My younger self was not a lover of oxtail but the older version of me craves it very often and have found other non traditional ways to prepare this unique cut of meat. Traditionally oxtail is stewed with butter beans aka (broad beans) but it also makes a delicious soup with pumpkin and other vegetables and is also great substitute for stew beef in stew peas.
Recently my friend Elaine and I were having our usual discourse about food when she mentioned if oxtail could be curried. I have never curried it or know anyone that could vouch for its deliciousness! My mind tried to visualize it but was quickly brought back to reality that it would not be good. To my chagrin, today of all days I wished that the oxtail I was eating did have some curry on it. A colleague bought me oxtail for lunch from a local shop. With every bite I thought, some salt, a bit of pepper, a hint of garlic, anything would help, damn even a little bit of curry. I busted out laughing, ‘bwoy’ (aka… oh boy)your mind does play some tricks on you. Sometimes I just cannot help my crazy self.
Braised Jamaican Oxtail & Butter Beans
So here is my recipe for braised Jamaican oxtail and butter beans. This recipe gives you a succulent, juicy, delicious oxtail, almost falling off the bone but not quiet, in a richly flavored sauce. When you have eaten the meat off the bones, you want to roll them in the sauce and lick them again (lol). The recipe is not hard but it does take time to cook. However you will have no regrets. Because oxtail has a unique taste a combination of certain herbs and spices along with a bit of honey balances out the flavor. On Sunday 06/06/2017 I received my biggest compliment from my Aunt Sonia, a great cook herself and who I have learned a lot from over the years. I made dinner for them and when she finished eating the braised oxtails & butter beans, she asked, ‘what do you put in your oxtails’ I smiled and replied ‘the same thing you put in yours, I just add more of everything.’ I deliberately gave her that answer because as she has gotten older she has tended to use less spices and seasoning in some of the Jamaican dishes that she use to master. But the twinkle in her eyes was enough to let me know that the oxtail was on point!
It was Susan’s method for cooking oxtails that I adopted. We grew up across the street from each other. If I taste something and its better than what I can do I always ask the chef to share their cooking method. I was in Jamaica on vacation and Susan had asked me what I wanted for dinner as she was picking me up from the airport. I told to her to that anything would do. What I tasted that evening was one of the best braised oxtails & butter beans I had eaten in a very long time. I was also surprised as she is sometimes unsure of her skills. Like most of us we usually have a couple of dishes that we do well and this was one of hers. So I took her method and I mastered it. She also had dinner with us on Sunday. When the compliments were flowing she was silent. So I asked, how was the oxtail Sue? She replied with a sheepish look on her face, ‘ it taste just like mine.’ Whatever Sue, how about better than yours! (lol) Ok Ok sometimes our teachers come from unexpected places and there is always something to learn even from the ones who say they cannot cook. Take what you can from this method and make it your own and please let me know how it turned out for you.
Tips for Cooking Braised Jamaican Oxtail and Butter Beans
Use a good heavy base sauce pot as this will retain the heat and moisture which helps to tenderize the meat. In Jamaica we use a dutch pot to stew our oxtails. I tried this recipe in my new enameled cast iron dutch oven which uses less water than other traditional pots. Because it retains the liquid, it does a wonderful job braising the oxtails. This was a gift from my sister Simone and I am already in love with it. I would love to add to my collection; so friends and family its officially on my wish list: )
Blend your herbs or rough chop them and use that to marinade the meat. These herbs will form the basis for the rich sauce that you will have at the end of cooking. Try to marinade meat for a couple of hours. However if time does not permit you can add herbs and spices and cook immediately. Due to the cooking method the seasoning absorbs really well.
You can substitute brown sugar for honey if you have none available, Start with a table spoon. You don’t want it sweet. I originally used brown sugar until one day all I had in my pantry was honey. Well it was the best discovery ever! I ended up with a smoother more rounded flavor to the oxtails. So its now my go to!
Believe me when I tell you its not hard to make this delicious braised Jamaican oxtail and butter beans. It might appear intimidating at first, but just follow my steps and it will be a breeze. In no time you will be making this frequently. The photos scattered throughout this post shows what the oxtail should look like during each phase of the braising process.
Do not pre heat sauce pan. Add all the ingredients to sauce pan on a low flame and cover. For the first 30 minutes or so it will appear that nothing is happening. But this is where patience is key! Stir every 30 minutes. Within 45 minutes the meat will start springing its own juices. After 1 1/2 hours taste sauce for flavor and adjust if necessary. If you have never cooked oxtail before you might be wondering what the flavors should be. I would say trust your judgement and start developing a feel for what taste good to you. Remember you are making this into your own. After you have completed this it will now become your recipe. Trust yourself.
Your food will taste okay, good or great depending on your seasoning blend and the herbs that you use. I do cook with a lot of herbs and over the years have reduced the amount of powder seasoning. However a combination of both sources works to provide the best flavor combination. I have been using the red top adobo seasoning. Try making the recipe exactly as described first and then the next time you can add your own variation. If you make it again use your own blend and stick with the one you like best. However do not skimp on your herbs; garlic, thyme, escelion, onion, pimento seeds, scotch bonnet pepper.