I know what you’re thinking. I need to ween myself from the meat. I have been on a colorfully red meat diet for the better part of the year and I can only chalk it up to my deficiency of iron…well, that’s my story anyways, and as they say, I’m sticking to it, okay? Some nights, when I am feeling particularly guilty, I have tried to go the other way, back into the land of fish but as of late, especially, I know if there is fish, there must also be meat (more meeet!!). Perhaps Buddy has rubbed off on me (you know what they say about humans becoming to look (or act) like their dog?). In my defense however, this dinner was something I made several weeks ago, and I have been more successful in taming that fiendish craving of meat, as my friends at Gemini Seafood Market can attest.
So, as I was saying, several weeks ago while I was cruising (yes, cruising) for meat in the back half of my local market, there sat a tray of beautiful oxtails calling out to me. I tried to ignore them so they must have jumped into my cart without even a word, because when I got home and unpacked my satchels, there they were, unexpected but welcome. I was torn as to what I would flavor them with – spicy, mild, sweet? I did a little rummaging about my kitchen and came up with a pile of ingredients that seemed to suit. The tomatillos were slated for an enchilada sauce that never emerged and the salsa was several days old and needing a warm home. As luck would have it, I had just recently made fresh chicken stock (because I was out of beef stock), and since I had left a few cups of perfectly brewed coffee in the pot that morning, I figured why not? I picked up the cranberry beans on my recent visit to DeLaurenti and if you haven’t tried Rancho Gordo beans, you are in for a treat. To add a dose of greens, toss in a handful of haricot vert for the last little bit (15 minutes).
Braised oxtails with cranberry beans
3 lbs (two packages) oxtail, rinsed and pat dry
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt plus fresh pepper for seasoning
1 TB olive oil
1/4 cup madeira for deglazing
2 large carrots, peeled
2 onions cut in half, skin removed
3 tomatillos, husk removed, cut in half lengthwise
1 head garlic, loose skin removed, cut in half horizontally
1 cup mango salsa (I had mine left from the swordfish on Valentine’s day)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 knob veal demi-glace (optional)
1 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock (or beef stock)
1 cup brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup Rancho Gordo Cranberry beans (dry), rinsed
Rinse and pat dry the oxtail. Season with the salt and pepper.
Brown them in a large, low-sided dutch oven over medium heat. Be sure to brown all sides, knobly as they are. Remove to a plate (or, as I do, remove to the lid of said dutch oven).
De-glaze with madeira, scraping all of the bits off the bottom of the pan. Place the carrot, onion, tomatillo and garlic in the pan. Sprinkle the mango salsa over and tuck in the rosemary sprig.
Add back the oxtail and pour over the simmering broth/coffee and then the red wine. Bring this all to a simmer, then cover and place in a pre-heated 300 degree oven. Scatter the cranberry beans in, trying to be sure they are in liquid. These are so wonderful when cooked but I was really nervous that I would have ruined the sauce. It is true that they sucked a bit more of the liquid than I would have preferred but a sauce can still be had if only you are patient. I am of course, not patient, so I make due in a quick sort of cheating way (I add wine when I go to re-heat).
Let cook for 3 1/2 – 4 hours, covered, checking in every now and again. As you check in on the oxtail, give them a poke and a prod; nudge things around a bit. The liquid should remain high until the 3rd hour. Tilt the lid askew after 3 hours to allow the liquid to thicken a little (but keep an eye that it does not evaporate completely). Also be sure to tuck the beans into the liquid if they pop up.
After 3 1/2 – 4 hours, the meat should be meltingly tender and the top nicely browned. Remove the pot from the oven and tilt it to one side by placing the lid under one end. The oil should collect on one side, making it easy to spoon away and discard.
On heated plates, place a piece of onion, a spoonful of the cranberry beans and a slice of carrot. Top with one or two pieces of oxtail and tuck the haricot vert underneath.
…and for dessert
Because it was February, closely following Valentine day (February 18th, actually).
Tempted by a yummy blog post by the Healthy Epicurean, I decided to try my hand at baking. Not sure why, since I rarely bake. These just looked so good with the added bonus of being healthy, as these baked kind-of-things go.
I, being unable to completely follow a recipe (kind of a rule breaker, I am), took a few liberties to try and make them even healthier (or rather, simply didn’t have all the ingredients) to Tom’s chagrin. It is quite eye-opening as to what a baked product actually consists of when you are the one mixing up the ingredients; with this one though, I felt pretty good about what was going into them. I know I sound a little hypocritical since I would not even hesitate to add half a stick of butter to a pan of potatoes or an extra knob when cooking fish. We all have our priorities you know? Needless to say, these are most likely not as good as hers (although I liked them quite a bit); they are packed with good cocoa flavor, and are extra-delightful when baked in a ramekin with a spoonful of marmalade tucked inside.
2 1/2 oz spelt flour whole grain
9 1/4 oz sprouted whole wheat flour
2 1/4oz cocoa (no added sugar)
2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
90 g dark 70% chocolate, melted
5 1/2 oz can lite coconut milk
1/4 cup greek yogurt (you might need a little extra if the batter seems too dry)
3 TB honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pear diced
Fleur de sel for sprinkling on batter before cooking
Orange marmalade or raspberry jam (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease two Madeleine trays, 12 small ramekins or muffin tins (or a combination of all) with butter.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and cardamon into a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the coconut milk, yogurt, honey, pear, olive oil and melted chocolate. Mix on medium speed until well combined. Fill the cooking vessels with the batter, tuck in a tsp full of marmalade or jam, sprinkle with sea salt and bake until a toothpick comes away clean. The time will vary depending on how large or small your cooking vessel. Check in after 10 minutes, but it could take up to 20.