Friday, November 27, 2009
Sasha's Kitchen: Braised Oxtail - Sweet Spiced Oxtail, Duck Confit Salad, Goan Spiced Crabcakes and Better Guacamole
Tonight's dinner is a recipe I first made sometime around late 2007 when I first bought the Tabla cookbook, by Floyd Cardoz, who specializes in American food infused with Indian spices at his New York City restaurant, Tabla.
Like most of his recipes, this one infuses some great Indian spices and has a strong and wonderful cinnamon flavor which complements the oxtail well.
What is oxtail - it is exactly that the name implies. Interestingly, although oxtail has become somewhat of a culinary delicacy in recent years, it is very affordable. It's not something I have been able to find in most manhattan or brooklyn meat markets (hence I have not made it since late 2007). However, fresh direct now carries it. I purchased about 2 lbs of oxtail from fresh direct earlier this week which I have now defroasted, for about $13.
The recipe, on page 159 of Cardoz's book, requires a spice blend of cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, chile, turmeric and a small amout of cayenne). I suggest adding about half of the suggeted amount of the peppercorns - they're a bit strong for my taste.
In addition to the oxtails, the braise also requires canola oil, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, ginger, red wine, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. These are all pretty ordinary ingrediants for any braise. However, what makes this recipe unique is the spice mixture. This particular recipe, like much of Indian cooking is a bit on the sweet side, but not overpowering. And it's an interesting mix between the Indian spices and the oxtail.
I should mention that there's a couple other recipes in this book that I highly recommend - and which I will include in this entry, since I have made both within the last two weeks - goan spiced crabcakes and the waldorf salad with duck confit.
As far as the crabcakes, this recipe involves a tomato base that incorporates some interesting spices as well (cumin, corinander, turmeric, cayenne, ginger and garlic). I made this recipe awhile back for our foodie friends Eric and Lauren, and Eric indicated that essentially this is a homemade variation on a tomato curry, meaning that the mixture of the spices themselves is how you make curry. This was certainly news to my husband who loves this dish but had always professed to hate curry. The recipe then calls for lump crabmeat, as well as a small amount of whitefish mouse. The whitefish mouse is easily made in a miniprep food processor (one of my favorite kitchen toys) by pureeing the 3 oz of whitefish with egg and egg white. In addition, salt, pepper, lime juice and panko bread crums are incorporated into this recipe.
There are a number of ways to serve this - the book suggests serving with guacamole, which they refer to as an avocado salad (page 18 of the book). I've long made my own guacamole in a mojete and I have always made it with 2 avocados, 1 tomato, some onion, a couple tablespoons of lime juice, a but of jalapeno to taste (depending on how spicy you want it), and dashes of salt and pepper. However, since reading the Tabla book, I satarted adding a teaspoon of cumin to my guacamole and it's wonderful - it just enhances the flavor in a truly wonderful way. I feel like I finally perfected guacamole. The mojete is essential - you cannot make real guacamole without one. It maximizes the surface area of the avocado or something like that, and enables you to puree the avocados and mix the guacamole the way it is suppose to be made. I believe we got ours from crate & barrel. The mixture of the crabcakes and avocado/guacamole is wonderful and the two flavors complement each other well.
Other ways I have served it include a red pepper sauce which I have made (and one day will blog about, I am sure), or various types of chutney which are certainly worth experimenting with. I am sure one day I will have to devote an entire blog entry to various chutneys, but that is best saved for another day.
On to the duck confit salad. This is basically an american recipe ( a waldorf salad) with a bit of a twist. This is found on page 29 of the Tabla cookbook. However, I have not followed most of the recipe at all, but simply use it as a guide. The first step is making the dressing - a spice orange juice reduction. Basically, I reduce the orange juice with star anise, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. This creates a very flavorful orange juice reduction. The dressing calls for adding a chicken stock/ginger/shallot reduction as well - I don't get this at all. It adds very little to the dressing and in my opinion, it not worth the time spent reducing the chicken stock. So, I skipped this part and simply mixed the OJ reduction with some canola oil and that's my dressing. Then, I cut up some gala or honeycrisp apples for the salad. Recently, I've been getting these from the local farmers market here in Park Slope. Then I added the duck confit, walnuts and a bit of Chaat masala to the salad and that's it. I don't usually bother with the cilantro, chives, chile and other ingredients as I do not feel they are necessary. This salad is a great dinner salad and it works as a weekday meal since it doesn't take a very long time to prepare.