making food from anywhere, with anything

Posts tagged “oxtails

how big are oxs’ tails?

Good evening everyone.

It seems as though the rain in Boston is finally over, just in time for the marathon.  Fortunately, my apartment is located right along the route, so tomorrow shall be quite interesting!

After a very stressful weekend, I decided to make something savory and delicious for dinner tonight.  Something involving red wine and braising in the oven.  In my effort to get rid of as much food as possible within the next two weeks, I dug some oxtails out of the freezer.  Perfect.

oxtails braised in red wine

I don’t know the chemistry behind this, but red wine develops the most unctuous, decadent, luscious flavor once the alcohol has cooked off.  And when braised for 3 1/2 hours in the oven with vegetables and your meat of choice, it becomes the most velvety, savory sauce.  It blows my mind every single time.  Seriously, every time.   This is a dish I can get enthusiastic about.  The meat literally pulls right off the bone, which is an accomplishment for oxtails.  The meat is pretty tough, so getting it tender is a challenge.  I’ve stewed oxtails in the past to a degree of success, but never have I had oxtails so tender as these.  Braising in the oven is truly the way to go.

Oxtails Braised in Red Wine, adopted from here

2 meaty oxtails
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika
3/4 cup red wine, such as a Shiraz
1 can of diced tomatoes (no salt added)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat oxtails dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown oxtails in batches without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

Cook onion, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf in fat in pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add oxtails with any juices accumulated in bowl and chopped tomatoes (liquid should come about halfway up sides of meat) and bring to a boil.

Cover pot and braise oxtails in lower third of oven, turning once or twice, until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Skim fat from sauce, then add salt and pepper to taste.

I made some spaghetti with this dish, as you can see.  It made a good accompaniment, especially with the sauce.

Some of you may gawk at the 3 1/2 hours it takes to cook.  Don’t judge, your efforts are rewarded.


no knife needed

Good evening, everyone.

Today I decided to attempt east Asian cuisine.  After pouring over many blogs in search of a recipe suited for someone admittedly unfamiliar with cuisine from this vast region, I decided to make adobo.

Adobo is a Filipino method of cooking meat with vinegar.  When the Spanish came to the Philippines, they observed the cooking practices of native Filipinos and labeled them adobo.  In Spanish, adobo means seasoning or marinade.  Essentially, that’s exactly what the meat in this dish do: they stew in a vinegar and soy sauce based sauce with about four other ingredients.

adobo with chicken and oxtails

Adobo is really central to the oft-overlooked Filipino cuisine.  I’d love to learn more about Filipino food, as I feel the food culture for the Philippines gets little to no attention.  Below is the recipe, with my substitutions/alterations as noted.

Adobo as adapted from here

2 chicken drumsticks

1-2 oxtails*

1/2 c white rice vinegar*

1/4 c soy sauce

3/4-1 c water

1 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

8-10 cloves garlic, slightly smashed, skins left on

2 bay leaves

freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste


1. put all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and leave for 30 minutes to marinate.

2. place the pot over medium heat.  add 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil.  lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer without stirring (seriously, no. stirring.) until most of the vinegar acid has cooked off.  how will you know if it’s cooked off?  open your bottle of vinegar and sniff.  that stung, right?  well, once the vinegar acid has cooked off, it won’t do that.

3. keep simmering until the chicken is tender, which will take about 40 minutes.  taste the sauce.  if it’s too salty or sharp, add more water.

4. when the chicken is tender, remove it and set it aside.  you can mash SOME of the garlic into the sauce.

5. keep simmering on low for about 30-60 minutes, or until a fork pierces oxtails like it would with butter.  remove the oxtails, set aside.

6. keep simmering until the sauce has reduced to your desired consistency.  meanwhile, heat some oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  once hot, add the chicken and oxtails and fry on all sides.  the goal is to get a crispy exterior.  this, however, is optional.

7. add the chicken and oxtails back to the sauce, toss to coat.

This dish is traditionally paired with white rice, which is great for soaking up some of the delicious sauce.

*the original recipe calls for pork belly and white cane vinegar, neither of which I could find.

If you’ve never made this before, I can assure it is easy and the end result blows you away.  The vinegar adds some tang, while the small amount of soy sauce lends a hint of flavor and a lot of color.  The garlic is not at all overpowering, contrary to what you may expect with 8-10 cloves.  I simmered this with a lid on because the liquid did not cover the meat.  I’m not actually sure if it’s supposed to, but nevertheless, I felt the oxtails would benefit from the pressure.  And they did.  The oxtails were SO TENDER – they came out better than they did the first time I made them.  When I stuck a fork into one of the tails, it just melted right into the meat.  oohhhhhh mannnnn……so. good. The chicken was equally as good.  It was extremely flavorful (an accomplishment for chicken, some may argue) and it just pulled apart.  No knife needed whatsoever.  This is a comfort food dish in every sense of the term – very satisfying and a pleasure to eat.  If you’re having a bad day or are approaching a stressful week, make this.  Just…do it.

Side note.  I deviated from my ritual almond butter and (insert add on here) sandwich today (although, an almond butter + strawberry sandwich is AMAZING).  After hitting the gym, I walked to Trader Joe’s to pick up some chicken and ended up getting a bunch of other stuff too (no surprise there).  After walking past the cheese section about 4 times, I relented to my gnawing urge to buy some cheese.  I’m constantly on the look out for a new, exciting cheese.

cheddar on a baguette

My latest obsession had been Manchego, so I decided to go for another Spanish cheese.  I find Spanish cheeses are overlooked in favor of French or Italian ones.  So, I bought a block of Iberico cheese.  Then I had a sudden impulse to get a really sharp, pungent cheddar.  My search for a blow-your-face-off cheddar is everlasting, and with high hopes I purchased some English-made cheddar today.

I planned to have a cheese sandwich for lunch, and bought a nice demi baguette to complete my vision.

It was suggested that I put some butter and dijon mustard on a sandwich like this, but the thought of butter and cheese sort of turns my stomach.  Unfortunately, I have no good mustard on hand, so this was just a plain cheese sandwich.  The cheese is good, but not even close to what I was after.  All in all, it was a really good sandwich.  I should get baguettes more often, particularly the smaller ones.  They are perfect for lunch, and they were quite inexpensive (which is always important).

the dark side of the cow.

Good evening, everyone.

Tonight’s dish generated a small bit of controversy from various people whom I told prior to making it.  Fear not, squeamish readers; it does not (unfortunately) involve tripe, offal, or any other “nasty bits.”  What, then, is the mystery ingredient?  Oxtails!

Oxtails are, well, segments of tail from cattle.  They’re quite tough, so stewing or braising is a must. Before reading on, you should know that I refer to these tails as being “full of fat” (because they are).  I know some of you squirm at the idea of something being fatty and delicious at the same time.  And why wouldn’t you?  We do, after all, live in a culture that mandates you eat the leanest meat out there (I saw someone buying 95/5 ground beef the other day and almost cried.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!).  Those who fear, I ask for your trust.  Things that are fatty can be delicious (seriously, ditch your flavorless filet mignon and get with some oxtails)!  Food must be savored, not scoffed.  Take time tasting all the ingredients, and you won’t always need *more* of what you’re eating.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand Americans “have no time” for slow eating.  In this eat-and-go culture, no one does (not that you needed reminding of that).  People eat as quickly as they can, without being conscious of what they just put in their mouths.  Eating meals has become an accessory to our day, not a focal point as it once was.  I bet if people could have food in pill form to save the 20 minutes that would have otherwise gone toward eating lunch, they would (it’s a little science fiction fantasy I have).  I could go on and on about where Americans are going wrong regarding the way they eat and think about food, but that is for another post.  Just….love the fat.  Love butter, bacon and flavor.  You will be okay.  You won’t eat these FATTY HORRIBLE THINGS all the time if you let yourself love them, trust me.  I don’t think you should use butter and the like all too frequently, anyway.  Just believe you will be okay (I am).

Now.  Back to the oxtails….


I didn’t really know what to expect out of them (I made two).  Would they be too tough to eat? Would they have a weird texture?  Would they smell horribly and be unappetizing?  Or would they be the greatest thing I’ve ever made?

Ah, they were delicious.  I would almost consider this a special occasion ingredient.  Throw on some jazz, light a few candles, make a nice dessert to follow dinner, and you’ve got an awesome night (even if it’s just you).  Since the tails are fatty, they’re loaded with this unctuous flavor.  They absolutely melt in your mouth after being stewed for a while.

For this meal, I followed perhaps the most basic recipe I could find.  It worked out really well.  I stewed the oxtails in a liquid largely made up of balsamic vinegar and water, along with lots of thyme, plus some salt and pepper.  What’s great about this is by the end, you have a really awesome beef and balsamic vinegar stock.  Do not even think of throwing that out, you WILL use it for something else later (I know I will).

Braised Oxtails adapted from here

2 oxtails

1 small yellow onion, diced finely

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp (or more, depending on your taste) balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


salt and pepper to taste


1. dice the onion, mince the garlic.  you know, get all your ingredients together and organized (this includes washing and patting your oxtails dry).

2. in a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium.  once fragrant, add the sugar.  stir with a wooden spoon or whisk until it melts.  you just don’t want it to burn, that would ruin everything. *just a little…note.  there’s going to be some delicious looking melted sugar hanging on to the spoon.  upon seeing this, i immediately thought OOHH, CARAMEL! and touched it in a very futile attempt to taste it.  don’t do this. sugar gets very…..very hot.*

3. once the sugar has melted, sear the oxtails on all sides for about 1 minute.  remove from the pan, and place on a plate.  deglaze the pan with the vinegar.

4. once you’ve got the bottom of the pan cleared, add the onions and garlic.  stir to combine, and saute for about 5 minutes.

5.  put your oxtails back into the pan.  season generously with salt and pepper.  add the thyme at this point, also.  now you’re going to add enough water so that the oxtails are covered.  bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer.

Simmer, covered, for about 2.5 hours.  Now, I got impatient and took the oxtails out after 1.5 hours.  They were tender (not fall off the bone tender, but they were definitely tender), so that’s an option if you are ready to eat everything in the kitchen before the recommended 2.5 hours.  Drizzle the sauce over the tails, serve with rice or a nice spinach salad..that sort of thing.

braised oxtail

The original recipe called for a shallot.  I would definitely recommend going with shallots as opposed to onions.  I was just using what I had laying around, especially since spring break starts this Friday and I won’t be around for a week.  Like I said, save the resulting stock!  It’s a bonus with this recipe, and you’d be foolish to toss it away.  It’s beefy, sort of sweet, sort of tangy, garlicy and fragrant.  This recipe is really basic, and the oxtails are begging to be experimented with.  I will definitely be cooking with them again, so look forward to some future oxtail recipes!

As I mentioned before, I’m off for spring break beginning this Friday.  Although tomorrow is traditionally a no-cook day, I’m thinking of creating a meal out of some Israeli couscous, leftover olive tapende, and cabbage I have hanging around.  Perhaps stuffed cabbage with couscous and olive tapenade?  Maybe throw some dates in there just to experiment?  Hmm….perhaps, perhaps.  I may just end up having leftover mac and cheese!