For those unfamiliar with oxtails, they are indeed from the tail of oxen or other cattle that has been skinned and butchered into rounds. They have a high ratio of bone and muscle to meat and release a great deal of collagen as it is braised. They are officially categorized as offal (waste parts left after the animal has been butchered i.e., brains, liver, intestines etc.). Oxtail soup is a venerable English dish and most widely recognized but I learned that oxtails are extremely popular in the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, where a soup or stew similar, to some degree, to the following recipe is a widespread favorite.
Variations on this recipe abound. Some with beans, some without. Some blazing hot, some not and the seasonings used are as varied as fingerprints. So I cannot say that this is the real deal but I can say it was outrageously delicious and ultimately that is all that matters.
I did get some help with this starting with an Emeril recipe and adding a little bit from here and there and then finding a recipe for green seasoning (caribbeanpot (dot) com) that is apparently a fundamental addition to many dishes in Jamaica. I adapted it wildly. You should make the green seasoning ahead of time to let the flavors meld and so you can add a little to the braising liquid.
What I ended up with was a dish of slow braised oxtails, the flavors of the Caribbean: allspice, thyme and habanero pepper with a bottle of Guiness thrown in for good measure. This combination of savory ingredients was really a no-brainer once I discovered a handful of recipes that utilized them so beautifully. If you’ve been following this blog you know very well that chiles and booze are two of my most favorite ingredients(they’re food groups, aren’t they?) and when I can combine them in the same dish I am a very happy woman indeed! This yields rich, luxurious, fatty, oily, beefy…unctuous(I love that word) pieces of oxtail that are quite remarkable and completely unforgettable. I served them over some pan-fried sweet potato with a light salad that was topped with thin slices of ripe mango tossed with lime juice, French sea salt and lots of black pepper. Serve with some ice cold Red Stripe.
Recipe: Caribbean-Style Braised Oxtails
1/4 lb. bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 pounds oxtails
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup small diced onion
1/2 cup small diced carrot
1/2 cup small diced celery
1/4 cup small diced leeks
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced green onion, white part only
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2-2 habanero peppers, minced, optional
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer (recommended: Guinness)
1 1/2 cups low-sodium canned beef broth
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons green seasoning (see recipe below)
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
In a Dutch oven, cook bacon strip. When done, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add the olive oil, if needed to the pot and heat over medium heat until hot. Season the oxtails with the salt and pepper. Add half of the oxtails to the pot and cook until well browned on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Set the seared oxtails on a platter once browned and repeat with the remaining oxtails.
Once all the oxtails are browned and set aside, add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan. Saute the vegetables until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the leeks, garlic, green onions, ginger and habanero (is using) to the pan and saute for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Brown the tomato paste until very dark being careful not to burn it. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the beer to the pot and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the beer to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the stock, allspice, dreid thyme, green seasoning and brown sugar. Stir to incorporate. Return the oxtails to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the oxtails until tender, about 2 hours. Stir in the chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
Recipe: Green Seasoning
I added a little of this to the stew and served the rest on the side. It really made the dish!
1 cup cilantro
1 stalk of celery with leaves, if possible
5 cloves of garlic
4 green onions
10-12 springs fresh thyme, stripped from stems
1 banana pepper
2 tablespoons water
pinch of salt
Throw everything into a food processor and puree. You may need a little more water.