There is nothing I love more than walking in to the aroma of a delicious homemade dinner that has been simmering for hours. When the weather gets brisk and the market is full of squash and root veggies, I love braising - short ribs, lamb shanks, oxtail.
I am a bit old school about braising and love to take my time developing every bit of flavor: a serious brown on the meat, a slow sweat of all of the aromatics, 3 + hours of low and slow cooking in the oven. In a time crunch though, there's nothing like a slow cooker! Many dishes in the slow cooker allow you to just throw everything in one pot, turn it on and go, but I prefer to quickly sear or sauté whatever I am cooking,to get more flavor out it, and then throw it in the pot.
When it comes to oxtail, which is what this recipe is all about, I loooove West Indian-style - sweet, spicy, with a good dose of salt pork and some scotch bonnet heat.
I decided to break out and do something a little different. When you work in kitchens you find yourself surrounded by many different cultural backgrounds and this leads to epic family meals! One of my most memorable was being in the kitchen with a line cook from Senegal. When it was her turn for family, she made the most amazing foods, my most favorite was her Chicken Mafé (basically a chicken and peanut stew). I still crave it to this day! I remember her saying she uses beef at home…so why not oxtails!?
Below is my take on her dish, it’s best with rice or fonio (a West African grain)…pretty much anything to sop up the yummy sauce with! I'm now not sure which is my favorite way to make oxtail....Enjoy!
Yields 4 to 6 servings
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 ½ pounds oxtail, cut into segments
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 Scotch bonnet pepper or habanero pepper, minced or kept whole if you want less heat
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes, fire-roasted
3/4 cup peanut butter, all natural
1 quart chicken or beef stock
2 tablespoons Fish sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional)
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1" dice
1-2 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1" dice
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped for garnish
1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped for garnish (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 325° F.
In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Dry off oxtails, season generously with salt and pepper and sear for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Work in batches so you don't crowd the pan. Remove the oxtails and set aside in a plate or tray.
Reduce heat to medium and throw in the onion, bell pepper, and habanero or scotch bonnet if cut up (if whole, wait). Sauté for about 5-7 minutes until everything has softened. Add in the minced garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add in the tomato paste and sauté for another minute.
Now, add in the diced tomatoes, peanut butter, stock, fish sauce and soy sauce (if using). If you are keeping the habanero or scotch bonnet pepper whole, this is the place to add that in as well. Turn up the temperature and bring up to a boil. Make sure the peanut butter is evenly mixed into the stew.
Nestle the oxtail into the stew making sure they are fully covered. Pour in any juices that accumulated in the plate or tray where the oxtail were. Cover and place into the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 hours.
Remove from the oven and stir in the sweet and regular potatoes. Cover and place back into the oven for another 45 minutes.
Serve hot over rice or fonio garnished with chopped cilantro and peanuts.