Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - The Tale of the Ox...(Oxtail Pitcha)

049Sparky said to an ox,
           "Employing some Knox,
garlic, onions and wine
you'll transform to refined."
    He began the Pitcha
            with 3 onions and 2 cloves
of garlic which, uh
at 400 roasted
in their 

For the eponymous recipe of this blog, I felt like we really needed to pull out all the stops - and since oxtails are just not available in the Food Desert, it fell to Sparky to bring this about.  Fortunately, Sparky both loves oxtails (in our predominately Afro-Caribbean neighborhood they are quite common) and has a reason to want to master them: the winner of the 2009 sMACdown, which happened to be stationed right next to Sparky's entry, won - largely because it featured oxtails.  Time to smack those oxtails back!

Onion-braised Oxtails

118This recipe caught my eye as  terrific starting place.

3 onions
2 large cloves of garlic
4 lbs oxtails
2 cups of red wine
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Aside from their process, which we will ignore, it seemed like good, simple flavors for beef, so Sparky scrubbed 3 onions and 2 garlic cloves well, and we roasted them in a 400 degree oven, removing the garlic after 15 minutes, and the onions for slightly over 1/2 an hour until they collapsed, allowed them to cool, squeezed them out of their skins and pureed them in the blender.  This was poured over the oxtails in a ziploc bag and left overnight.  The next morning, we deviated from the recipe by adding two cups of red wine,  a cup of water and two bay leaves, and allowing it to marinate for 2 hours.  Then we dumped the whole thing into the pressure cooker, brought it up to speed, and cooked it for 30 minutes.


  Oxtails really need a long, slow braise to bring out the silky gelatin that makes them so wonderful - and gelatin is crucial to the success of this recipe, so after testing to make sure they were not overcooked (meat should slide off the bones but not turn to mush) we put them in a cast-iron casserole and popped them in a 300 degree oven for an hour and a half, or until the meat falls off the bone when touched.  (If you want a hot braised dish, before putting the mixture into the oven, you could add peeled and cubed root vegetables like potatoes, carrot, and swedes (rutabagas) and serve the result as a stew, or, alternatively, add 2 quarts of fresh grape tomatoes and a sprig of fresh rosemary, and serve the result over cooked noodles for a warm winter dinner) 

Oxtail Pitcha

150Having somewhat more elaborate plans for our oxtails, we allowed the mixture to cool, removed the oxtails and strained the broth to which we added 1/4 cup of Madeira (or sherry,) and quick-chilled them in separate flat containers in the refrigerator with ice packs on top (safe temperature controls are crucial in this recipe.  This will also give you a chance to see if you need more gelatin later; keep in mind that it is going to provide all the structure for your loaf - if it doesn't slice, or if slices "heal," you'll need to add gelatin.)  

161We then created a mirepoix of carrot, celery and leeks and sauteed them until tender.  To this we added some diced red bell pepper which we had roasted in the oven, skinned and seeded.

164The vegetables became the heart of our oxtail Pitcha - in a method not unlike making sushi, I pulled the meat off the oxtails (too "gucky" a job for Sparky) and laid it on a large rectangle of plastic wrap laid over paper towels.  We ladled some almost-set oxtail aspic over them (if your stock didn't set to sliceable, using half the amounts listed and your oxtail broth instead of consomme, follow these directions until step 3.)  We then laid the blanched vegetables in the middle, poured more aspic over them, and, using the kitchen towel, rolled up the meat around them.  Once the two sides of the plastic wrap met, Sparky folded them over each other, and then rolled the two ends to make a nice, tight sausage-shape.



This went into a mold (we used the ice bucket from our freezer) the top shelf of the refrigerator overnight.  Tomorrow (today if you're reading when this posts) we will unveil it at the LTH picnic; it will stay nicely cooled in the custom-fitted ice tray Mom had made the day before by freezing a ziploc bag of water weighted with heavy containers in the approximate shapes we needed.

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