Slow Cooker Sunday: Oxtail Stew

My mom makes this oxtail stew that makes me want to summon my inner wildebeest and do a swan dive into the pot. In fact, when I moved to California, Ma sent me off with a quart container of her frozen oxtail stew so that my first meal in my new apartment would be a home-cooked one.

One of the things I really like about oxtail stew is how rich it becomes from all the collagen that melts into the sauce and how beefy it tastes. Ma uses a little curry to sort of warm up the flavor. I’ve always felt it needed more curry powder, so in my version, I increased her conservative quantity threefold.

Mom’s way involved either a traditional large heavy pot or the pressure cooker. I’m not too confident about my pressure cooking skills and I also wasn’t interested in hanging around the stove to babysit a large pot.

You know what that means, right? SLOW COOKER TIME!

I really like the idea of using the slow cooker for oxtail stew because the long slow cooking time breaks down the collagen and tenderizes the meat while adding richness to the gravy. The oxtail stew needed advance preparation; the meat needs to be parboiled to get the blood proteins (scum) out so it doesn’t muddy the dish’s flavor. I may try skipping this next time to see what happens because I’d like to save a step if I can.

Remember when I had leftover tomato paste from when I made chili and then froze it? Those frozen tomato paste balls came in handy here!

Blanched oxtails

Blanch oxtails in simmering water, drain and place in crock pot.

Sprinkle onions with curry powder

Sprinkle onions with curry powder and cook until onions have softened and curry powder is very fragrant, about two minutes.

Cabbage and Campari tomatoes

I happened to have some fresh Campari tomatoes on hand, so I chopped them up and tossed them in with the cabbage for a little texture but if you don’t have fresh tomatoes, don’t worry about it.

Oxtail stew

Toss in the carrots

Add tomato puree and bay leaves

Add tomato puree and bay leaves

the little lotus blossom

The final result: oxtail stew with soft polenta

Slow Cooker Oxtail Stew

This recipe makes a lot of thick tomato gravy. If you prefer a more brothy consistency, use half the puree called for.

3 lbs oxtail, cut into 1-inch thick pieces
1 TBS olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into eighths (you can cut them smaller if you don’t like large chunks of onion)
2 ribs celery, cut to 1-inch chunks
4 medium carrots, cut to 1-inch chunks
6 medium cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/8 cup (3 TBS) curry powder
2 TBS tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
1 cup chicken stock
1 28-oz can tomato puree
2 TBS soy sauce
3 bay leaves
1 small head cabbage, cored and roughly chopped

In a large pot, bring the oxtail pieces and enough cold water to cover to a gentle simmer for about ten minutes. When scum forms on water surface, pour out water and place blanched oxtails in crockpot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a skillet, heat oil on medium until shimmering, then toss in onion and celery. Sprinkle with curry powder and cook until onions have softened and curry powder is very fragrant, about two minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, then tomato paste and cook until paste is slightly darker in color. Mixture will be thick. Pour in a little beef stock, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Add remaining broths, tomato puree, and soy sauce and allow to simmer for five minutes.

In the meantime, toss cabbage, carrots, and bay leaves into crock pot. When tomato mixture is ready, pour into slow cooker and stir with wooden spoon to combine. Set slow cooker on low and cook for six to eight hours, depending on your crock pot.

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