Tam and I stopped in at Locally Grown Gardens yesterday and they had four big baskets of morel mushrooms in their cooler! Naturally,we bought a bag of them and last night, I fried 'em in a little light olive oil and served them alongside home-made oxtail stew. This was a happy combination; the delicate falvor of the morels went nicely with the hearty stew.
Oxtail stew itself is not difficult to make, though you do need time and a plain stewpot -- don't use non-stick. Around here, it's sold on the bone in 2 to 3-inch sections, the larger of which are nearly cubical. Start with one or two of them (or several smaller ones), salted, peppered and browned on all sides in a very little oil, then add water (or beef broth if you're in a hurry) to about half-cover, deglaze, cover and simmer. Don't boil it. After awhile -- maybe a half-hour for the quick version and a couple of hours or more for the slow version -- add a can of crushed tomatoes, liquid and all. This should cover the meat. Now you can chop and saute half an onion and some carrots (etc -- a cubed turnip or a little cabbage wouldn't hurt and neither would a pepper-of-choice) and celery if you'd like (I didn't have any -- I used celery seed to add a similar flavor). Cut up a potato or two in half-inch chunks and add that. Then saute the other half of the onion and a large fresh tomato with basil and whatever other spices appeal to you (maybe a little rosemary and sage?) and once the onion has gone translucent, add it to the stewpot. You can "lean" the recipe depending on the spices you add; lots of cultures make oxtail dishes and they all have their own take on what works. (Search engines are your friend -- IIRC, my version is very loosely based on a Spanish version.)
By now, the oxtail has been cooking at least an hour and you can fish it out, let it cool a bit, and begin snipping meat from the bone with kitchen shears-- it's a convoluted shape and there's really a lot of meat on it. (The longer the oxtail cooks, the easier to get the meat off the bone.) Just snip away as much as you can over the pot and drop the bone back in. Let it simmer some more -- twenty minutes, a half-hour -- and trim more meat from the bone. Continue at least until the potato is cooked and the aroma is driving you mad. Salt and pepper to taste. Leave the bone simmering as long as the soup is cooking, it's got lots of flavor. Serve with good crackers or crusty bread.
* You can "stretch" it with a little stew beef and/or sausage, which takes less cooking time, but you want oxtail to be at least a third or more of the total amount of meat by weight before cooking, so that good, rich taste isn't lost.I'm a big fan of frying a little sausage separately (so the fat can be drained) and adding it to soups.
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