I used to love to eat under a palm tree in an outdoor courtyard in Cayman. Thursday’s special was Oxtail and Myrna- the cook, knew to plate it up for me as soon as she saw me turn the corner.
Let me tell you, it was nothing like the grey, boiled meat we ate in Ireland with carrots, potatoes and barley. Mind you most of our meat was boiled- yuck!
Myrna spooned coconut rice onto the plate first, slid on a portion of fried plantains and carefully placed a perfectly moist, glistening knuckle of oxtail on top. The meat was always fork tender, its juices seeping onto the rice with its sunny hint of coconut. The caramelized plantains were a sweet contrast to the spicy broth. Finally and without any ladylike airs- the lifting up of the bone and sucking all of the knobby nooks and crannies of any wayward piece of meat until it was done . Oh my- there was never enough…
Big Wendy pictured far left in the picture below, shared with me her recipe, Oxtail Caribbean style. I bless her every time I gnaw on a knuckle and I can hear palm trees whisper her laughter …
Oxtail Caribbean Style
* One or two oxtails (ask your butcher to saw them into knuckles for you.) Depends on how many you are feeding. I allow at least two large knuckles per person.
* Fresh thyme and rosemary- a sprig of each.
* Vinegar – 1 cup.
* 1 x green pepper deseeded and diced.
* 2 x regular onions diced.
* 2 x cloves of garlic crushed.
* 4 x cups of beef bouillon or stock. Note must be enough liquid to cover bones and to allow meat to move freely in the broth.
* A chopped jalapeno or scotch bonnet pepper. It depends on how spicy you like it. Put the scotch bonnet in whole for a mild flavor and cut it in half for real spicy!
* 2 x tbsps. of olive oil.
Trim each knuckle of fat- but not too much. (This fat gives wonderful flavor.)
Wash the meat in the vinegar to remove bone fragments and to take away the fatty smell. Pat dry.
Heat oil in a large pot. Fry knuckles- using tongs- a few at a time to seal in flavor. Remember to turn over and sauté each side until the fat has caramelized all over.
Work through all of the knuckles in batches removing and allowing to rest on paper towels to absorb fat.
When all of the meat is browned, sauté onions until clear in the same pot, scraping up all of the crispy meat residue , add the garlic and green peppers to pan and cook until soft. Lastly add jalapeño or scotch bonnet.
Add meat back to the pot and stir all together , pour over liquid. Bring all to a boil. Reduce to a simmer add, thyme and rosemary. close with a tight fitting lid and simmer until meat is falling off the bone.
I normally let this cook low and slow- for at least three hours. Watch and stir regularly to ensure that the liquid has not cooked off and that the meat is not sticking to the bottom.
Serve with steamed rice ( I like to add a tablespoon of coconut oil to this) and fried plantains.