Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jamaican Oxtail Stew and a little Reggai in the background

A recent business trip to Jamaica inspired Suzanne to try cooking Jamaican Oxtail Stew Saturday night. This was a huge success, thanks to a couple recipes she found on the Internet, some great spices and sauces she brought back from Kingston, and wonderful advice from a friend she met in Jamaica, Symone Dillion, who helped her identify key ingredients needed in the preparation.

While in Jamaica, she ate oxtail at the Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa in the Blue Mountains near Kingston. “It was pretty awesome,” she said.

A coffee plantation back in the 18th century, Strawberry Hill was later the home of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, whose company introduced Reggai legend Bob Marley to the world. It still is a gathering place for musicians and artists from around the world.

Unlike Suzanne’s meal at Strawberry Hill, our oxtail dish did not include fried plantains, but we did have rice and beans as well as vegetables to accompany our meat.

Ingredients in the meat included Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce, Pickapepper Sauce, and the Island Spice oxtail seasoning, Sazonado de Cola de Buey. Add a dash or two of soy sauce, onion powder and other seasoning, plus onions, bell peppers, carrots, thyme, fresh rosemary, and, of course, garlic.

Here’s Suzanne’s account:
“I pressured the meat the first time with just seasoned, marinated meat and beef stock, adding the Scotch Bonnet and Pickapepper, for thirty minutes. Then I added water and a few spoonfuls of vegetables simmered with beef stock, and butterbeans, pressuring again. Then I folded the remaining vegetables with the meat to make the stew.”

I was pretty much a bystander during these proceedings, but I will say the result was “pretty awesome” and then some! The oxtail was absolutely delicious, and the rice and beans a nice complement. Missing was French bread, however. We were so busy making sure everything else was there that we forgot the bread!

(Your bystander to the right with a glass of wine, notebook and Wayne Curtis' book And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails)
To whet our appetite we enjoyed rum cocktails. Mine included a mix of three rums: Bacardi, Ron Añejo Aniversario from Venezuela, and Wrap & Nephew White Overproof rum from Kingston. This latter is dangerous, so one has to be careful! The alcohol content is 63.7 percent, so I just added a dash of it. With the rum I added club soda, Angostura bitters, slices of lime and lemon, and just a (very) little orange juice and cranapple juice. It was a fine drink. Suzanne drank her usual mix of Bacardi, vodka, orange juice and cranapple juice with slices of lime and lemon.

(By the way, let me recommend a great book on rum: And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis. It’s a wonderful book about the role of rum in New World history, full of tales about rum in the colonies and in places like Port Royal, Jamaica, “the de facto capital of the British pirate world” where pirates like Captain Henry Morgan would “whore and drink and spend their money.”)

With our meal Saturday night we had a bottle of 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010, which I liked better than Suzanne.

Of course, we listened to Reggai music throughout the evening, interrupting our labors occasionally for a little dancing on the kitchen floor. Good food, good music, tales of Jamaica--a fine evening.

A German meal that brought back memories of Munich and the Hirschgarten

This is a very belated posting for a meal that Suzanne and I prepared nearly a year ago (February 2012!) but which we never got around to memorializing in our blog! I am half-German thanks to my Augsburg-born, Munich-reared mother, Maria Stoller Atkins, who is 91 years old and living here in Oxford, Miss. I studied and worked in Munich for four years when I was a young man, and I very much remember the wonderful meals I had there. Sauerbraten was always a special treat, so my half-Italian wife and I decided, “Let’s go for it!”

Our main reference was a little book published ages ago by Time-Life Books called Recipes: The Cooking of Germany. We had wanted to try this dish earlier, but things hadn't worked out. This time we made it work!

In preparing sauerbraten, we used the following:
-       3 to 4 pounds of round roast of beef
-       vinegar
-       onions
-       bay leaves
-       a teaspoon of whole spice
-       sour cream
-       2 to 3 strips of bacon

Our recipe book called for a half-cup of red wine vinegar, one medium-sized onion, and two small bay leaves.

With our sauerbraten we prepared old-fashioned German knödel (dumplings) and
red cabbage, which is de rigueur for so many German meals and always delicious. We also had rye bread.

With our meal we drank German beer. I tried all kinds when I lived in Munich, the beer capital of the world. My favorites were Augustiner and Hackerbrau, but they were all good. (If you ever go to Poland, by the way, try Zywiec, a wonderful beer. I digress!)

For our dessert we ate Apfelstrudel. Suzanne’s ingredients included the following: flour, two tablespoons of shortening, five cups of sliced apples, brown sugar, a half-cup of seedless raisins, chopped nuts (pecans), cinnamon, and butter.

The result was a German meal that was a bit heavy but tasted fine. It made me think about the good old days at the Weinhaus Neuner restaurant or at Hirschgarten, my favorite of all the Munich beer gardens.

Prosit! Guten Appetit!