I am making chili beans for Jan, but son-in-law Chris, is on a super low starch diet. I decided that I would make a beef chile for him (OK, it is for me too, I admit it). Normally I would use beef chuck for making carne con chili rojo. However, Chris really likes oxtail and I think this would go really well. For some reason, my recipe for Moroccan Oxtail is one of the most popular pages on my blog, so I do not think he is alone in this preference.
I do not want to get into the fight about chile/chili, but generally speaking if the dish is Mexican it is chile. If the dish is from Texas it is “chili.” In other parts of America you use whatever you feel like, but my spell checker must be a Texan. Some have argued that “chile” is just the ground chili peppers and “chili” is the spice blend of chilies with other spices (usually cumin, onion garlic, and oregano).
In designing this dish I went on-line for suggestions. I found a video of somebody else’s ethnic mother making Chili con carne (the meat and sauce version). “She thinks everybody knows how to make it”—no they don’t. I did not follow her recipe, but I did borrow parts of her technique for making the sauce.
When I was growing up, oxtails were one of the cheapest cuts of meat you could buy, because it had lots of bone and gristle compared to the amount of meat. Mainstream Americans wanted big slabs of meat, sohis left the “odd cuts” to the ethnic cooks who weren’t about to tell them what they were missing. My mother, Claudia, had seven mouths to feed and a tight budget, so she bought oxtails because they were inexpensive. She almost always cooked them as an oxtail soup.
The meat on an oxtail is fairly tough, because the ox has spent its entire life constantly exercising those muscles swatting at flies. Unfortunately, celebrity chefs have discovered oxtails and broadcast the news about how much flavor they have hidden in them. Unfortunately, oxtails are no longer a “cheap cut.”
After Dinner Note: This dish turned out really well. The meat was fall off the bones tender and the sauce had a depth of flavor that comes from a long slow simmer. Everybody had seconds and there was enough sauce left over that I am sure I can make a second dish with it.
Karl’s Cola de Buey en Chile Rojo (Oxtails in Red Chile Sauce)
3 beefsteak tomatoes
3 guajillo chiles, dried pods
2 California chilies, dried pods
1 Arbol chile, dried pods
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
1 yellow onion
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and put the rinsed tomatoes into the pot. Boil the tomatoes for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.
Tip: Do not trim or cut the tomato before boiling, you want to keep all of the juices inside the tomato while it is cooking.
2. Toast the chili pods in a dry skillet over medium high heat for 15 seconds to a minute, but so not burn them.
Tip: The difference between toasted and burnt is only a moment, so stay focused while you are doing this. If a pod burns, discard it and try again.
3. Remove the stems, seeds and membranes.
4. Tear the chilies into pieces and put them in a standing blender with enough hot water to cover.
5. Remove the tomatoes from the pot and cook slightly. Remove the stem core and chop the tomatoes up a bit.
Tip: The tomatoes will be hot, so watch your fingers. You are not looking for any kind of diced tomato, you just want to break it up enough to make it easy to blend.
6. Add the garlic, whole, the oregano, pepper, and the tomatoes, with the skins and any juices, to the blender.
Tip: You are not yet ready to blend the sauce, patience.
7. Use half of the salt to season the oxtails.
8. Put the corn oil into a medium Dutch oven and brown the oxtails on all sides. Remove the oxtails to a plate.
9. Pour off any excess grease and add the onions and the rest of the salt to the pot. Brown the onions very well, 10-15 minutes.
Tip: Leave about two tablespoons of grease in the pot. I used the extra grease, instead of the corn oil, to fry the vegetables for my chili with beans.
10. Remove the onions to the blender and process the mix until it is very smooth.
11. Return the oxtails to the pot and pour the chile sauce over them.
12. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and place the pot in a 325° F oven for 2-3 hours.
Tip: Turn the oxtails over every hour and check to make sure that the sauce is not sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching, add more broth if necessary
13. Serve in the Dutch oven, removing the lid at the last moment.