oxtail recipes - and how one long tail made it through 4 meals.
We all have sides to ourselves that need to be fed.
We have nuances that keep us sane. Habits of comfort, people we call, ways we organize. New year beginnings are a time to revisit our priorities, rearrange as necessary and re-up our commit to good health, happiness and worthy goals. As I hit mid-life and have years of parenting, jobs, relationships gone good and bad - I am gaining a handle on what keeps me grounded - and have found that sometimes even the smallest things matter.
I have long been a believer that taking care of oneself benefits those around you. What little things do you do you to create 'happy' for yourself? It can be something you do, something you notice, something you think about. Here are some of mine (and yes this leads to oxtail recipes):
- pulling on vintage cowboy boots.
- tall jeans that touch the floor when I wear them.
- wrapping my hands around a hot eggnog latte.
- a clean house - I work out of my house and have learned I can hardly focus if my kitchen has a stack of dishes, dirty laundry remains or my floors need a good swift cleaning. But when all is clean, my heart is warm and head is clear.
- spending time in my garden. Learning.
- snapping photos of old barns, sons with smiles, just harvested food, travels.
- an impromptu hug and conversation with my favorite neighbor.
- slurping oysters and drinking Manhattans with husband at new, nearby restaurant (happiness doubles knowing my teens are at home studying and are fully independent - so we can sneak out for happy hour without a second thought).
- oxtail recipes. Okay not entirely true. The happiness is: the challenge and triumph of tackling new ingredients and bending them to my culinary prowess - the most recent of which was oxtail.
With one oxtail I made 6 oxtail recipes: oxtail stew, oxtail ragu, oxtail empanadas, oxtail demi sauce (greatly reduced oxtail stock) and oxtail risotto. Having never worked with oxtail, I did a cursory search for oxtail recipes and decided to braise most of the tail (browned, then simmered in combo of wine and stock). I stuck in oven on a low temp (225), covered. After a few hours, I removed, strained the sauce and cut off some of the meat. It takes a bit of work to cut off meat, as the tail has sinew and a lot of bone. That said: bones are the source of high quality stock. Depending on what bones you are talking about, some lend to more flavor and high viscosity/almost gelatinous (oxtail is ideal - I made both stock and demi from stock. Oxtail stock is what went into making risotto, and the demi sauce is what my chef at cooking school used to call 'liquid gold'). You make demi by reducing the stock longer, further, to the point where it is concentrated in flavor. I froze a handful of demi sauces to add to future braises, roasts and soups.
Note: some of the tail I braised. The remainder I used for the ragu, stock and demi. I cut the meat off the bones in 1/4 inch dice for the ragu (follow this recipe, sub oxtail), the bones I browned for stock then demi sauce. Ragu is versatile; serve over polenta, toss with pasta or spoon ragu [plus some blue cheese] into puff pastry circles for empanadas.
I will add a beef stock recipe to Talk of Tomatoes shortly. In the interim, it is similar to making chicken stock, but instead of just tossing the chicken carcass and vegetables into the pot, you first brown beef bones under a broiler - turning to brown all sides. Once brown, use a table knife to spread a thin thin layer of tomato paste on the bones and brown for an additional minute. In the pot you sweat the carrots, celery and onions over low heat until translucent (not caramelized). THEN you toss it all together in a pot to simmer for 5-7 hours. Strain and you have beautiful beef stock. Reduce for demi (you *could* also add a little red wine or brandy/whiskey to the demi).
I spend a tad bit of time on Facebook, and recently saw a suggestion for capturing a year of good memories. Snag a large jar and each time you notice something good - or create a good memory - write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. Then on Dec 31, 2014 (next New Year Eve), open it and read them out loud (suggestion: while sipping a deep red wine or favorite martini).
May all or your 'happy making' in 2014 have a long tail.