Jamaicans are all about making obscenely large amounts of food and feeding — no, stuffing their friends and family. This extravaganza typically happens every Sunday and is probably one of my favorite parts of this culture. I love the divine scents, the almost uncomfortably large portions and the delicious insanity. With this recipe for Jamaican Oxtail, you'll be able to indulge in these things, too. I've been Jamaican for quite some time now, however, I was not raised on the deliciousness that is oxtails. I was raised by a Rastafarian father who kept us on a strict diet of no meat (other than fish).
Before you all get into some kind of uproar, I would totally put my children on the same diet. The first 19 years of my life were my absolute healthiest. I digress, not growing up around oxtail did nothing to erase my curiosity for this meat. The first time I had it was pretty similar to that of James Wright and his Patti Pie. Just swap out the singing for a nice reggae riddim and some dancehall moves and it's pretty much the same. I decided to share my recipe for the meal with so that you too can rejoice in the delicious, savory, robust flavors of Jamaican oxtail with rice and peas and so that you can spread the love to your family and friends. Makes enough for 4-6 people — or just one if you don't want to share 🙂
3-4 pounds of oxtail, fat trimmed
1 bunch of green onions
1 medium sweet/Spanish onion
1 scotch bonnet pepper (optional) whole
red chili flakes
salt and pepper
coconut milk rice and peas recipe (see below)
Note: I'm sure you've noticed that I don't have measurements for the ingredients. That's because this dish requires abundance of flavor, seasoning and love but you're more than welcome to tweak it to your tastes.
1. Make sure that you have as little fat as possible on the oxtail. Rinse, drain and then pat dry. Put aside.
2. Halve and then chop onions (green ones too). Peel and chop ginger and garlic.
3. Heavily season with all-purpose seasoning, chili flakes, salt and pepper. (Don't overdo the salt if you're all-purpose already has tons of sodium.) Massage into meat. Add chopped veggies, a few sprigs of thyme, 2 tablespoons each of soy and Worcestershire sauces and massage a little more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (I suggest overnight.)
4. Brown the meat first. I use the more old school option of burning brown sugar. You can also just add a browning sauce or use the soy and Worcestershire sauce, just be careful about adding too much. Add 4 tablespoons of brown sugar to a thick-bottomed pot, a traditional Jamaican "dutchie" or enameled cast iron casserole pot will work fine. You want the sugar to burn. It shouldn't become hard though, so keep an eye on it. Once the sugar is as dark as possible, begin to add oxtail to the pan in batches. Don't add the onions yet, those come in later. Brown meat and coat in burned brown sugar. Once all meat has the desired color, add half the onions to the pot and stir.
5. For the next step, reduce to low heat and let simmer, adding water whenever necessary. The more water you add, the more soupy the meal becomes. If you're looking to have the meat shine through the sauce instead of getting lost in it, don't fully submerge the meat in water. Add in 1/2 cup increments. Cover with a lid. After an hour of simmering, add remainder of onions and scotch bonnet pepper if using. Cook for another 1-3 hours depending on how tender you like it. 3 hours normally works for me.
6. 15 minutes before you plan on taking it off, drain and add a can of lima (butter) beans. This step is also optional but very traditional and equally delicious. Serve over rice and peas with salad, avocado or fried platains.
Coconut Milk Rice & Peas
1/2 cup red kidney beans 1 can of coconut milk 1/4 cup water 1 garlic clove 2 sprigs of thyme 2 cups jasmine rice
1. Soak beans in water for at least 3 hours to overnight if possible. We need these to soften.
2. Bring water, coconut milk, thyme and garlic to a boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
3. Stir in rice and boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low. Cover tightly and let cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove garlic and thyme, stir and serve.