I am so excited for this GUEST POST from DOLORES. We worked at the BM together for years- and I have been begging her to post. One time she brought me in some of this stew- I was dying, it was so good.
Tessa: Wow, Dolores, this is mighty impressive. And i know, from a glorious sample, it is absurdly tasty. How did you learn how to do this?
Dolores: Although I am an Italian/Finnish-American girl and not in the least bit West Indian, my husband is from Trinidad and after six years together I have picked up a thing or two in the kitchen. We both love to cook and we cook together often. Mostly, I leave the Trinidadian dishes to him, but I have this one down, so I usually make it for us. You can do the same cooking method with any meat, most often chicken. My stewed chicken just doesn’t come out as well as his, so he has that assignment. I guess the oxtail is more forgiving with all the braising time. You really can’t mess it up, I swear.
Tessa: So let’s say I can’t find oxtail. Or it freaks me out. (not to eat but to buy). Could I use beef? any particular kind? would it change the cooking or cooking time or anything else? Do you think something would really be lost in this- and i should just sack up and look for the oxtail? Do i need a cleaver to hack it up- or does it come in those pieces?
Dolores: Oxtail is not really from an ox. What you’re buying these days is a cow tail, but I guess the name is a holdover from olden times. Aren’t the kids these days into snout to tail butchery and all of that? You should be able to get it at any butcher shop, even if they don’t have it out on display. Ask them. It used to be a super cheap–my dad worked in an Italian butcher shop in Brooklyn when he was a teenager and he says they used to give it away. Then American people discovered world cuisine and fast-forward to 2012 and I pay about $5 a pound for it. It may be cheaper in a place where it isn’t used as widely as in my neighborhood. If you find it, you should not have to cut it up yourself. I can’t imagine how you would cut through it without a bandsaw, like they have in the butcher shop. If it’s not already cut up, ask them to cut it into rings. If you REALLY really can’t find it, the closest thing would probably be a beef shank. You can probably use any kind of beef, but the marrow in the middle of the bone makes for ultimate yumminess, like in osso buco.
Tessa: mmm, not going to lie, this looks a little complicated. how do you feel about fed-exing some to boston? 🙂
Dolores: Anytime, my dear. But I swear it’s not hard at all. After you add the water, it’s just time. After you make it for yourself and realize how easy it is, I will lose my kitchen cred.
Trinidadian Style Stewed Oxtail
2-3 lbs(?) oxtail, cut cross-wise into about 2 inch circles–[there are a lot of bones, so you will probably need more than you think you will]
a few heaping Tbsp of green seasoning*
4-5 Tbsp of sugar–white or raw
a large onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, cut into biggish circles
a piece of squash–in my neighborhood they call it pumpkin, and it is similar to the halloween-type pumpkin, but not quite. Any orange-y squash like butternut or kabocha or whatever you like will work, peeled and cut into fairly small cubes. [i used maybe kabocha, i think, though perhaps it was a little on the small side]
A scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (optional) [i pussied out and used a whole jalepeno, and really, the end product was missing that heat. i should have at least chopped it up and put it in- instead leaving in whole and taking out later like D. does w. the REAL peppers]
A can of red kidney beans
salt, pepper, adobo, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, crushed red pepper [use a generous pinch of each- i didn’t have adobo seasoning so used mix of cumin, onion and garlic powder and tumeric]
If there’s a lot of extra fat around the pieces of oxtail, cut it off. Rinse it with lime juice (you can totally skip that, but it’s what the West Indians do). Season with green seasoning, salt and black pepper. Let it marinate for at least a couple of hours; overnight is ideal. Heat a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over high heat with a enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Let the oil get very hot but not smoking. Sprinkle in the sugar. You will want to have the meat ready and next to the stove. Heat the sugar until it gets very brown, almost but not quite black. Use a slotted spoon to pull the meat out of any accumulated liquid and add it to the pot immediately. Stir to coat with the caramelized sugar and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pot and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking. When the meat has taken on a dark brown color, add the onions and pumpkin and stir a couple of times. Add enough water to just cover the meat and veggies. Season with salt, pepper, adobo, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, crushed red pepper, and add the scotch bonnet if you’re adding it. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Cover the pot at a tilt to allow steam to escape. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. After it’s been cooking for a while, you may notice some fat pooling on the surface. If so, skim it off. As soon as the pepper gets soft, pull it out. If it bursts open, your stew will be ridiculously hot. This will happen way before the oxtail cooks, so keep an eye on it as you’re stirring. Also, the pumpkin should totally disintegrate and thicken the stew. If it needs a little help, smash it against the side of the pot to break it up. After about 2 hrs, check the meat with a fork. Sometimes it will seem like it will never break down, but don’t freak out as I promise it will happen, and it may take more like 3 or even 4 hours. When the meat is soft-ish, add the carrots and the beans and cook for another 20 or so minutes, until the carrots are cooked. Serve over rice. It’s really good with a piece of avocado and/or a little potato salad, too.
* Green seasoning: [this keeps]
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
a couple of inches of ginger, peeled