This flavorful Cuban Oxtail Stew is everything that is wonderful about winter food: warming, comforting and filling. And it can cook all day in a slow cooker if necessary. A copy of To Cook Is To Love was provided to me by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links were used in this post to link to items being discussed.
Guys I fought so long with these photos. Winter is so frustrating! And this stew is so naturally red that all of that excess warmth in the indoor light spectrum just really messed with these pictures. So please, whatever you do, do not hold the white balance (or lack thereof) against this dish!
I was sent John Verlinden’s To Cook Is to Love: Nuevo Cuban: Lighter, Healthier Latin Recipes by the publisher, and it was a complete revelation. It is not your typical cookbook. The recipes themselves are typical in the sense that they are excellent Cuban recipes made a bit more healthy, but nothing shockingly unique (and I truly do not mean to damn them with faint praise–I have a lot of them bookmarked). But what makes this cookbook special is that it is a love letter. A love letter to Cuban cooking, the Cuban immigrant experience, and most importantly, a love letter to Verlinden’s mother in law, Mama Aida Mondejar. And because of this last component, the book is, as Verlinden himself describes it, equal parts conversation, cookbook and memoir. Much of the book is in her voice, as told to Verlinden, but his voice is strong also. And because she is an immigrant, the book therefore is also very much about the Cuban immigrant experience.
I loved it. It is the kind of cookbook you actually stay up late reading.
As for the recipe itself, I chose to make it in the Dutch oven, in the oven, but it could easily be done in a slow cooker as well. Verlinden creates it as an oxtail stew, and I want to emphasize that I did not avoid oxtail in any way. Oxtail is an amazing piece of beef, and I hope you do not pass it by out of squeamishness, especially if you like slow cooked, braised meats. But the fact was I had brisket sitting around waiting to be used and I just could not see the point in shopping for oxtail when I had a cut of beef that would work perfectly well–especially given that I was only serving it to my own little family. So brisket it was. In my opinion, chuck and short ribs would also work.
Next, yes I chose to make it in the Dutch oven, but it could easily be made in the slow cooker. Just brown as directed before adding it all to the slow cooker. 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. And add the potatoes toward the end so they do not become mush.
The dish was a big hit with my family. We all argued over the potatoes, so I suggest you add more unless you prefer to serve it with rice and beans as they might in Cuba. The tomatoes (I used canned chopped instead of sauce because it was what I had), chorizo and red wine all combine to make this dish just about the most scarlet I have ever made! So that part is not the white balance–it really was that red! Don’t give it to your kids if they are wearing white shirts! Actually don’t any of you wear white, just to be on the safe side.
- 3 pounds oxtails, trimmed, disjointed and cut into 2" pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons naranja agria — or bitter orange juice, substitute a mixture of equal parts orange juice and lime juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 large green pepper, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced and crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 8- ounce can tomato sauce
- Tabasco sauce to taste
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
- 1 15-oz can beef broth
- 2 large chorizos (sliced into 1" thick rounds)
- 4 medium potatoes (peeled and quartered)
Season the oxtail pieces with salt, pepper and naranja agria.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until fragrant, then brown the oxtails on all sides. Remove them from the heat, set aside and discard oil.
In a large casserole or dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until fragrant, then add the onion and green pepper and cook for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the garlic and dry spices, and sauté for about 2 more minutes or until the onion is translucent and tender.
Put the oxtails in the pan and add all of the remaining ingredients except the potatoes. Stir well and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 2 hours, adding additional liquid if needed.
Add the potatoes and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the potatoes are done.
Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with chopped parsley.