Monday, April 04, 2016

It's Offcially Morel Season -- And Just Chilly Enough For Stew

     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.


Anonymous said...

Why, pray tell, the non-stick pot?

pigpen51 said...

I would guess for the browned bits you deglaze from the bottom. My grandmother made oxtail soup/stew on a regular basis. This was 40 odd years ago, when oxtail was a cheap cut. Now it is as expensive as some cheaper cuts of steak!
She often put barley in hers. She almost invariably used a bay leaf or two in her soups and stews, as well. Back then, here in West MI, basil was not a frequent ingredient with our family.
As for the morels, we usually would be ready to start looking for them in the woods in a week or two, but it seems like mother nature is going to be hard to get a good read on this year. I am told to expect the 2 day type of weather forecast. 2 days of rain/snow/sleet followed by 2 days of nice, sunny and warm, repeat until summer.

It sucks, but TIM. This is Michigan. Inside joke, my name might not really be pigpen51.

On a good note, the trout are running in our rivers, the weather doesn't matter that much to them.

Roberta X said...

Anon: you don;t want a non-stick pot because the many-angled oxtail bone will scratch it up.

...Oxtail has gotten expensive, though compared to some of the really fancy cuts at Fresh Market, it's not that bad.

D.W. Drang said...

Fun fact: Oxtails were the number one item in the Defense Commissaries in Korea, even though no one knew anyone who ate oxtails.
Popular on the black market, though...

Anonymous said...

"Anon: you don;t want a non-stick pot because the many-angled oxtail bone will scratch it up."

Indeed, an *excellent* idea. I yell at people who dare use a metal cooking tool on my no-stick (or seasoned cast iron) cookware. It will flat ruin them.

Pigpen51 thought it had to do with browning, but I've never had an issue browning meat on Teflon.

Wood (preferably) or silicone tools only.

I have heard some good things about those super-slippery ceramic coatings on some cookware, I may have to try one and see what the fuss is all about.

And what about all those poor oxen walking around now with bandages on the stumps of their tails?

Almost as bad as all those poor frogs on tiny crutches when they take their frog legs.

And the *millions* of poor Minces slaughtered yearly for mincemeat pie...

*sob* :)