I’m not sure about you guys, but I’ve had many a moments when I was trying out some dish at a restaurant or diner and immediately told myself, “Man, I’ve gotta cook for myself a pot of that!” This classic oxtail stew is basically one of the very many “recipe cracking” episodes I have of late. Thankfully, this is very simple and rustic food to begin with and thus, very forgiving. The ingredients are also fairly straightforward , all clearly “observable” against the rather clear soup base. The latter I thought, was interesting as most of the oxtail stews I’d had, some of which I’d featured on my blog here and here are more richly coloured. Everything is conveniently cooked in one pot, my trusty Le Creuset round casserole, most of the time in the oven. No fuss at all!
I don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving. Was chatting with a good friend, Catherine on Tuesday about pineapples (yes, not the kinda thing you taught to your good friends about I know) and we went on talking about Thanksgiving two days later (which is today by the way!). Wanting to feel a bit more festive, I decide to deck out some of my Le Creuset dutch ovens for a simple Asian-themed Thanksgiving lunch!
A lot of my time during my university days at NUS was spent on campus, performing experiments in the labs, conducting research in the libraries and doing tutorials with friends at the numerous benches along the corridors. A lot of my meals were also settled in the faculty canteens, most notably the one near LT26 in the Science Fac or the oddly constructed Arts canteen in FASS, as I transit on a daily basis between these two faculties for lectures and tutorials. During meal times, the canteens were perpetually packed to the brim, with the lunch crowd often spilling over to the nearby study benches in takeaway styrofoam boxes. The queues at popular stalls were long beyond belief and by the time it was my turn to place an order, I would have to be rushing for the next tutorial already. As such, my study pals and I often picked the stall with the shortest queue to eat from and at the Science canteen, it had to be the one which sold “Western Food”. The food ain’t that bad really, just not particularly popular as most of my classmates, particularly the “China scholars” would prefer their ritualistic rice with stir-fry dishes from the mixed vegetable rice stall instead, often seen eating with an “interesting” combination of stainless steel spoon and a pair of chopsticks. The selection available at the “Western Food” stall was probably quite alien to them. We avoided the usual pork chops and chicken cutlet which were cooked in situ only upon ordering which meant longer waiting times, and opted from their version of “mixed vegetable rice” which we could “pick for a quick platter” instead. That said, even the dishes available were “unfamiliar”, to say the least. From the selection, one particular dish was “peculiarly” memorable. The elderly lady stall owner told us it is called “Chicken à la King“, which I had not a faintest clue what it was initially. But I remembered it being quite tasty, especially drizzled over rice, or macaroni . It reminded me much of those canned soups, creamy and chunky, which I bought and ate with instant noodles during my stay at KEVII Hall, wholesome and fulfilling suppers for the growing young man I was during those nights mugging in my chilly hostel room perched on the ridge. I replicated the dish several times during my hostel stay, first using Campbells, then from scratch after searching for a recipe online. Those were the “dialup” days when internet was still slow and laggy. Thankfully, finding a recipe for this American comfort food was quite easy. Over the years, I’d revisited the old recipe several times, though lesser often nowadays. But I do cook it now and then, when I just need an easy one-dish meal, or simply to revisit those memories of my school days.
I’m always in for different ways to eat oxtail as it is one of my favorite cuts of meat. It is so flavourful and the intermingling of fat, tendon and meat makes it all the more interestingly texturally. Apart from the standard beef stews, I’d also used it as a substitute for beef briskets in more Chinese dishes and oxtail works well for them too. I know that Gulyás or Hungarian Beef Goulash typically uses stew cuts like chuck roast which are chunked to become much smaller actually. But definitely no harm in trying out with oxtail. I’m glad I did because it worked beautifully.
The blog’s moving really slowly these days. In fact, I’d not blogged about anything for almost 2 weeks. Been kinda busy lately with quite a couple of things. First is of course to help Vonne and her family with their major move from Singapore to UK. That spanned over quite a number of days and it has been massive on many accounts. First is the number of things we’d needed to pack, which took us quite a while. Wouldn’t have been possible without the help of her good friends Linda and Cecilia. It is really through times when we are in need, that we see true friends indeed. Couldn’t have said it better. Then there is of course the emotional dimension of it. The initial stages were overwhelming with stress and anxiety if we could finish packing in time before the movers came and if there was enough cargo space to fit everything. And when everything’s finally loaded up onto the trucks, the feeling of the inevitable parting begins to hit hard. As the day draws nearer to the eventual departure, the sense of loss sets in. In fact, she and her family are leaving for UK today. I won’t be sending them off, for the sadness would have been too overwhelming. I’m not good at holding back emotions, and emotions it would seem too painful to bear. Its better off that way. But I’m going to miss Vonne and her family so much. Her lovely children Emily, Jasmine, James, Anabel and of course cute and chubby little Daniel. I pray that she and DQ would be blessed with a fresh start in UK. It would indeed be challenging for both of them. But there is also a promise of new opportunities and possibly new adventures for both of them and their family. It is not goodbye forever of course as we would definitely still be in touch. We’ll see her when we see her.
Oxtail is a beautiful cut of meat from a steer’s tail, a well exercised muscle marbled with fat. Imagine the periodic pendulum-like swaying of the tail as a fly swat day in and out as the animal chews and grazes in an uttermost nonchalant manner and you’ll know what I mean. The segments are vertebrae so they have lots of iron-rich marrow as well. As with most tough cuts like shank and brisket, oxtail are best slow cooked for several hours. So here’s a really simple recipe that just takes a couple of minutes to prepare, a few hours ahead of meal time and dinner can be served almost effortlessly.