Thursday, May 31, 2012

Caribbean Ox Tail Pepperpot


Caribbean cooking often includes a long list of ingredients to achieve its complex flavors.  This Caribbean recipe  is no different.  Pepperpot gets its name from the hot peppers (usually Scotch Bonnet or Habanero) that gives the dish its extra spicy flavor.  Although this recipe could be made with sirloin cut stewing beef, I chose to use Ox tail.  It does take a long time to soften to achieve a fall-off-the-bone texture for Ox Tail, but the meat also soaks up the flavors of the stew in the process.  And when it comes to stews, the slower the cooking process the better.  Rounding out the flavors of this dish are sweet root vegetables and butternut squash in a coconut milk and beef broth base.

You may invest two hours of your day to make this dish, but you will begin to taste the flavor of this stew through the fragrance of the broth in just the first ten minutes of simmering.  From that point forward, you will not regret placing in the time.

However, a fair warning:  If you are not one to enjoy spicy dishes, you might opt to use a less spicy pepper depending on your tolerance.  The hottest option would be to use Habanero peppers (a.k.a. Scotch Bonnet). Serrano peppers are slightly milder and Jalapeno peppers are even milder than Serrano.  For a safe and mild Pepperpot dish, use red, green, orange or yellow bell peppers instead.  You will not have to worry about compromising the dish when using substitute peppers, since most of the complex flavors of this stew comes from the hearty coconut milk and Ox Tail broth combined with sweetness of its root vegetables.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

1.5 lbs. Ox Tail (Cut and Trimmed)
5 Cups Beef Broth
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
4 Inches Ginger Root finely sliced
1 Yellow Onion Roughly Cut (into about 10 pieces)
2 Garlic Cloves finely chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon Allspice powder
1 lb Garnet Yams
1 lb Sweet Potatoes
1 lb Butternut Squash
2 Green Onions
2-4 Habanero Peppers (Scotch Bonnets) diced
1 Can Coconut Milk (13.5 oz)
1 Can Butter Beans drained
1 6 oz bag Baby Spinach

Step 1: Simmering the Ox Tail and Spices -- In a large stewing pot add the Ox-Tail, ginger, onions, thyme, garlic, bay leaf and beef broth. Bring the ingredients to a boil at high heat.  Then lower the heat to a brisk simmer, stir and cover to cook for 40 minutes.

Step 2: Baking the Butternut Squash -- While the meat simmers, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds.   Place the two halves of the butternut squash face down on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Place the butternut squash into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. This will soften the meat and make it easy to scoop out.

Step 3: Preparing the Root Vegetables --  While the meat simmers and the squash bakes, peel the yams and potatoes.  Slice the yams into large chips.  Cut the Potatoes into inch thick cubes.  Set Aside.

Step 4: Remove the Butternut Squash from the oven and let cool for ten minutes.  When cool to touch, use a small knife to separate the skin from the soft meat.  Cut the butternut squash meat into 1 inch thick cubes and set aside with the potatoes and yams.

Step 5: Stewing the Vegetables -- After 40 minutes, add the yams, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, butter beans, coconut milk and diced peppers to the pot.  With the flat side of a knife smash the green onions flat to release its flavors and add to the pot.   Bring all the ingredients back to a boil using high heat. Then lower the heat to a brisk simmer, stir and cover the pot to cook for an additional 45 minutes or until the meat is soft enough to fall off the bone with a fork.

Step 6: Add the Spinach --  At the end of the stewing process, add the spinach to the pot.  Stir it into the sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes.   Once the spinach is cooked, the dish is ready to be served.

Tip: For a stew that requires less time, try substituting the Ox Tail with bone-in chicken.  Using chicken only requires 20 minutes in the first simmering step (Step 1) and only 25 minutes in the fifth step when stewing the vegetables.

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