Every now and again I come across a food or ingredient that I never thought of buying before and that I would not have specifically set to buy but I buy it anyway. Just for kicks, just for the heck of it. I was at BJs (the wholesale club) a few days ago when I spotted some oxtail in the meat section. I immediately thought about the fiery oxtail stew my mom makes aptly named “Rabo Encendido” (flaming tail or something along those lines). It is called that because it is hot, black pepper hot (Cubans don’t really use hot chiles). I don’t know how to make it but I do know it’s delicious. On a whim, I picked up the oxtail and took it home. For 3 days I tried to decide how to cook it. I looked for a recipe for “Rabo Encendido” in the few Cuban cookbooks I have but I couldn’t find any. I finally settled for a simple braised oxtail recipe from a Williams Sonoma book which, sadly, contains a mistake.
Of course, I adapted it because that’s just how I roll. This was the perfect day to braise, it was rainy and yucky outside so I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything by staying home and slow cooking the oxtail. It smelled delicious while it was cooking and now the whole house smells of food. I have to admit that as much as I like food and cooking I hate the smell that it creates after the fact. This is why I hate open plan kitchens almost as much as I hate washing dishes. In theory, open plan kitchens are great because you are not cooped up and alienated from the family or the guests while cooking….but only in theory. In reality, they stink up the house and goodness forbid you should fry fish. Not to mention that kitchens that are actually used more than to boil water for ramen noodles or nuke some TV dinners are not usually perfectly tidy (unless you are super anal about that sort of stuff). I use my kitchen, clearly, so it is not usually in a state I am perfectly happy to let the UPS man see when he knocks on the door. Yes, my kitchen can be seen from the front door. So, when I build a house, it will have a closed kitchen. It will be French Country style and have a big farm sink. It wil also have a 60 inch La Cornue dual fuel range and an excellent ventilation system. For entertaining and family gathering purposes, it will have a long farm table. A girl can dream.
2 tbsp all purpose flour
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs oxtail cut into individual joints
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 slices thick cut smoked bacon, chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup red wine
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 tsp dry oregano
On a plate, mix the flour 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. In a large Dutch oven heat up the oil over medium-high heat. Roll the oxtail in the seasoned flour, shake off the excess and cook in the oil, turning occasionally, until all the sides are browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Add the onions to the pot and saute, stirring constantly, until they begin to soften and brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and bacon and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and sugar and stir to combine, cook for about 1 minute. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring and scrapping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Bring the wine to a boil, stir in the broth and bring to a boil.
Return the oxtail and any accumulated juices to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery and oregano, stir. Cover and cook over very low heat stirring and turning occasionally until the meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Uncover and use a ladle to skim the fat from the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If you prefer to make it in a slow cooker, after you have brought the broth to a boil on the stove, place the oxtail and the sauce along with the carrots, celery and oregano in the slow cooker. Cook for 3 1/2 hours on high or 7 hours on low. Skim the fat the same way as for the stove top. Season with salt and pepper.
Most of the cooking time is actually not active so you can do other things around the house whole the meat braises away. I served it with garlic mashed potatoes and it worked beautifully. This dish was a great success and definitely worth the cooking time. Fast is not always better!
By the way, the carrots are from my very own container garden!