Sunday, February 13, 2011

Somewhat Jamaican Oxtail Stew

I decided to take a stab at a Jamaican style Oxtail Stew. I bought the oxtails fresh here in Chinatown. This is sort of a hybrid of oxtail stew recipes with some of my own personal twists.
What originally inspired me to cook this is the Jamaican food cart outside of my building. These two sweet ladies cook some of the best, slow cooked, flavorful dishes I have ever tasted including curry goat, fresh red snapper and fried chicken. But it's hard to top the rich flavor and tender meat of their oxtail stew. For $7 you get this served over rice and peas, with a side of collard greens. That's hard to beat, especially in NYC.

Here is how I ended up trying to recreate this dish.

Please post your thoughts or your own recipes for oxtails. Enjoy!

3 pounds oxtails, cut into segments by a butcher

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 Spanish onions, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 Scotch bonnet pepper (you could use habanero or jalapeno as alternatives), whole

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped

2 tablespoons white sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons tomato ketchup

1 10.5-ounce can butter or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Step 1:
Pour yourself a nice glass of red wine or bourbon.

Step 2:
Season oxtails aggressively with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. I used my cast iron dutch oven. Add the brown sugar to pot and melt, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it darkens and starts to smoke ­— this took about 5 minutes. When sugar is nearly black, add 2 tablespoons boiling water. (It will splatter.) Stir to mix.
*Warning: do not attempt to lick the wooden spoon with the sugar mixture, it burns pretty bad I found out.

Step 3:
Add the oxtails to the pot, working in batches, stirring each time to cover them with blackened sugar, then allowing them to cook, turning occasionally, until they are coated and well browned. Remove the oxtails and place in a bowl...keep them warm.

Step 4:
Add half of the onions, garlic and ginger to the pot, along with the pepper, the thyme, the allspice and a third of the scallions, and stir to combine. Allow to cook until softened, approximately 5 minutes.

Step 5:
Return the oxtails to the pot along with any accumulated juices and put water into the pot so that the oxtails are almost submerged. Bring to a simmer and then cook, covered, approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Step 6:
Add remaining onions, garlic and ginger to the pot, along with another third of the scallions. Add sugar, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine and continue to cook until the meat is yielding and loose on the bone, approximately one hour longer. Remove about one cup of liquid from pot and place in a small bowl. Add flour to this liquid and stir to combine, working out any lumps with the back of a spoon. Add this mixture to the pot along with ketchup, then stir and combine everything. Allow to cook a another15 minutes or so. Remove the hot pepper and thyme stems. Fold butter beans into the stew and allow these to heat through. Scatter remaining scallions over the top. Serve with white rice or rice and lentils*

This should serve around 4 people. You can serve with a nice dark leaf lettuce salad, collard greens, or kale. Make sure there is a good bottle of red wine on the table.

*Soon to follow: a recipe for cooking rice and lentils in coconut milk. For now, I cheated and you can use this link:

Monday, February 7, 2011

The BEST Chicken Wings Ever!

No kidding. These really are the best I have ever had and other then a little prep time they are very easy. The trick is in the prep. Get a large steamer basket and get some water boiling in your pot. Take about a dozen or so wings and trim off the tips. Then separate the wings at the joint. Steam them for about 10 minutes then remove and pat dry. Put them on a cooling rack over a sheet pan and lay some paper towel under them to catch the drippings. Throw them in the fridge for at least an hour. By first steaming and then cooling, you end up with the perfect crispy skin.

Now the rest....

Preheat oven to 425. Pull the paper towel and lay in some parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack for about 20 minutes. Turn and cook another 20 minutes. The skin should be golden brown and the meat cooked through.

The sauce....

1-(6 ounce) can of frozen orange juice concentrate
3- tablespoons Hoisin sauce (found in the Asian section of the grocery store)
2- tablespoons of honey
1- tablespoon of soy sauce
1- teaspoon of red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you want more heat)

Stir all ingredients up and let simmer. Reduce it by about 1/2. (about 10 minutes) Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Toss the wings and sauce together in a large bowl and have at it.

WARNING! This is meant as an appetizer for about 4 people. Double everything, call a couple of buddies, buy a nice dark beer. (or some Little Kings which are now available at BevMo) Get a roll of paper towels and have at it.

By the way, thank you Alton Brown. The guy really knows his stuff.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Red Wine Poached Pears (Drunken Pears)

It's a new year and time to get this off the ground. It's a nice Sunday afternoon here in Pacific Grove and a great day to try something new. It's my first attempt at red wine poached pears. This is one of those "WOW" desserts. I pulled the recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday food section. (Nov. 21, 2010) I really liked the fact that it was super easy and I had the option of making 90% of it ahead of time.

Bartlett pears are in season and other then hunting down creme fraiche, (found it at Safeway in Del Ray Oaks) it all seems pretty easy. I suggest getting pears that still are a bit hard to the touch. They soften up quite a bit once poached and hold together better. I am making them for dessert tonight, so once they are done I will let them cool and pop them in the fridge. Even if it all goes to crap, the house smells incredible. I went to Trader Joes and got some Chianti. I didn't want a real strong wine, since I will use the reserve and make some mulled wine for an after dinner drink. All the other ingredients I had in the pantry or can be had pretty easily.

Here's the recipe:

6 Bartlett pears, peeled
2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
2 star anise
4 cloves
2 bottles of red wine

For the finish: (Don't put in the wine!)
1 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup of maple syrup (use 100% pure)
2 teaspoons brandy

Take all the first ingredients and throw them into a pot so that all the pears are submerged. I had to use a plate to keep them from popping up. Bring to a boil and them let simmer for about 20-30 minutes. You will know they are done when you can stick a knife in them easily. At this point I put them aside and let them cool, since I wasn't serving them till later. Otherwise, throw a bowl over them and keep them warm.

Next take about 3 cups of the wine stock and transfer to a smaller pot. Just the wine, no aromatics. Again, bring to a boil and then simmer till thick. Takes about 15 minutes. Again, I let cool and stuck in fridge.

The remaining wine I just let cool. Tastes and smells just like "Glögg".(pronounced glug) A Swedish mulled wine drink.

So, to serve, just warm it all up again. You can put the pears back in the wine and slowly heat it up. Same with the syrup in a separate pan of course. Once that is going, take the creme fraiche, brandy and maple syrup and whisk it all together till fluffy. May be easier at this point to use a hand mixer, but mine was broken.

Here is how I served it. I placed a nice puddle of the syrup on the plate, drizzled a little of the creme fraiche and made some designs with a toothpick. You know, like they do at Starbucks with the cafe lattes. Plopped the pears on top with a dab of the creme on top. Drizzle a little more syrup and there you go.

The reserve wine you ask? Serve hot. Makes an excellent after dinner drink. Just strain and serve.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why we are here

OK, so my nephew and I love food. Just about everything about it. Sure, I went through the Food Network phase and watched all the celebrity chefs each week, but like most have moved beyond that. I have to admit, that I still enjoy Jamie Oliver and I think Anthony Bourdain and I could be seriously good friends. (At least seriously good drunks) My nephew and I approach food from two pretty different ways. First of all, he is in New York City and I am down in Monterey, CA. He can pull things out of a cabinet, the fridge or off the grocery shelf and throw it all together and make an outrageous meal. Me on the other hand, I generally require written instructions. Sometimes I change it up, but most of the time I make it just as written. A friend of mine who used to be a food styler in NYC once told me that when you see a recipe in one of those major magazines, you can be sure that the magazine has made that recipe at least a dozen times before it goes to print, just to be sure it comes out exactly like they say.

Anyway, so my nephew and I email, text and talk about food all the time and we wanted a place where we could put all our ideas in one place, so here we are. Bear with us as we muddle our way through this and try and come up with some kind of format that makes sense. You'll read and hear about everything from our favorite recipes to exotic spices.

But please, this is not all about us. We want to hear from others, so don't be shy. We promise to post just about anything but do remember, his mom (yes, my older sister) will probably read this from time to time, so be kind. Thanks and let's see where this goes.