Jamaican oxtail stew
Oxtails, like many other “scraps” synonymous with peasant food because of its toughness, require lots of patience. These cuts found their way into the pots of the poor the world over because they have been historically very cheap. Eventually, gourmands discovered the deliciousness of these “inferior” bits. People who would normally have turned their nose up at such a lowly piece of meat have discovered the incredible flavors that are unlocked when someone takes the time and care to cook it with love.
One of my favorite ways to prepare oxtail is Jamaican oxtail stew. Since oxtail is very tough and contains lots of cartilage, it requires a long, slow braise to break it down into soft, succulent, beefy goodness. So, on a lazy afternoon, grab your Dutch oven and a few Red Stripes, turn on some Bob Marley, and discover the joy of creating something rich and decadent from such a tough cut of meat.
The first thing you need to do is source some oxtail. Oxtail has become trendy in recent years and is finding its way onto the menus at many restaurants. This is great on one hand because it’s made it easier to find. On the other hand, this once cheap cut of meat is now steadily increasing in price. For this particular recipe, I found some great grass fed beef at my local farmers market. If you don’t have a farmers market nearby, your butcher or supermarket should stock it. You will need 2-3lbs of oxtail for this recipe. I got a bit carried away and forgot to take pictures of my oxtail before they went in the pot. Oops.
Along with the oxtail you will need a supporting cast of ingredients. 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped large yellow onion, 4 chopped green onions, 2 diced tomatoes, 2 tsp of minced garlic, 1 TBS of whole pimento seeds (whole all spice), 1 bunch of fresh thyme, and last but certainly not least 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper.
After you’ve acquired the oxtail the next step you need to do is rinse the oxtail with cold water. Next, squeeze the juice out of one lemon and wash the meat with the lemon juice. After you’ve washed it, it’s time to season the meat. I use ½ TBS of Goya Blue Top all-purpose seasoning. Any all-purpose seasoning will work. I like the blue top Goya because it does not have any pepper in it. I like being able to control how much pepper I season the meat with. Then I add ½ TBS of black pepper, 1 TBS of Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp of minced garlic, and 1 TBS of browning sauce. Browning sauce is simply for color; it does not add any flavor to the meat. The browning sauce is optional if you can’t find it. The gravy in the stew will simply be a lighter color brown. I added it to mine because it’s simply the traditional way to cook this stew.
Mix the seasoning into the meat and make sure all the surfaces are coated. I like to let the meat sit in the marinade overnight in a Ziplock or vacuum bag. This step is optional. You can start cooking right away if you want.
When you are ready to start cooking, heat a heavy bottom pot like a Cast Iron Dutch Oven on medium heat on your stove top with 2 TBS of vegetable oil. Place the meat in the Dutch oven and brown all sides of the oxtails. Be careful to save as much leftover marinade as possible. We will add it back in later.
After the oxtails are browned, remove them and set them aside. Add half of a chopped large yellow onion and 1 tsp of minced garlic. Cook the onions until they are translucent, being careful not to burn them.
After the onions are cooked, add in the oxtails, remaining marinade, one bunch of fresh thyme, 1 TBS of whole pimento seeds (whole allspice), and 1 scotch bonnet pepper cut in half with the seeds removed (habanero will substitute fine if you can’t find a scotch bonnet). I recommend wearing gloves when handling the scotch bonnet or habanero.
Next add in 2 cups of water. Then cover and boil the oxtails for one hour.
After the hour is up, add in two chopped carrots, two diced tomatoes, four chopped green onions, and the other half of your chopped large yellow onion.
Next, pour in one cup of water, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for another 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes are up, it’s time to add our last ingredient: butter beans. Butter beans are an essential part of this recipe. Butter beans are basically what we would call lima beans here in the states. They are one and the same so don’t freak out if you can’t find anything on the shelf called butter beans. Just grab a can of limas and you will be fine.
Add the beans and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the oxtails are fork tender. Once tender, I recommend you plate the dish on a bed of rice. Garnish with some chopped parsley and be sure wash it all down with another ice cold Red Stripe. Enjoy.
- 2-3lbs of oxtail
- 1 lemon
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- ½ TBS of all purpose seasoning (Goya blue top)
- ½ TBS of black pepper
- 1 TBS of worcestershire sauce
- 1 TBS of browning sauce (optional)
- 2 chopped carrots
- 1 chopped large yellow onion
- 4 chopped green onions
- 2 diced tomatoes,
- 1 TBS of whole pimento seeds (whole allspice)
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
- Rinse oxtail in cold water
- Juice one lemon and wash the meat with the lemon juice
- In a mixing bowl season meat with ½ TBS of all purpose seasoning.
- ½ TBS of black pepper, 1 TBS of Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp of minced garlic, 1 TBS of browning sauce (optional).
- Place seasoned meat in a ziplock bag and marinade overnight.
- Heat Dutch oven or heavy bottom stock pot with 2 TBS of vegetable oil
- Brown all sides of the oxtail being careful to save the marinade in the bag.
- Remove browned oxtails and set aside. Add ½ a chopped large yellow onion and 1 tsp of minced garlic to the pot. Cook until onions are translucent.
- Return oxtails to the pot, pour in the remaining marinade,add in 1 TBS of pimento seeds (whole allspice), 1 bunch of fresh thyme, and one scotch bonnet or habanero cut in half with seeds removed, and 2 cups of water.
- Bring pot to a boil and cook for one hour.
- After an hour add in two chopped carrots, two diced tomatoes, four chopped green onions, the other half of your chopped large yellow onion.
- Pour in one cup of water, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes at in one can of drained butter beans (lima beans).
- Simmer for another 30 minutes or until oxtails are fork tender.
- Plate stew on a bed of rice and garnish with parsley.