I just got the best book for Christmas. I asked my brother-in-law and sister-in-law for a small paperback about cooking the odd bits of an animal, and what they got me was a gorgeous hard cover called “Odd Bits – how to cook the rest of the animal,” by Jennifer McLagan.
Considering my blog interests, I should have taken the plunge and nabbed this book a long time ago. But even if I didn’t cook dangerously and only ate chicken fingers (which sounds like adventurous animal parts, but…) I would still love reading this book. It blends food history, with culture, with storytelling, with beautiful photography. Love it.
Anyway, the ironic thing is that two nights before I received the book, I cooked the most dangerous cow part I’ve cooked to date without its help, which isn’t really saying much since the author describes how to prepare brains and udders and testicles and eyelashes. Okay, maybe not eyelashes. But after reading through what I could have been doing, I felt comparatively lame looking back on what I had done. I cooked oxtail.
When my blog fingers start to get itchy, I’m always surprised at how easily it is to stumble across a food that’s blog worthy. I always think to myself, “Well, better get myself down to T&T,” Toronto’s grocery store chain catering to global food interests, which would take at least two hours to do round-trip, and then I walk down my street to a local shop and find something that saves me the trouble. I think I’ve only been to T&T once, but I probably think about it at least every week. Toronto is awesome.
Anyway, I waltzed down to Rowe Farms with my stroller and found some nice locally raised oxtail. Sure, I thought, “ew,” to myself, but I also knew that many cultures enjoy oxtail and so I shouldn’t be a chicken about it. I tried not to look at doggy tails on the way home and Googled, “very best ox tail recipe,” which is often my strategy for finding good recipes. Here’s the first blog recipe I came across:
Slow Cooker Caribbean Oxtails
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed habanero pepper
- 4 pounds oxtails
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cups chicken broth or water
Directions: In a small bowl, mix the scallions, garlic, ginger, allspice, salt and habanero pepper together. Rub the spice mix all over the oxtails, marinate for at least one hour to overnight.
Place the sliced onion on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the thyme sprigs on top, then the oxtails. Pour the broth over the oxtails, cover and cook on high for 6 hours. When the oxtails are cooked, remove them from the slow cooker. Remove the thyme stems from the liquid. With a blender or food processor, carefully puree the sauce, then return it to the slow cooker, or pour it into a serving dish. Return the oxtails to the sauce.
Results: My house smelled delicious! If you don’t cook but want to pretend like you do, make this to distribute the aroma through your house, order in, and secretly pitch the oxtail. Everyone will think you’re a star. If you decide to serve the oxtail though, people might guess that you’re not a culinary god/goddess. Full disclosure – we weren’t in fine form for food sampling because we all had a touch of the flu on Christmas Eve this year, but I decided to cook it anyway before it went bad. I tried a bite or two trying to be an impartial-yet-slightly-nauseous food scientist. The seasoning was amazing, but the consistency of the oxtail wasn’t stellar. It was a little like second-rate chicken wings – fatty and chewy without much meat. I tried it again a few days later and my new frame of festive, healthy mind improved the result, but I still wouldn’t crave them. Rating: 1 Yum
But the good news… The good news is that I separated the meat and bones from the liquid (which was runnier than the “sauce,” impression the recipe gives) and used it as a rich stock for my famous roasted cream of mushroom soup, which might actually be Epicurious’ famous roasted cream of mushroom soup. This rich, hearty base melded perfectly with the mushrooms, and I could use less cream due to the improved consistency over chicken stock. Winner. Here’s the bonus recipe: Apologies that I forgot to take pictures.
Oxtail Roasted Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 1 pound portobello mushrooms, stemmed, dark gills removed, caps cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 14-ounce cans (or more) vegetable broth (or use homemade broth with oxtail or other beef bones)
Wine Pairing: My favourite wine website suggests that Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with mushroom soup, so I’ll go with the top-rated Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2009, Napa Valley, selling for $22.95 in Ontario.