My very first experience with oxtail was not a pleasant one and it was years until I tried it again. This is going back about 19 years ago when my good friend Richard was just starting off his Dj and music production escapades. Richard, Allyene and myself were on one of our weekly runs to the Toronto to pick up the latest releases from Jamaica (I believe it was on Eglinton Ave), back in those days it was 33′s and 45′s and not cds as we have today. We stopped off at one of the many Caribbean fast-food restaurants that populate the area to grab some food to eat on the trip back to Hamilton. I don’t recall what the other fellas got, but I do remember hungrily eating away at the oxtail with rice and peas. Then it hit me. A sharp-cut bone stabbed me in the roof of my mouth. I can still remember the pain that sucker put on me. I stopped eating (well couldn’t) immediately and between cussing and grimacing from the pain, I promised to never touch the stuff again. Took me a few years to get over that fear of being attacked by sharp-cut oxtail bones.
Here’s a simple recipe for stewed oxtail which I tested perfected yesterday… no sharp edges to hurt you
2 lbs oxtail cut and trimmed into 1-2 inch pieces
1 tomato diced
1 onion sliced thin
1 stalk celery diced
black pepper (fresh ground is best) 1/4 teaspoon
hot pepper (I used 1/2 habanero) this is optional
1 tablespoon green seasoning
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard (nothing fancy)
1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger 9I used the bottled stuff)
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
2-3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 lime / lemon or vinegar (4 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon ketchup
* If you don’t have the green seasoning prepared. Use a combination of green onions (scallions), cilantro or shado beni and thyme. About 1 tablespoon each…chopped very fine.
Start by placing the cut pieces of oxtail in a large bowl (remember to remove as much fat as you can – keep it a bit healthy) and squeeze the lime or lemon juice on it. Use vinegar if you don’t have limes or lemons. Pour some water (not the water mentioned in the recipe) in the bowl and wash each piece of oxtail. If your butcher used a band-saw to cut the pieces for you, there’s the chance that there may be some gritty stuff from the cut bones left on the meat. Rinse with cold water as need. Drain and get ready for seasoning.
The seasoning consist of all the ingredients mentioned above, except the oil, sugar and 4 cups of water. Mix well and allow this to marinate for at least 2 hrs in the fridge.
As we’ve done in other “stew” dishes, we have to bring the oil to a high temp in a heavy pot and add the brown sugar. Stir so the entire lot changes colour evenly and get to the perfect point to add the seasoned meat. The key is allowing the sugar get to a caramel colour, so each piece of oxtail will get browned evenly. The pics below will show you what to look for.
When the sugar gets like the pic directly above, start adding the seasoned pieces of oxtail. Stir, reduce to medium heat and cover. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Then bring the heat back to high and burn off all the liquid (remove the lid). Stir during this process so the pieces of meat gets coated evenly. Add the 4 cups of water to the bowl that had the seasoned meat to pick up any remaining seasoning that was left behind. When the liquid dries up in the pot, add the 4 cups of water.
Bring to a boil (covered), then reduce the heat so it’s a gentle simmer. PATIENCE.. allow this to cook, stirring occasionally for about 1 3/4 hours. Then remove the lid and turn up the heat so you can achieve a nice thick gravy. Remember to turn off the heat and remove from the burner when you have a thick gravy or risk not having any of that nice rich sauce.
In the coming months I’ll share a couple other ways to cook this popular Caribbean meat. One in the oven (didn’t want to turn on the oven since it’s summer time here and we don’t need all that heat in the house. And the other way is a more traditional Jamaican way. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to leave me your comments or questions in the area provided below.