A continuing series on weekly meals that use sustainable, organic, local and ethical food during the challenging winter months. For more information, go here to the DDC section of Not Dabbling in Normal’s website: Dark Days Challenge.
In which I discover a new meat stock, which promises to be as versatile as it is delicious…
I don’t know what got into me when I bought oxtails from a local organic dairy farm. I bought only a pound, three slices of varied sizes. It takes a while to make this stock, though it’s mostly untended, but in order to get enough meat for a meal, you probably need about 4 pounds. That’s what most recipes call for if you’re serving about four adults. I went back to the farm for more but they had sold out for the season. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, since I parlayed my three little pieces into 2+ quarts of delicious stock using only local organic raw ingredients, local wine and homemade chicken stock. And the meat that I harvested was plenty for my purpose: delicious beet and beef borscht.
My approach to this traditional stew is not authentic, I’m sure, but I really don’t know what is authentic since dishes like this are generic and personal at the same time. Since the oxtail stock was incredibly flavorful, I wanted it to shine through. So I cooked grated beets in the stock and prepared the other ingredients separately, combining them and the shredded oxtail meat at the end. This approach gave a freshness to the dish that’s appropriate to the warming season. During the dark days, green garnishes are hard to come by, except for the beginning of spring when we can forage bittercress from the lawn and garden. So that’s what I sprinkled on top. We ate this for a few days in a row and it got better and better.
3 medium-large beets
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 c liquid, combination of 4 c meat stock and 2 c water (see below for oxtail stock)
2 waxy potatoes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 c sliced cabbage
Meat from oxtails (amount variable)
Optional herb garnish
Grate the beets and set aside. Slowly cook the chopped onion in vegetable oil until soft. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add the grated beets to the pot and stir to combine. Add the liquid, bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the beets are tender.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and lightly boil the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes to cool and add the carrots, cooking them until crisp-tender. Drain and reserve the carrots. Cube the cooked potatoes.
Saute the cabbage in a little vegetable oil, browning it lightly. Add a little liquid from the beet mixture, cover the pan and let the cabbage cook until crisp tender.
Just before serving, combine all of the ingredients and cook for about 5 minutes to combine flavors. Serve garnished with optional herbs.
Oxtail Stock (for 2 quarts)
1 lb oxtails
2 carrots, cut into 3” pieces
1/2 c peeled celeriac cubes
1/3 c white wine
1 onion, quartered
4 c chicken stock
Water (about 3 cups)
1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice some of the outer fat from the oxtail. Render the fat in a small, heavy Dutch oven (e.g., Le Creuset enameled cast iron covered pot) over medium low heat. Add the oxtails to the pot in one layer and sear them over medium to medium-high heat, to brown them on all sides. Turn down the heat if the fat starts to burn. The browning process will take about 20 minutes in total. About halfway through, add the carrots and celeriac to the pot and brown them also.
When the meat and vegetables are browned, remove them to a plate and pour off excess fat. Deglaze the pan with white wine and let it cook down a minute. Return the meat and vegetables to the pot, add the onion, and pour in the stock, water and salt. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover the pot with foil and place the lid on top, taking care to seal the pot well. Place the pot in the oven for 10 minutes at 300 degrees. Turn the heat down to 225 degrees and cook for 2 hours. Check the pot occasionally to make sure that the liquid is not boiling.
Remove the pot from the oven and set it aside to cool. When cool, refrigerate the stock. Remove any fat that solidifies on top before using.