Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Rabo de boi de bodega

The seasoned oxtail ready to sizzle in the pan.
I caused a near riot in the butchers on Saturday. The butcher had got me two Oxtails and was setting about cutting them when some very over- excited Portuguese women pointed and shouted  "rabo" "rabo" (oxtail) "Desculpe as senhoras"( sorry ladies) said the butcher- "Ecomenda especial" (special order). How lucky was I.Foresight had paid off.

Winter warmer sans pareil and proof that cheap need not mean chav. Cooking oxtail is as easy as falling off a log, but more fun, and if cooked to perfection the meat should fall off the bone that easily too.
Thank all them goddam flies for the flavoursome meat that arrives on our plate. The oxtail has built up powerful muscle by constantly swish-swishing that tail all day long to ward off the pestering of unwanted insects. I know the feeling, and I don´t even have to stand in a muddy field all day.
Oxtail is almost impossible to over cook, and responds even better to being re-heated.So its always my choice for a sensible nourishing Sunday lunch.A big terrine in the middle of the table for your guests to deposit their discarded bones adds to the bonhomie around the table, or as happened on Sunday, three dogs sitting patiently by the table with expectant faces!!
Always remember to reserve plate space for something starchy to  soak up the braising liquid. Even quantities of celeriac and potato mashed together or horseradish mashed potato would be my chosen side orders.

This is my Portuguese interpretation of the original Elizabeth David recipe Queue de bouef des vignerons.( oxtail as cooked by the wine growers)
To make the lengthy cooking worth while buy at least two oxtails. Get your butcher to cut them into the usual 2-inch lengths. The other ingredients are 3-4 oz ( 250g ) of salt pork or fat unsmoked bacon bought in one piece.2 large onions,4 large carrots and 2lb (1kilo) of white grapes. For seasoning I used a combination of two Flor de sal salmarim gourmet salts, Azeitona and Aromatica, freshly milled pepper some flor de noz moscada (mace) and a sprinkling of pimenta de jamaica (allspice ). A bouquet garni made up of 2 bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and two crushed cloves of garlic, tied up in a small handkerchief.
Steep the oxtail in cold water for a minimum of two hours, so that the blood soaks out.
Cut the bacon without the rind, into small cubes.Chop the onions and dice the carrots.
Put the bacon in the bottom of a heavy stock pot or casserole, with the vegetables on top.Set it on a low flame and cook for 10 minutes until the fat from the bacon is running. Now put the in the pieces of oxtail which you have seasoned as above.Place the bouquet of herbs in the middle. Cover the pot and cook gently for 20 minutes.Now add the grapes, which you have separated from their stalks and crush slightly in a bowl.Cover the pot with two sheets of greaseproof paper and the lid. Transfer to a very low oven 290 F / 145C Gas 1, and cook for a minimum of 31/2 hours. Oxtail can vary in quality, and sometimes can take a good deal longer.Unless the meat is soft and tender and falling off the bone, it will not be good.When it is cooked, quickly transfer the oxtail pieces and some of the little bits of bacon to a serving dish, keeping it hot while you finely sieve all the rest of the ingredients.Pour the resulting sauce over the oxtail and serve with your choice of something starchy, as I previously suggested.
  • I have always used Elizabeth David´s alternative method, which is to cook the dish for half an hour less, take out the oxtail, and leave the sieved sauce separately so that you can skim the excess fat from the top when it is cold.Having done this, pour the sauce, warmed through, over the meat and return to the stove top. When the sauce was warm I liquidised it slightly in the pan to create a thicker gravy but still keeping the texture of the carrots and bacon.An all-round heat tends to make the sauce oily, whereas a direct heat will help it retain its consistency.
You can re-heat this dish two or three times without damage.

Two oxtails make six to eight ample servings. We were four for Sunday lunch,and there was plenty left over for another two servings of Monday supper, plus enough sauce to be pureed down for a rich heartwarming soup.

1 comment:

  1. I really like oxtail,funnily I was reading of an old recipe today for xmas mincemeat pies which included ox tongue or tail.I was thinking I might try it just to see what it was like.I think originally the spices and fruit were used to preserve the meat.I know that had nothing to do with your recipe..
    I agree you must make a soup with any leftovers very rich and delicious.

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