Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting Some Tail

Due to circumstances previously discussed, I have had quite a lot of oxtail sitting tantalizingly in my freezer for quite some time now. I figured it was only fair to provide an update on their status. I tried cooking the small batch of oxtail in my crockpot within a few weeks, but the results were...less than stellar. The flavor was excellent, but the meat came out rather tough, dry, and pretty much the opposite of what slow-cooked meat is supposed to be. I talked to some people online who said that results like mine were common. Apparently--in bold defiance of my original enthusiasm--crock pots are not the best for slow-cooking meat. They're not bad, but if I wanted to get real amazing results, I'd have to step it up a notch. Thus it was with hope and trepidation that I asked for a dutch oven for Christmas.

Cooking this stew was the first big recipe I did in said oven, and was perhaps one of the most complicated recipes I have done to date. I sectioned the tail, brined the meat, browned the meat, roasted veggies, strained the sauce, the whole time running back and forth referencing between cookbooks and internet recipes booted up on my iPad. But the work paid off, because when I opened the lid at the end of the day, i saw right away how deliciously clear all the fat had become, and how the meat was falling off of the elegant little bones.

I sat down with a steaming bowl of meat, veggies, and broth, and nibbled hesitantly at my work. The meat was rich, the veggies were flavorful. Pleased with myself, I absently took a sip of broth.

...And literally almost fell out of my chair. It was THAT. GOOD.

I could not believe that I--myself--had made something so superb. I had to take a few more spoonfuls to convince myself it was real. This was way more than grilled steak and homemade soup. This was akin to something I would pay upwards of $20 for, for one serving, in any foodie restaurant in town.

I may well look back on tasting that one spoonful of broth as the moment in my life when I really began to believe that learning to cook is actually working. If I can turn a bizarre cut of meat into something as amazing as that, I could very well do anything.

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