Monday, December 15, 2008

Oxtail Stew

Well, I looked and looked through The Complete Book of Soups and Stews by Bernard Clayton Jr., a food head with whom I shared a neighborhood when I lived in Bloomington, IN, but I could not find a stew equivalent to this one. My memory told me that this recipe might be somewhat similar to Shchi, a hearty tomato and cabbage soup (page 260), but no andouille sausage, nor any Vermont slab bacon, nor any oxtail inhabit that Russian bowl, so I had to settle on "oxtail stew." What a boring name, but what's in a name?

Well, I don't know, and I'm not totally sure what's in this oxtail stew, but I think it goes something like this:

I started with a rich, oxtail broth. For a similar recipe, see my older post, Tortellini in Blood.

I excluded the vino, but not because I don't love vino. I simply didn't have any vino on hand when I sacked my refrigerator (5:00 PM, December 11, 2008 BC). However, I did have a link of andouille sausage prepared by the butcher at the River Valley Market; and I did have a slab of boutique bacon, offered to me by an amazing, Vermont hog; and I did have several russet potatoes, dug up by radical, Hadley farm hands; and I did have a glorious head of Massachusetts cabbage; not to mention the aforementioned oxtail broth. All things in place, I whacked my big, enameled cast iron pot onto the stove and put my imagination into gear.

Because oxtail is so fatty and gelatinous, the stew ended up with a velveteen mouth feel and succour. This is how I began, post-broth creation:

On the lowest flame my stove could hold (damn thing goes out), I cooked a golf-ball size hunk of bacon to render the fat. Once I'd rendered enough fat, I plunked the sausage into the pot and cooked it, oh, about 3/4ths of the way; meanwhile, I was also cooking three, large dice spuds very gently in salted water.

Next, when the sausage was mostly done, I removed the bacon and sausage, and put them aside. To the rendered fat I added an equivalent volume of flour, along with a dash of chipotle powder and a couple dashes of paprika, to make a paprika roux. Once the roux was fully cooked, I added my quart of burgundy oxtail broth; brought the pot to a boil; plopped in two or three whole, peeled tomatoes; plunked the oxtail bits, the bacon, and the sausage back in; and set my rag tag stew creature to a simmer until the sausage was fully cooked.

Next, I removed the sausage and the oxtail, chopped the sausage and picked the meat off the oxtail bones and put those things aside.

Finally, my rag tag stew creature simmering, I roughly shredded my cabbage, dumped it into the pot, and lidded it. When the cabbage had fully wilted, I returned everything to the pot, introduced the potatoes, and did a final seasoning: salt, salt, pepper.

Not the most elegant recipe writing on the planet (you should check out Bernard Clayton for that), but that's pretty much what I did. The rag tag stew creature got served with open-faced cheese sandwiches, and was followed by two chocolate mints, one for me and one for my guest.


1 comment:

M. said...

You make it sound so easy! Jono, I think you need to be a celebrity chef. I think it would be a really good post-MFA goal.