kruizing with kikukat

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oxtails for Dinner: Khal Bi Style with Udon

I love oxtails!  I love oxtails!  I love oxtails!  Did I say I love oxtails?  When I was young, I'd be thrilled when my dad would order oxtail soup at restaurants.  My favorite part was the peanuts.  They'd be soft after the long cooking and just melt in your mouth.  I was also strangely fascinated by the gelatinous "eyes" on the ends of each oxtail segment.  Soup was much coveted because my parents never made oxtail soup.  Anytime oxtails were purchased, I knew they'd make oxtail stew, which was good, but definitely not at the same "like" level as soup. 

As an adult, I've had the opportunity to order my own oxtail meals in restaurants.  I have a hard time ordering anything else when I see oxtail soup on the specials menu.  A big bummer is when the oxtails haven't been sufficiently cooked.  Few things suck as much as tough oxtails.  In my mind, oxtails are supposed to be falling-off-the-bone soft.  Strangely enough, I've never made oxtail soup.  I'm not sure why, but somehow, a huge pot of oxtail soup that will take me several days to finish just doesn't sit well with me.  Ken's Pancake House in Hilo makes a good soup.  Its a Friday special.

A few years ago, I splurged on the Zuni Cafe cookbook.  Zuni Cafe is a restaurant in San Francisco which is famous for taking a basic dish like roast chicken and turning it into the kat's meow.  The first (and sadly, only) recipe I've tried from the cookbook is Red-Wine Braised Oxtails.  Its very "involved", but the reward is in the taste.  The meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.  After making it several times, I've come up with a few shortcuts so I plan to eventually post my recipe when I get more pictures.

When I went to Costco on Saturday, they had a whole bunch of oxtails.  Impulsively, I bought a pack, thinking I'd freeze them and eventually get around to making the Zuni Cafe-adapted recipe.  But The Help suggested I try to develop a copycat khal bi oxtail, like the one you can buy premade from George's Meat Market.  I groaned because this was not going to be a walk in the park.

Khal Bi Oxtails from George's Meat Market . . .la la la. . . heaven in a bag.  Stacey sure knows her way around oxtails.  Meat is exactly the way its supposed to be . . . silky and falling-off-the-bone.  The flavor is a sesame-laced teriyaki.  Best of all, its cooked so its just a matter of heating it up.

Realizing I had two main issues, the sauce and the cooking, I decided to tackle the sauce first.  George's Khal Bi Oxtails tastes a little bit like shoyu pork with a touch of sesame.  I pored through cookbooks and eventually settled on a sauce based on the recipe for "Ono Pork Butt" from one of the Moanalua High School Project Graduation cookbooks.  The second part, cooking method, came a little quicker since I threw in the towel and decided to just follow the Zuni Cafe recipe's cooking method (braise).

To get maximum flavor, brown all sides of each oxtail piece well.
Use a gravy separator to remove most of the liquid fat from the liquid.
Four hours later, I was very satisfied with my copycat recipe.  Because I had ample sauce (something the George's one lacks) I decided to serve the oxtails with blanched bok choy, thinking that the reduced, concentrated sauce would be nice with greens.  I was a little stumped on the starch, but at 3:30, I chose udon noodles.  Rice was too pedestrian, and saimin/ramen noodles would not be able to hold a strong sauce like this.  Udon noodles were substantial enough to handle the sauce.

If you are not lucky enough to have easy access to George's Meat Market, or if you are like me and want to eat more than two pieces without spending all the hard-earned DOE paycheck, please try my Khal Bi Oxtails.  And if you come up with a better cooking method that will produce meat that melts when you eat it, please share it with the rest of us.
Serve it in a bowl with udon noodles, blanched bok choy, and some liquid.
Here you see that some spicy shredded potato has been added to the bowl.
 click on recipe title for printable recipe
 Khal Bi Oxtails with Udon

     1 large package oxtails (3-4 lbs)
     garlic, grated
     ginger, grated
     1 c shoyu
     1/2 c mirin
     1 c brown sugar, packed
     1 c water
     1/2 c sake
     blanched bok choy
     udon noodles, cooked as directed on package

In a 5-qt dutch oven, heat oil and brown oxtails on all sides.  Add garlic and ginger to pot.  Place oxtails with "eyes" facing up.  Add shoyu, mirin, brown sugar, water, and sake.  Cover and bake in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours.  Remove cover and bake 30 more minutes.  At this point, oxtails can be refrigerated overnight and hardened fat removed before proceeding, or use a fat separator to remove as much fat as possible.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake covered for 15 minutes or 30 minutes (if chilled overnight).  Remove cover and bake 30 minutes more. 

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