and grey skies. The skies today are bright blue and my little tadpole has graduated to one less floater in swim class. We are going Halloween costume and pajama shopping and, hopefully, on a hunt for some cookware. I’ve got a new pair of fabulous 5-inch wedges from my favorite boy in the world (that’s C in case you're wondering ;)). Relaxing plans with family and, right after posting this, a glorious nap. That’s not to say that storms won't come again. They will I know…and sometimes with such fervor you will get the wind knocked out of you. But Greatness is always there to hang on to when things get rough. It’s all around actually. And sometimes, it also knocks the wind out of you…in a good way :)


Midge said...

Hi, Joey. It was such a pleasure to finally meet you in person earlier today after all these years of commenting on your blog. :)

As for the stew, this looks so rich and comforting - perfect for the colder evenings we've been experiencing of late, and such a treat after what's been a rather tiresome, tiring week. (I think everyone went through a rough patch this past week. I think the stormy weather finally got to us all...)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

This stew looks really wonderful and comforting!



Chinkee said...

I love ox tail's rich, gelatinous texture, which is one of the main reasons why I'm smitten with kare-kare. I don't get to eat it as often as I want to because 1) I rely on other people's talents (and tenacity) to prepare it from scratch, and 2) Matt doesn't eat it because it just doesn't taste as good without bagoong (which he cannot eat). Therefore, this recipe is soooo up my alley:-). Will definitely try to make it one slow, rainy day.

Oh, by the way, the sun came out for us today:-). Hope all is well...

janislrobles said...

I love ox tails. I have jamaican friends here and I just love how they prepare it. I don't know what I would call the dish. They've always just called them ox tails.They braise it in the oven.

Ling said...

"there but for the grace of (Greater Entity) go I" :)

Pille said...

The summer is finally and totally over here, and we're looking into a loooong and cold and dark winter. Perfect for hearty oxtail stew(s)! Your looks wonderfully hearty, Joey!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Midge! I love that we've finally met! Yes, after so long were one of the first commenters on my blog! This is definitely perfect for the rainy days we have been having...although the weekend has, gratefully, been sunny! :)

Hi Rosa! Thanks :)

Hi Chinkee! I have loved oxtail as well ever since I was a kid. I also love slow-cooking those these types of dishes are the one I enjoying cooking the most :) Kare-kare is another story - although my husband and I love it to bits we have never gotten around to making from scratch day! Btw, I got the oxtail in Bacchus Epicerie...gorgeously inspiring oxtail no joke! Enjoy the sunny weekend! :)

Hi Janis! That sounds wonderful -- what do they add to their oxtail dish? :)

Hi Ling! Word! :)

Thanks Pille! I love autumnal and wintery think I live in a country without both!

Marvin said...

Here's to getting the wind knocked out of you, Joey, in a good way. I've been in a bit of a slump lately, but your post has reminded me that there's always good to follow the bad. Thanks for the reminder.

Possum Print said...

Our family loved the recipe. Ox tail wasn't easy to come by in our town.

Thanks for the suggestion.
Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I like your blogs. I actually stumbled on it just a week ago. I like the way you capture your thoughts and those foodie got me hooked that I'm trying to read each and every pages of blogs you posted since you started.
I'm a food enthusiast myself...been experimenting in the kitchen since my teen years but never gotten to be an expert. As for the oxtail stew, that certainly looks GOOD. Truly perfect for chilly fall season here where I am.

love cooking said...

I like stew dishes, because I love the meat to be very tender and almost melt in your mouth. Just use a fork to touch the meat, it falling apart. This recipe is so good, but might try to cook it with beef. I am not really eating ox tail. The recipe is good, but I love to listen to your story too. Yap…the storm come and go, sunny day will always come. :)

Kim said...

I love your blog. Found you via google search. I've been blogging about food and life for quite some time now and took a break and am coming back. I've started 2 new blogs...

You've given me more inspiration!

thehungrygiant said...

hi joey! what camera model are you using? the pictures really look great. :) too bad zamboanga groceries and markets don't have juniper berries. this would've been a nice sunday stew. :)

foodie @ Tasting Spot said...

i like your food pictures and want to invite you to try out it's for anyone that just wants another place to submit photos and share it will other foodies. It’s still in beta version, but would love for you to start adding some photos and help get it going.

janislrobles said...

They throw in onions, and sweet peppers (but the slow cooking melts these two in the process), water, adobo (which I still firmly believe is cheating), Mrs. Dash, ketchup to sweeten and thicken the sauce (which they call gravy) and browning sauce (which is merely for color but renders a bitter undertone when you put a little too much. Sometimes they put jerk sauce. They usually serve it with wild rice and peas (which are actually large red beans)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Marvin! Here’s to that! I know how that feels and glad that my ramblings gave you some measure of comfort…onwards and upwards!

Hi Possum Print! Glad you enjoyed it :)

Hi Anonymous! Thank you for the kind words :)

Hi love cooking! I love stews and braises for the very same reason :) Here’s to sunny days!

Hi Kim! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment :)

Hello Hungry Giant! Thanks! I use a Nikon D40X :) You can try it without the juniper…it may not taste exactly the same but I am sure it will still be delicious :)

Hi Foodie! I will check it out :)

Hi Janis! Thanks for sharing! It sounds yummy :)

Elizabeth @Mango_Queen said...

Love your post! The oxtail stew in the photo is fantastic. And I'm sure it tastes just as wonderful as it looks. This is a new way for me to learn how to cook oxtail. Must try the recipe. Thanks for sharing! Have a better week ahead & an even fabulous weekend!

ChichaJo said...

Thanks you Elizabeth! I love oxtail and will surely make this again :) Have a great weekend!

foodie @ Tasting Spot said...

i like your food pictures and want to invite you to try out it's for anyone that just wants another place to submit photos and share it will other foodies.

veron said...

I miss eating oxtail. they are so good for you, you know collagen and all. ;) Filing this in my to-do, stews are on my mind this winter.

ChichaJo said...

Will check it out Foodie :)

Hi Veron! I looove oxtail! Yeah, it'll make our lips plumper, heehee ;)

Paz said...

I love oxtails!

The Lady Prism said...

Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ ♥ •ღ

I'd really have to try this one weekend! Thanks for sharing. :D
Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ ♥ •ღ