It seems to me that, no matter how much you love your job, there will be the occasional feeling of the blues as the weekend draws to a close. The thought of getting up the following day and starting the whir of the working week is just too much. My perfect recipe for chasing away the Sunday afternoon dread is to spend some time in the kitchen. Often I come out with a cake or some bread, but sometimes I need the long, slow cooking of a homey casserole, or the gentle rendering of some meat into soft and unctuous bites of stew.
Unlike most of my recipes, this is definitely not a quick weekday meal. Easy, yes, but made for a lazy stretch of hours on a weekend. This sort of cooking rewards the time with a comforting dinner and lunch the next day.
This past weekend, inspired by a story about alternative and affordable cuts of meat and finding some oxtail at the farmer's market, I decided to try this slightly forbidding piece of meat. Like Sandra Dee, the oxtail resists all attempts to soften it up for about 2 hours, when suddenly it gives in. What you're left with is a rich, complex pot of juices that's a little more leather than pearls and sweater sets.
Oxtail does tend to give off a fair amount of fat as it cooks, so not only is something starchy like potatoes -- or big, fat butter beans -- essential to balance it out, but I also try to skim some off the surface as it cooks. This is easier after the dish cools and the fat sets, so the leftovers make a perfect and easy lunch the next day. The anticipation certainly makes the Monday morning easier to bear.
Oxtail and butter bean stew
2 T. olive oil
1/4 C. flour
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 big cloves of garlic, minced
2 large carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds or half moons if very thick
2 C. canned chopped tomatoes
1 C. dried butter beans, soaked for 6 hours
4 large pieces oxtail -- approx. 4 in. across each, or about 4 lbs. total if using smaller pieces
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Roll the oxtail in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat olive oil in a large, oven-proof pot. Add the floured oxtail and brown on all sides, then remove to a plate.
Cook the onions over low heat until soft, then add garlic, carrots, tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon, and browned oxtail.
Cover and let bubble away over very low heat, or put into an oven at 300. The oxtail will need to cook for about 2-2 1/2 hours. After an hour, add the butter beans.