Friday, October 30, 2015

As the Worm Turns - Oxtails with Peaches, Carrots and Shittakes

The Magic LOST. First game of the regular season, home court advantage, and they LOST. But wait, it gets better: they lost by one point. One freaking point. A single digit. I hope Coach Skiles took them back to the locker room and gave them hell.

The Mets lost the second game of the World Series. What the hell is going on? I am not even close to being emotionally invested in the Mets, although back in 1969 it was a different matter, even though I was raised by a serious Yankee fan - but I still cheer on the major league New York teams, and damn it, I want the Mets to win.

Well, that was exhausting. Alway great to start the day with negativity. 

Speaking of negativity, check this out:

It was pasted on the back window of a car parked in my therapist's parking lot. Not his car, and likely not one of his patients - I had to park all the way down the lot, which is unusual - but delightfully snarky, whoever the car's owner happened to be.

As you know, I did not watch the third Republican debate (because I was watching the Magic lose instead) so I have to rely on the media for the skinny on what happened out there in Colorado. The news here in Florida is that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are no longer playing nice. Yawn. But the really big news was not so much the candidate's performance as it was their joint effort in smacking down the CNBC moderators for trying to start what Senator Ted Cruz called a "cage fight." We're hearing that the debate winners were Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie. Go New Jersey!!

Today turned out to be a good one, a productive day. If I passed out on the couch for a two-hour nap, so be it. It was worth it.  I prepared the oxtails, and while they took their time in the crockpot, I helped James with the planting. Well, he did all the heavy lifting, while I waved my baton.  I did some measuring, placed each little veggie pot where they needed to go, and wielded a pair of scissors to remove the little plastic liner from the top of the pots.  Not exactly the same as digging and raking, but we were in the sun and after a little while we were feeling it. Once, just once, I sort of lost my balance causing me to have to jump back about two feet, and that, my friend, jarred the hell out my body, reminding me yet again how fibromyalgia forced me to give up Taekwando.

I still have one bed to work on, the one that will contain all of the lettuces and cruciferous vegetables, but the majority is done and gorgeous and I have to show it off:

Onto the oxtails - seriously, do not be freaked out by the name. First of all, this is not "offal", or some kind of innards.  It is a cut of beef, no different from eating a short rib.  This is the kind of eat-with-your-fingers messy dish that can only be described as heartwarming. Sitting around the dinner table, everybody happily slurping, is a picture worthy of Norman Rockwell.

This is my second version of this dish. The first used apricot nectar and dried apricots, and included a sweet red bell pepper and jalapeño. If I'd had the peppers available, I would have included them, but even without, this version came out (cue Christopher Eccleston voice here) "Fantastic!" The first time I prepared oxtails, I did everything on top of the stove,  but this time I had to rely on the crockpot to babysit the dish while I worked on the garden.    

Oxtails with Peaches, Carrots and Shittakes                                                                                                           

2 whole heads of garlic
3 1/2 - 4 pounds oxtail
Dry Rub for Lamb
Olive oil (if you have garlic-infused oil, use it)
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4-10.5 oz. cans Campbell's beef consommé
2 cups V-8 fusion peach mango juice
3 tablespoons chipotle sauce (La Costena brand)
honey, to taste
4 oz. box of shittake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 stick of butter
1 teaspoon sugar
4 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 pound dried white peaches (Trader Joe's), cut in quarters

First, roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the tops off of the garlic heads. Put a small amount of oil in a pan, and set the garlic heads in there, cut side up. Drizzle more oil over the top of the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the cloves are soft and light brown.  Set aside to cool. You can do this well in advance.

Season oxtails on all sides with the dry rub.  Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (I actually triple-wrapped the seasoned oxtails months ago and stored them in the freezer.) Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat, and brown the oxtail on all sides.  Remove the oxtails when browned and set aside. Add the chopped onions and lower the heat to medium. Add the bay leaves and the thyme and stir. Add the beef consommé, the peach mango juice, the cloves of one head of the roasted garlic (easiest to squeeze them out)and the chipotle sauce.  Stir and scrape up the bottom of the skillet.  Taste the sauce, and drizzle in a small amount of honey, to taste, to counter any excess heat from the chipotle sauce.  Bring to a boil, then shut off the heat.

Spray the inside of a six quart crockpot with some no-stick stuff.  Place the oxtails into the crockpot, and pour all of the sauce over them.  Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 2 hours. Now add the cut-up carrots and peaches, cover and cook for another hour.  As soon as you have added the carrots and peaches, melt the butter in a skillet and add the sliced onions. Season the onions with some salt, pepper, and the teaspoon of sugar.  Cook for a while until the onions begin to caramelize.  Add the cloves from the remaining head of garlic and the shittake mushrooms. Cook until the onions are caramelized and the mushrooms softened.  When the hour is up, add the contents of the skillet to the crockpot, cover and cook another 2 hours.

Remove the oxtails to a baking pan, and with a slotted spoon, do the same thing with the fruit and vegetables.  Pour the sauce into a pan (I used the same skillet throughout) and place it in the refrigerator to cool for several hours.  Skim the fat off the top of the pan and discard it. Put the skillet back on the stove. Over medium high heat, cook the sauce until it is reduced by half. Taste and reseason.  Spoon the sauce (which is now rich and glossy and full of flavor) over the oxtails. You can serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.

Okay now - don't skip the fat skimming stage. Very important with this cut of meat. Do reduce the sauce, even just a bit, to bring out the best flavor.  First time I served this I accompanied it with store-bought potato gnocchi.  This time I'm going to serve the homemade gnocchi in my freezer. Or you can make mashed potatoes, which are perfect for this dish.

This is also screaming out for a green vegetable, like green beans. If you make the mashed potatoes, the vegetable has to be green peas. I think it's a law or something.

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