Caramel gives oxtails sweet edge
Unlikely combinations make cooking ultimately interesting. For example, Mike Wong's unlikely combination of oxtails and caramel candy. It was in a recipe he'd collected many years back but had lost.
Oxtails and caramel -- you gotta be intrigued by that. Two readers were intrigued enough to have saved such a recipe. Neither of them had tried making it, but when they saw Wong's request printed here, they were able to come up with their copies.
My test batch yielded a deeply flavored oxtail stew with rich, slightly sweet undertones. Intriguing, in fact.
An adaptation follows -- the original was hazy on some measurements and instructions. Understand, this is not a quickie dish. It takes more than two hours of simmering, and it's best if you make it a day ahead -- the flavor improves, and the fat will harden so you can remove it, cutting that greasy feeling that can come with oxtails.
I left the broth soupy. It tastes so good, you'll want to sip it with a spoon. But if you prefer a gravy, thicken it when you reheat the stew with cornstarch dissolved in water.
Oxtail Stew with Caramels
2-1/2 to 3 pounds meaty oxtails, fat and membrane trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil, divided use
2 cups water
32 ounces beef broth
1-1/2 cups red wine
2 packets dry onion soup mix
2 medium onions, cut in wedges
1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 pieces caramel candy (2-1/2 ounces total)
1 cup thickly sliced carrots
1 pound small red or white potatoes, whole, unpeeled
3/4 pound daikon, peeled and cut in large chunks
In Dutch oven, brown oxtails in 2 tablespoons oil on all sides. Add water; cover and simmer 1 hour.
Skim fat and foam. Add broth, wine and onion soup mix. Bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer another hour, until very tender.
Meanwhile, brown onions and mushrooms in remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add to oxtails along with all the remaining ingredients. Simmer 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Separate stew from broth and refrigerate separately. After a few hours, remove fat from top of broth; discard. Combine broth with stew.
Reheat the next day, thickening with cornstarch if desired. Serves 6 to 8.
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