A friend of mine sent me a recipe around Thanksgiving for braised oxtails. Life got crazy, and before I knew it, my mom's family was visiting for Christmas. Aha! I thought to myself, now is the perfect time to try this recipe.
A time-intensive labor of love it was: first, I made a beef stock from scratch, which took a day and a half. I then had to braise the oxtails, which was another day, plus the two days it took me to source the oxtails themselves. (On a side note: I called the Northbrook Whole Foods to see if they had the oxtails and was told they did. I took an hour detour specifically to go by the store, and once inside, found out that they had no oxtails. WTF? One of the two people I spoke to had made a mistake, and it pissed me off so much that I will never return to that store for any reason. I ended up going to Little Mexico to track down the oxtails, and they were not free-range, grass-finished beef.)
So, more than 24 hours went into this dish, and it showed in the end result. Meltingly succulent oxtail was enveloped in a thick sauce made from reduced stock and red wine. I had plans to serve the oxtails with a beautifully smooth purée of root vegetables and a tart cranberry compote to cut the richness, but then reality struck: no one would eat oxtails.
Well, phooey! This was one of the richest, most decadent dishes I have made at home, a dish through which the beauty of peasant food (poor people making good food out of the scraps because they had to) shined in all its beauty. The dish was refined, yet also comforting, and represented what "cooking with heart" is all about.
So, I was forced to gnaw on the bones for a couple days. I'll leave you with this glory shot of the stock, one of many magnificent pieces of this dish that, unfortunately, no one else got to enjoy.