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09/16/10 - Oxtails

We have long been big fans of Tabla, Floyd Cardoz's restaurant in New York. We're also big fans of Clark Family Beef. For the past month or two, we've been badgering the Clarks for oxtails, slowly cornering the market. Our recipe called for three oxtails, and each cow has only one. (Oxtail lovers everywhere are crying out for a breakthrough in genetic engineering.) Well, we finally counted three oxtails in our freezer, so we began to cook.

Our oxtail stew
We rounded up our ingredients, and it was quite a list:
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick (from a jar)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 small dried red chili (sold in glassy packets at the supermarket)
  • our oxtails - about four pounds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 10 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 cups or more chopped celery
  • 2 cups or more chopped carrots
  • 1/3 cup sliced peeled ginger
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 sprigs of thyme (or about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 five inch sprigs of rosemary (or about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 bay leaves
1) The first thing we did was cut up our oxtails. Clark Family Farm has great oxtails, but they are sold in one piece. We were worried that we would need a saw, but oxtails, apparently, are mainly cartilage and cut easily with a regular knife. We cut them into four inch chunks, except down towards the narrow end where they did get a bit boney.

2) Then we got our big 39 liter Le Creuset oven ready pot. We got this on sale in Seattle and carried it home in our backpack on Kenmore Air. We heated up the olive oil in it and browned the oxtails. This meant turning them every minute or two to get all the sides.

3) We put the oxtails aside and dumped in the carrots, onions, garlic, ginger and celery and cooked them for ten or fifteen minutes. We wanted them all soft and the onions browning a bit.

4) Then we turned down the heat and poured in the wine and mixed it in making a special point of dissolving all of the browned stuff on the bottom of the pan. This is called deglazing. It has nothing to do with removing windows. (Insert Microsoft joke here.)

5) We ground up all of the spices, the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and red chili in our extra whirling blades of death coffee grinder and mixed them into the pot.

6) Next in were the tomato paste and brown sugar.

7) The oxtails. We haven't forgotten the oxtails. They've been sitting on our cutting board for a while now, oozing juices. At long last, it was their turn, into the pot with them and their ooze.

8) Clark Family Beef is great braised, that is, cooked in a liquid, so we added six cups of water to keep them wet. We wanted them almost, but not quite, covered. We also added the red wine vinegar, the thyme and rosemary sprigs, and two bay leaves. Floyd Cardoz never stints on spices. If you just read the ingredient list, you'll have no idea of how everything is going to pull together. "Hmm", you'll say, "garlic, thyme, tomato paste and rosemary make Italian, but cinnamon, cumin and red chili make Mexican, and ginger makes Chinese. I have no idea of what I am making." If you see any other author's name on the cookbook, panic, but with Floyd Cardoz you are in good hands. He grew up in Goa. They cook like this all the time. It was a Portuguese colony and they invented chicken vindaloo. Vindaloo means wine and garlic in Portuguese.

9) With all the ingredients in the pot, fire up the oven to 375F, put the lid on the pot and bring everything to a boil. Pop it in the oven for three or four hours. Check every hour or so and add water if it has dried out too much, but otherwise you're all set. It's ready when the meat is falling of the bones.

As with many Kaleberg dishes, it doesn't look like much in the picture, but it's mighty good eating.

Keywords: farmers' market, clark family, recipe, kale