I became a fan of oxtails after the prices sky-rocketed.. yea my luck. Back when I first moved to Canada, the butchers would practically beg customers to take oxtails off their counter. That’s definitely not the case today. The odd time it comes on sale it’s usually around $3.50 / lb, but the quality is not the best. Loaded with fat and usually from aged animals (difficult to cook tender), you’re stuck with having to trim it all off so your finished dish is not laden with grease. So it makes more sense to just pay the typical $5+ a pound for the good stuff if you want your finished dish to really sparkle.
2 lbs oxtail
3 large potatoes
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 scotch bonnet pepper
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust accordingly)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 stalks celery
5 sprigs fresh thyme
7 allspice berries (pimento berries)
5-6 cups of water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
pinch brown sugar
Note: You can add more vegetables if you really want to stretch this dish for more people. Adjust the salt to your liking if you do add more ingredients.
Wash and dry the pieces of oxtail (ask your butcher to cut them into pieces for you as the bones can be very HARD), then heat the oil in a deep pan on med/high heat and brown the pieces of oxtail. Takes about 10 minutes or so.
Remove the now browned pieces of oxtail from the pot, turn the heat down to low and add the onion, garlic and celery (diced) and allow to cook gently for 3 minutes. Then add the pimento berries and black pepper and give it a good stir, followed by the tomato paste. Allow the tomato paste to cook for a minute or so to allow the natural sugars in the tomato to caramelize a bit. The tomato paste will add a lovely acidic twist to the dish and help us develop a wonderful gravy.
Add the pieces of oxtail back to the pot and all the other ingredients except the carrots and potatoes. Turn the heat up, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let it cook with the lid on for about 2 hours.Remember to stir every 20 minutes or so and skim off any frothy residue at the top of the pot. The all spice (pimento berries) will add a lovely warm and homely feel to this stew and quite honestly a key ingredient.
You’ll notice in the picture above that I left the scotch bonnet pepper whole as I want the flavor from it but not the ray heat. At the end of cooking (try not to break it) you can fish the pepper out and discard (or give it to anyone who love HEAT). If you find that your oxtail is not tender after the 2 hrs of braising, add a bit more water and let it cook for another 30 minutes or so. Then add the chopped carrot and potatoes (try to leave the potato in big pieces so it does not dissolve when cooked), bring to a boil (turn up the heat), then reduce to a rolling boil and cook for about 30 minutes or until the potato and carrot are tender.
Here’s where you’ll personalize the dish (remember to take out the scotch bonnet pepper) by adjusting the salt to your liking and getting the gravy to the consistency you like. When you turn off the stove you can top with some finely chopped parsley for a nice punch of color.
The first taste and you’ll know why I dubbed this the ultimate oxtail stew. With tender pieces of oxtails, in the perfect Caribbean influenced gravy and the heartiness from the carrot and potato chunks will hit the spot on those cold winter nights (in my case). An excellent recipe to replace soup-Saturday’s on the islands.. be sure to add more vegetables and I’m sure some eddoes, green bananas and yam would be an excellent addition.