Jane and Mark love braised oxtail, as do I. Every very few months, we get a major craving for oxtail, so I made it for Sunday night dinner this past week. The last time I braised oxtails, I used a Ming Tsai recipe, which had too many ingredients. Sometimes I love his East meets West fusion food, but this dish was not one of them.
I wanted a more traditional Chinese recipe and stumbled upon an aromatic Chinese oxtail stew recipe by Jennifer McLagan. The ingredient list was simple, and I really liked how the sauce is refrigerated overnight, which makes removing the fat easier. The orange zest and juice were the only things I didn't like in the recipe. I think this stems from my aversion to orange beef.
Of course, I had to screw around with the recipe and incorporate other ingredients. For ideas, I immediately thought of my favorite Vietnamese noodle soup, bún bò Hue, which uses oxtails and lemongrass. Instead of the orange in McLagan's recipe, I replaced it with lemongrass and a lime. I also increased the amount of star anise, added whole cloves, shiitake mushrooms and Thai chili peppers for some much needed heat!
My additions make the ingredient list seem long, but the dish was easy to prepare because there's hardly any chopping. Once the oxtails were simmering in the oven, the aromas were simply heavenly! The smell reminded me of Vietnamese pho from the star anise and cloves. After three hours of braising, the oxtails were very tender and the meat was falling off the bone. It was hard not to eat them immediately, but the sauce was on the greasy side and the fat needed to be removed, so begrudgingly, I strained the sauce and threw it all in the fridge.
The next day, I skimmed the layer of fat that collected on top of the gelatinous sauce. It's not a pretty process, but it makes the dish healthier. This is my way of rationalizing that it's okay to eat oxtail on regular basis. Once the sauce was re-heated, I poured it over the oxtails and added the shiitake mushrooms.
After an agonizing hour of braising, the oxtails were finally ready and were covered in a thick, dark sauce. We served them over jasmine rice and a side of bok choy. The oxtails were garnished with diced scallions and a squeeze of lime juice. They were fantastic and flavorful from the soy and aromatics. The sour lime juice was a nice addition and cut the richness of the meat and sauce.
The savory sauce was wonderfully soaked up by the plain rice. The shiitakes gave the sauce an earthy taste and a strong mushroom fragrance. We really enjoyed the added flavor and texture of the shiitakes, but they are completely optional. I called my recipe Chinese braised oxtail stew, and while the flavors are predominately Chinese, it's really a melting pot of Asian flavors, which "live together in perfect harmony."
For dessert, we intended to make something light with fruit, but somehow ended up serving root beer floats. What's that quote? "The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry." That pretty much sums up our dessert choice.
After all the rich and heavy meals recently, Hungry Bear and I agreed to cook lighter for a little bit. Let's see how quickly my love for braised hunks of meat foils this pact.
SNDsters: Karen, Garry, Mark, Jane, Hungry Bear, Chuck
Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew Recipe
Prep and cook time: 5 hours, plus overnight marinating
5 to 6 pounds oxtails, cut into pieces, fat trimmed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 cups low-sodium beef or chicken stock
1/3 cup dark or regular soy sauce
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
2 star anise, broken into pieces
2 whole cloves
4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and bruised
3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths, plus 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
6 slices fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3-4 Thai chili peppers, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
10 ounces fresh or dried whole shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, re-hydrated if dried
1 lime, zested and cut into small wedges
Cooked jasmine rice, for serving.
1) Heat oven to 300 degrees. Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown oxtail all over, removing each piece when done. Add oil as needed.
2) When done browning, pour off extra fat from bottom of empty pot and set pot over high heat. Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. In a bowl, mix soy sauce and sugar with 2 cups stock and pour into pot. Add lemongrass, chili peppers, star anise, cloves, 2-inch pieces of scallions, ginger and garlic and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Return oxtails to pot and add lime zest. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook 1½ hours.
3) Turn over pieces of oxtail, cover again and cook 1½ hours more, or until oxtail is very tender. Remove oxtails from pot and strain sauce into a separate saucepan; discard contents of strainer. Transfer oxtail pieces back to ovenproof pot. Cover oxtails and sauce and refrigerate overnight.
4) The next day, heat oven to 300 degrees; remove oxtails and sauce from refrigerator. Lift off any fat on surface of sauce and discard. Gently warm sauce until liquid, then pour over oxtails and stir in shiitake mushrooms. Cover with foil or a lid and bake 30 minutes.
5) Uncover, stir and raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Stir again and cook another 15 minutes, until hot and glazed thickly with sauce. Remove oxtails from oven and serve over rice. Sprinkle each serving with thin scallion slices and squeeze lime juice over oxtails.
Makes 4 servings
[Adapted from Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore by Jennifer McLagan]
[tags]chinese, vietnamese, oxtail, braised, shiitake, bok choy, mushrooms, lemongrass[/tags]