Stepping back to move forward. Sometimes you have to stop motion to find meaning in the stillness.
However, now that I reflect on this pandemic passage of time (Delta pre-vaccination, Delta post-vaccination and Omicron), I feel one thing that I have been missing was experiencing written creative fulfillment. I have been asking myself the question — why did I feel that way? The answer is straightforward — in 2021, I curtailed my blogging, one of the creative outlets that allows me to thread the needle of life with time — recording my reflections here.
I have gravitated towards telling certain aspects of my story on Instagram. There is more to my story than is ever depicted; yet that is where I share my slant on life through a lens. Until the lockdown I managed to thrive by actively blogging and getting everything inside my head out into words, and posting them here. When the pandemic hit, my perspectives changed. I submerged myself in my work, and for a long time I enjoyed it to the hilt. In my work I was finally able to stretch my portfolio wings and fly again. There’s a lot to unpack there, however, I didn’t want to share what I was processing. Someday I may share it more widely, but for now the story is only for a few key trusted players. Over these past seven months I have lived loudly, laughed, cried, gained and lost more than I thought possible. I have zero regrets. I prioritized people and relationships that I valued and found a way to make those connections happen. I engaged. I lived. And I did it in the moment. It was amazing. And while I gallivanted around I also took deep dives into a few passion projects – my Skillbatical and materializing The Bar-N. Those two projects will be discussed in more detail soon; we have time. We have plenty of time.
While I didn’t share all of my cooking and baking creations I did have some delectable moments. Today I am sharing one of them with you. It’s my favorite winter recipe and it always gets rave reviews. Here’s to kicking off 2022 with a bang…and my Wine Braised Oxtail Ragù and Polenta.
As with any recipe requiring slow cooking, it’s the time you spend building the flavor at the beginning that dictates how tasty the dish will be at the end. Oxtail is incredibly tough and needs a long time to cook, 4 – 5 hours, but the reward is unctuous, sticky meat that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. It adds a velvetiness to the sauce that I can’t replicate with any other cut of meat. When browning the oxtail, ensure it gets really dark and caramelizes. Allow the carrots, onions and celery time to cook and meld together. Choose a nice drinking wine as the complex flavors will contribute to the overall taste of this rich succulent dish. You’ll be tempted to just eat this as it is, straight from the pot, greedily scooping up tender meat and sauce with thick chunks of crusty bread. However, oxtail ragù tossed over cheesy polenta makes this a proper unforgettable meal.
Wine Braised Oxtail Ragù with Polenta
5 pounds oxtails, cut crosswise into pieces
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsps ground black pepper
1 TBS kosher salt, plus more
2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 heads of garlic, cloves separated, smashed
4 sprigs rosemary
750-ml bottle red wine
1- 15 oz can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or Sherry vinegar
1 TBS honey
1 lemon zested (optional, served when plating)
3 cups whole milk
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 cup fine-grind polenta (Golden Pheasant Polenta)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1) The flavors of this recipe are at their best when the dish is prepared at least 12 hours ahead of time. Allowing the ragù to rest overnight is optimum.
2) Ragù can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill, or freeze up to 4 weeks.
In a small shallow bowl add flower, salt and pepper. Toss in oxtails and evenly coat with flower mixture. Over medium high heat add oil to a large heavy pot or Dutch oven. Working in batches, cook oxtails in a single layer, turning occasionally, until browned all over. Typically 7-10 minutes on each side yields a nice brown color. Transfer oxtails to a plate once done.
In the same pot add in onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring often, until vegetables are browned around edges. Cook approximately 10–15 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, vinegar, and honey and if using fresh rosemary add the herbs wrapped in cheese cloth tied with string so that the ‘leaves’ are not scattered throughout the sauce, stirring and scraping up browned bits. Bring sauce to a boil and season with salt, then return oxtails to the pot. Pour in enough water just to cover oxtails and bring to a gentle simmer. Partially cover and cook, reducing heat as needed to keep at a low simmer, until meat is falling off the bone for approximately 3 – 3 1/2 hours. Allow cooling at least 12 hours and if possible, overnighting; do not remove ragù from pot, store in refrigerator.
Before serving, remove ragù from the refrigerator and skim fat from surface. Discard the fat. Then remove oxtails. Pick meat from bones and shred into small pieces and set aside. Warm ragù over low until heated through. Increase heat to medium and bring braising liquid to a simmer. Cook until reduced to the consistency of gravy, 10-15 minutes. Return meat to ragù; diners choice on either adding the bones back into the pot if your crowd likes to eat off of the bones or discarding the bones. Transfer 2 cups ragù to an airtight container and save for later. Cover pot; keep remaining ragù warm over low heat.
To make polenta bring milk, butter, and several pinches of salt to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium. Gradually whisk in polenta and cook, whisking, until very thick and bubbling. Cook approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat; add Parmesan cheese and stir until smooth. Add to individual bowls and spoon heaps of meaty sauce over each bowl. Top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and lemon.