Sunday’s supper was braised oxtails, one of the popular dishes from my childhood. This dish is still a favorite in many Jamaican kitchens and restaurants. Part of its composition is a center bone which is quite a delight to savor by sucking the mouth-watering gravy. You just can’t help yourself; your fingers will become utensils while partaking. After all, it’s a rustic meal.
Over the years, this dish has grown in popularity across many ethnic lines. As a result, the prices have increased exorbitantly. However, that has not stopped lovers of oxtails to purchase same. In Jamaica, we mainly cook ox tails with lima beans (butter beans) which are added close to the end of the cooking process.
There are a few variations in cooking braised ox tails and everyone places their signature stamp on same. For me, the previous night I trimmed any residual fat from oxtails pieces before seasoning. Then, oxtails pieces were seasoned with salt, black pepper, crushed garlic, a splash balsamic vinegar (which act as a tenderizer as well as for flavoring), and a pinch of jerk sauce (my preference for added flavors).
After bringing oxtails to room temperature, they were added to a sturdy hot skillet with a drizzle of canola oil. I allowed them to brown on each side (turning repeatedly). Chopped root vegetables were added in the form of chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers. Also, thyme and rosemary were added along with crushed pimento (all spice).
There was no need to add beef broth as oxtails are loaded with great flavors. So, instead, tap cold water was used to cover pieces. Under low to medium heat, oxtail pieces were braised for two and a half hours (adding liquid,(water) whenever needed. By the way, this dish is a labor of love. It takes time; two to three hours. A pressure cooker would cut the duration.
As soon as the pieces were fork-tender, additional seasonings were added. Instead of lima beans (butter), spinners (small dumplings) were added. These dumplings were made with a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Dish was further simmered for an additional five to ten minutes.
The finished dish was one that was a ‘fall-off’ the bone one. These tenderized pieces of meat had the right amount of spices and flavorings that were mouth-watering to the palate.
Oxtails were served with steamed Jasmine rice which soaked up all the amazing flavors of the thick and rich gravy. In addition, a side dish of sauteed assorted vegetables accompanied the dish.