While my appreciation of the cuisines of Asia is no secret, Jamaican food also ranks high up on my list of goto grub. The rich curries and stews remind me of my own rice & curry, and the Jamaicans even make a mean patty, those meat-filled pastries that are also popular “short-eats” in Sri Lanka. Even though they are worlds apart, there is, no doubt, some crossover between these two tropical islands, both former British colonies, which still share an affinity for cricket and spicy food.
But Jamaica is the land of Red Stripe beer and reggae music. And that’s how I g0t to know the cuisine–by tipping back some brews, and going to a lot of shows. There’s always a guy on the street grilling some jerk chicken, which he hacks up with a cleaver. Maybe there’s some Mannish water (goat soup) 0r curry goat. And if your lucky, Oxtails.
While East Indian indentured servants brought curry, the Chinese are responsible for introducing ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Combine that with such unlikely ingredients as Worcestershire sauce, sugar, allspice, and tomato ketchup, and you have the base of the oxtail stew. The heat comes via the fiery Scotch bonnet pepper, making for a sweet, savory, and spicy concoction that’s bone-sucking good. This is strictly Caribbean comfort food.
From Sam Sifton, The New York Times
3 pounds oxtails, cut into segments
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Spanish onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, whole
3 sprigs fresh thyme
12 allspice berries
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 cup butter beans or 10.5 oz. can butter beans rinsed and drained
1.) Season oxtails aggressively with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add brown sugar to pot and melt, stirring with a wooden spoon until it darkens and starts to smoke—about 6 minutes. When sugar is nearly black, add 2 tablespoons boiling water (it will splatter). Stir to mix.
2.) Add oxtails to the pot, working in batches, stirring each time to cover them with blackened sugar, then allowing them to cook, turning occasionally until they are well browned. Remove oxtails to a bowl and keep warm.
3.) Add half the onions, garlic and ginger to the pot along with pepper, thyme, allspice, and 1/3 of the scallions, and stir to combine. Allow to cook until softened, approx. 5 minutes.
4.) Return the oxtails to the pot along with any accumulated juices and put water into the pot so that the oxtails are almost submerged. Bring to a simmer and then cook, covered, approx. 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
5.) Add remaining onions, garlic and ginger to the pot along with another third of the scallions. Add sugar, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine and continue to cook until the meat is yielding and loose on the bone—approx. one hour longer. Remove approximately one cup of liquid from pot and place in a small bowl. Add flour to this liquid and stir to combine, working out any lumps with the back of a spoon. Add this slurry to the pot along with ketchup, then stir to combine and allow to cook a further 15 minutes or so. Remove Scotch bonnet pepper and thyme stems. Fold butter beans into stew and allow these to heat through. Scatter remaining scallions over the top. Serve with white rice or rice and peas.