Wednesday, February 19, 2014

52WoC Week 6: Jamaican- Oxtail Stew

Jerk chicken or beef patties? That was the question I asked myself over and over when I saw that Jamaican food was the theme for week 6. It wasn't that I had done some bracketology and ended up with those two as finalists - they were the only contestants. How could I limit a culture's food to only two dishes? It struck me, I don't really know that much about Jamaica in general. I ended up making a list of all the pop culture references related to Jamaica I could. Be forewarned, this list is short and embarrassing.

  • Bob Marley (obviously)
  • Rastafari
  • Cool Runnings (RIP John Candy)
  • Dancehall Music
  • Red Stripe (hooray beer)
  • That list is almost as embarrassing as admitting I watched The Vow1 - almost. So I plunged into the bowels of the internet and searched for some other traditional Jamaican food, only to find oxtail stew come up numerous times. I ended up cobbling together various recipes to come up with this Jamaican oxtail stew. As with jerk chicken, this stew relies heavily on thyme, allspice, and scotch bonnet peppers. Braising the oxtails gives this stew an overly beefy flavor that will be decadent. When braised, oxtails release all of their fat and the tissues break down leaving you with tender flavorful meat and a very rich sauce that has the purest essence of beef. The kick of the scotch bonnet and the aromatics from the thyme and allspice will help combat all that fat. I served the stew over rice as to not waste any of that succulent braising liquid.

    Oxtail Stew

    Qty Ingredient Procedure
    2 pounds oxtail
    1. Wash, dry off, and heavily season with salt and pepper.
    2. Sear hard on all sides in a deep pot.
    3. Remove from pot and place on a plate.
    2 medium onions
    1. Dice onions and carrots. Mince the garlic. Cook until soft.
    4 cloves garlic
    2 carrots
    2 tomatos
    1. Dice the tomatoes. Remove the seeds from the scotch bonnet and mince. Add to the onions and cook down for about 5 minutes.
    1 scotch bonnet
    2 sprigs thyme
    1. Add oxtails back to the pot and cover with water (took me about three cups). Top with thyme and allspice.
    2. Simmer with the lid on until oxtails are tender, about 2 hours. Take the lid off and simmer for 30 minutes to reduce the sauce.
    12 berries allspice

    Braising takes a few steps but yields incredibly tender meat on tougher cuts that require longer cook times. Braising starts with searing the meat and then letting it finish in a simmering liquid for a few hours. To start off you want to thoroughly clean off your oxtails and pat them as dry as possible. Heavily season them with salt and pepper. Get the pot you want to make the stew in and get it Temptation Island hot. Add a neutral oil and start searing the oxtails off. You want them to get good amount of color. Try to sear all sides. Take them out and set them aside.

    Dice your onion and carrots and mince your garlic. Add these to the same pot from before and cook them down until soft - about 5 minutes. Take the seeds and membranes out of the scotch bonnet pepper and mince. Be extremely careful touching these peppers. You've read it before and you'll read it again here - you don't want to go to the bathroom and feel like you've thrown yourself into the sun. Use some plastic gloves, like Howie Mandel, to avoid serious pain. Add the diced tomatoes and minced scotch bonnet and cook for roughly 5 minutes. Add the oxtails back into the pot along with any juices that may have collected onto the plate. Add the sprigs of thyme and the allspice berries. Cover and bring to a simmer.

    Simmer with the lid on for roughly 2 hours until the oxtails are tender. At which point you can optionally take the lid off and simmer for longer to reduce the liquid. Another 30 minutes or so will reduce it by about half. Remove the springs of thyme from the stew. At this point you can serve the stew over rice with whole oxtails. What I ended up doing is pulling the oxtails out, letting them cool then shredding the meat off of them and adding them back to the sauce. Just made it easier to eat. Traditionally broad beans are added to this dish to make it a heartier; simply add a can of fava beans at the end to warm through if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper before enjoying.

    1. Even for a romantic comedy this shit is weaker than the one dollar hot sauce.  

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