I may be weird, but my favorite thing about food is the story that it tells. Whenever I cook something special, I like the food to have a meaning and story behind it. Be it an inside joke or have a symbolic meaning, I like the meal to say something. So how does one sum the end of culinary school with a dish? The past few years have certainly been a journey of many ups and downs. A journey that looks simple from far away, but when you're actually involved with that process, you realize that there is so much going on. What's the perfect dish? It's different for everyone, but my story is braised oxtail.
Oxtails really don't get much play. In my grocery store, I find oxtails placed together with all the other forgotten delicacies such as tripe and tongue. It's a product that is looked over in favor of the more popular parts of the animal. Just like culinary school, it's not favored by everyone. Sure everyone enjoys it, but are they willing to put in the time and effort to make it?
In their simple form, oxtails can't really be used. They must be cleaned up; trimmed of the large chunks of fat. When you're done, there really isn't much meat to it. We must continue to transform it into something great. Next, we gather our aromatics; the basic ingredients that develop the flavor in the dish. In this case, it's mirepoix and bouquet garni. In culinary school, it's basic knife skills and culinary math. We don't stop there, we have to have a liquid that will bring all the ingredients together. Red wine and beef stock. Beef stock to echo and enhance the flavors of the oxtail and red wine for those term paper all nighters. Once we gather all our items, we start the process. Seasoning and browning the oxtails then caramelizing the mirepoix. Once it seems like the mirepoix is on the edge of burning (or giving up), we deglaze with red wine and beef stock. Everything quiets down and we place the oxtails back in the pot. Add the bouquet garni and place in the oven to be alone and work on itself. The process feels like forever. Every now and then, you feel like giving up and ordering out, but you don't. You continue to let all the ingredients work together and transform. Towards the end, you start notice and smell the change and finally it is time. You spoon it onto a plate and take a bite. It was all worth it.
So as I sit here drinking red wine, I wonder, what will be my next dish?
Awhile ago, I had seen a post on A2eatwrite's blog about an organization called bloggeraid and this organization is made up of foodbloggers trying to help the hunger issue all over the world. I've never been one for charities. Mostly because most of the money donated does not go straight to the cause but to administration and what not. The great thing about this project is that foodbloggers submit their recipes and photos and all the proceeds will be going towards the the World Food Programme(WFP). I had a few other recipes I was thinking of submitting, but I decided to submit the recipe for red wine braised oxtails. The book is set to come out around the end of this year, so I will be sure to purchase it.
If you would like to submit a recipe, the deadline is March 31st. (So close. I know)