kruizing with kikukat

Monday, September 15, 2014

Almost Zuni Cafe: Oxtails for Dinner

This week started off fine, but by the time the work week was over, I had been through hell.

I woke up Thursday morning with severe stomach cramps.  The cramps were so bad that I succumbed to The Help's suggestion of the ER.  Luckily, when we got there, they weren't too busy and could take me immediately.  They hooked me up to all kinds of IV fluids and gave me a narcotic painkiller which I think screwed me up for most of the day.

Before I got to the ER, I wasn't suffering from nausea, but by the time I left (to make space for others who needed a room more than me), I was so nauseated that the nausea became my greatest enemy (not the cramping).

I was able to go to the doctor on Friday, and he suspected it was some kind of virus which caused all the discomfort.  He also took me off of the antibiotics from the ER.  By Friday evening, I was ravenous!

Luckily, earlier in the week, I had made braised oxtails for dinner.  We hadn't revisited the leftovers all week because we kept going out for dinner (we went twice this week to Restaurant Kenichi!) but having the leftover oxtails came in handy.  In spite of my stomach discomfort, I wolfed down a bowl of food.  Even leftover oxtails are delicious.

Did I mention how much I love oxtails?  I really do.  I remember eating it (oxtail stew) as a little kid.

Kikukat Mom recently made Chinese-style oxtail soup with peanuts.  It was delicious.  We had it for lunch at ABetty's house in Mountain View.  My favorite part, after the oxtails, was the peanuts.  Yum.

I occasionally see oxtails in the market here, but I usually buy the double pack from Costco.  The double-pack contains about 4 lbs of oxtails.  It's the perfect amount to make a quasi-Zuni Cafe version of braised oxtails.

Admittedly, I have never been to the Zuni Cafe, but back in the 90s, I received a fundraiser cookbook which had some kind of Zuni Cafe scone recipe in it.  A few years later, I purchased the Zuni Cafe cookbook from Borders (before they went out of business in Hilo).  I spent days poring through the book, mentally separating which recipes were feasible for home construction and discounting anything which contained the Devil's condiment (the short ribs sounded yummy until I saw IT in there).

However even after all these years, the only recipe I've made from the cookbook is the braised oxtails.  I've been wanting to make the scones and try their version of roast chicken, but like many of their recipes, including the braised oxtails, the directions are extremely exacting/fussy.  Having made the braised oxtails multiple times, I decided to exercise some amateur cook judgment and cut some corners.  The original recipe suggested using the shank of a pigs leg to add more flavor.  I've never done that.  The recipe also included directions for browning the oxtails, instructing one to start over if things began burning.  Too fussy.

And after exploring the Zuni Cafe website for this post, I think I'm going to spend some time revisiting the Zuni Cafe cookbook.  Maybe, after all these years, I'll finally make the scones and roast chicken!
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3-4 lbs oxtails
     4 c beef broth
     1-2 tbsp olive oil
     1 3/4 c red wine
     splash of brandy
     2 bay leaves
     1 branch parsley
     1 branch thyme
     few cloves garlic
     1 large carrot, cut into 2" lengths
     few stalks celery, cut into 2" lengths
     1 medium onion, cut into wedges
     1 can (about 15 oz)  canned tomatoes (whole peeled), coarsely chopped
     2 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 8-10 2" pieces

Simmer beef broth until reduced to 2 cups.  Salt oxtails and brown in olive oil in a 6 qt Dutch oven.  Deglaze pan with red wine and brandy.  Heat until wine is reduced to half.  Add reduced beef broth.  Return oxtails to pot, "eyes" facing up.  Add bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and garlic.  Fit carrots, celery, onions & tomatoes in spaces between oxtails.  Cover and bake in a 300 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours.  Remove cover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  At this point, oxtails can be refrigerated overnight and hardened fat removed before proceeding, or ladle liquid into a fat separator to remove as much fat as possible.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place potato pieces under oxtails.  Bake (covered) for 45 minutes or 60 minutes (if chilled overnight), uncovering for last 30 minutes.

Since I was feeling almost normal by Saturday afternoon, The Help and I accepted Brucie's generous offer to come out to his place to view the smoke from the burning trees caused by the advancing lava flow in Pahoa.  
We got there in the late afternoon and stayed for a few hours (until it got dark).   The weather was beautiful, save for the brief, light shower just before dark.

The Help was able to get some neat pics like this (to the left).  The picture shows the glow from the lava as it makes its way towards Pahoa town.  It was surreal to see the long-exposure picture, which allowed both the lava glow and stars to be visible.  The Help also managed to get some "silky water" pictures from the top of the cliff.  While he was busy doing his thing, I got to chitchat with Brucie and play with my niece Nicole.  She is absolutely darling.

We'll be heading out there again on a cloudless night to get some pictures of the Milky Way.  I've said this before, and I'll say it again...Brucie is whom I wanna be when I grow up!


  1. Glad that you're feeling better. That looks like a great recipe! Awesome pics! - matsu

    1. Thanks! I need to venture to oxtail soup (with peanuts!) next.