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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Braised OxTail

    Many people who have never eaten oxtail cringe at the thought of it.   Oxtail is a cow's tail, which is in fact beef.  Instead of hard bones, it contains more cartilage through out the center with wonderfully marbled beef around it.  The cartilage does not break down during the cooking period but it slightly softens and gives incredible flavor to the meat.
   As with most cuts of meat that are tough, they require a longer cooking time to become tender.  Similar to osso buco(veal shank), the oxtail benefits from a nice slow braise in a flavorful sauce.  There are many variations of oxtail recipes from around the world with different flavor combinations.  I prefer oxtail in a deep, rich and slightly spicy sauce which can be eaten on its own or placed over a starch, like rice for example.
   What ever you prefer to add to this recipe will work as long as give it time to cook down and become tender.  The result is a succulent and tasty beef dish that will have you using your hands to eat it and licking your fingers when you are done.
Ingredients

3 Lbs Oxtail cut in pieces
1 1/2 cups chopped canned or fresh tomatoes
1 onion diced
1 carrot diced
1 potato diced
2 cloves of garlic - fine dice
1/2 cup chopped white or brown mushrooms
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup of beef stock or broth
1 Tbsp allspice
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat canola oil and brown the oxtail on all sides.  Remove and set aside.
In the same pot, add the chopped onion, garlic, carrot, potato and mushrooms.  Saute for approximately 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
Add the beef stock and soy sauce to the pot and use a wooden spoon to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot.
Add the tomatoes, allspice,cumin and chili powder.  You will see a nice brown sauce developing.
Place the oxtail back in the pot and season with a little salt and pepper.
Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat  for 2 hours
Oxtail is a real treat when slow cooked and tender.  It is great balance of meat and fat with incredible taste, texture and richness.  If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend you do so.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stracciatella (Egg Drop) Soup

   Stracciatella soup is a childhood favorite of mine.  I remember coming home on a cold night and walking into the the wonderful scent of a hearty simmering chicken broth.  Its the kind of soup that warms you up from the inside out and just makes you feel good all over.  My favorite part of this soup was the stracciatella.   The fluffy and super tasty clouds of Parmigiano cheese and egg that give real substance to this dish.
   This easy recipe can be made any night of the week in a short period of time.  I like to add ground, poached chicken to mine for extra body.  And if you really want to make a meal out of it, you can add pastina or cheese filled tortellini.
Ingredients

6-8 cups of chicken stock (or store bought low sodium broth)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 whole egg
1 Tbsp dry bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper- to taste
 * Pastina or tortellini optional*
Bring chicken broth to a simmer on stove top and drop in the chicken breast.
Poach breast for 10 minutes and remove.
Place poached breast in a food processor and pulse until it resembles wet bread crumbs.
Add ground chicken back to broth and continue to simmer.
In a bowl, add cheese, egg, bread crumbs and chopped basil.
Beat together until a paste forms.
 Using a spoon, slowly drop a small amount of the cheese/egg mixture into the soup.
It will quickly become firm and begin to float.
Repeat the process until all of the egg mixture is used.  Season with salt and pepper.
Do not boil soup or egg drops will break up.
If preferred, boil pastina or tortellini in a separate pot and add to soup when finished.  Serve immediately.
 Stracciatella (soup)

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