I think I've been developing a reputation as some sort of crazy cook who uses all sorts of fancy tools and difficult techniques. Nothing could be farther from the truth however. I may be something of an obsessive baker, but when it comes to regular cookery, I am profoundly lazy.

Most of my favorite dishes are roasted, stewed, or braised. How hard is that? Whole chicken, salted and roasted. No stuffing, no gravy, no basting and no seasonings other than salt. You stick it in the oven and then, after a while, you take it out. Easy. And stews! You brown the meat, throw everything else in the pot and cook it for a while. Again, easy. And braising is the essentially the same, only with less liquid.

So, today I am making oxtail stew, and I am happy because it took me all of 10 minutes to get it into the pot, it already smells delicious, and in a few hours, it will be melt off the bone perfection.

It simmers, I node.

There are few measurements. Whatever one has that seems right goes into the pot. There are a few constants for me, however. Feel free to modify them to suit your tastes:

  • oxtails cut up into individual joints. Today, I'm using about 3 pounds. Since much of the weight comes from the bones, you'll need more per serving as a main meat course than you would with a bone-free cut. On the other hand, there are so many other good things in the pot, you may find yourself eating less meat. I sometimes make this with spareribs instead, keeping in mind that they take half the time to cook and are not as robustly flavored.
  • beer Any beer you would drink is good. I prefer using darker beers, but often only have lager on hand. Today, I used two bottles of Yuengling lager. You'll need enough to almost cover the meat.
  • carrots Peeled and cut into pieces. I leave them large, just cutting across each carrot of few times to break them into smaller 'logs.' Today, I used 8 large ones. I really like carrots. They add earthy sweetness to the dish that complements the sweet bitterness of the beer, and they become tender and soak up all sorts of flavors from the meat. Of course, if you don't like carrots, you could leave them out.
  • onions Peeled and quartered or eighthed. Again, I leave them large. They cook down a great deal anyway. Today, I used 4 large ones. In cooking down, they add body to the gravy without thickening it, if that makes sense....
  • soy sauce to taste, but not too much. I used about half a cup, but that's because I also added a great many vegetables. Too much, and it will be too salty. Go easy on it, and add more later if necessary.
  • ginger A few large slices of ginger add a warm depth to the flavor, and cut through the richness
  • dried chilies This is optional for anyone else, but I always add several whole dried red chilies. I added five today, as it's a big pot I've got going. Left whole, they are just enough to add a hint of heat to cut through the richness.
  • Optional: Black pepper, garlic, other root vegetables such as parsnips and turnips, eggplant, tomatoes, shallots (particularly lovely if you've loads of them, and use them instead of onions), scallions, leeks, cabbage and basically anything else you can think of. Chopped spinach would be good, although I'm far too lazy to add it.

So, get your pot out, and throw in the oxtails and the beer. Bring to a boil, and while you're doing so, peel and cut the carrots, onions and personal innovations and add them to the pot. Add the other seasonings. Poke it a bit to distribute the pieces and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a strong simmer. Cover tightly and simmer for two or three hours, until the meat is tender and luscious.

You don't need to stir. If the heat is low enough, there is enough liquid to keep it from burning. Just let it simmer and stew and do its magic while you do something else.

If you're adding tomatoes or eggplant I advise cutting them into large chunks and adding them after the first hour, so they don't cook down quite as much. For leeks and cabbage, cut them a little smaller and add after the first hour as well. Spinach should be added five minutes before serving and just permitted to soften.

If you really feel the need for a fresh counterpoint to all the rich, dark, earthy flavors of the stew, coarsly chop a handful of fresh coriander and mix it in right before serving or sprinkle some over each portion.

Of course, this reheats flawlessly, and it doesn't need to be eaten right away.

What? Oh, the fat you say? Well, if it really bothers you, let the stew cool, and then just remove the rendered fat from the top. Or spoon most of it out while it's still hot. Two minutes with a serving spoon, and I get the most egregious quantities out, but there's no point in trying to get it all out. Oh, and leave the bones in. They are neat bones, not at all sloppy or sharp. And good for sucking on...

cbustapeck says The oxtail soup has the best yummy to work ratio of anything that I can think of, with the exception of a nice steak. - Hee!