Oxtail Stew

I was at the co-op today and happened to be walking past the meat case as it was being stocked. I’d had chicken thighs or pork shoulder in mind for dinner, braised with tomatillos (recipe another day), but I spied some packages of oxtail and got really excited. I had never cooked it before, but I’ve got a pretty firm grounding in technique, especially when it comes to braising the most collagen-laden parts of an animal. Into the cart they went.

After a couple of excited replies on Twitter, I decided to photograph the steps as I went so I could blog about it. Why not, right? More attention can be a good thing.

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This package of oxtail chunks was about $8 at the co-op. It probably weighed about 2# or so, though I didn’t note the weight.

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Place a medium-sized Dutch oven over a medium-low flame. Heat about a tablespoon of lard (home-rendered is the best, of course!). Butter will burn, so use it half-and-half with oil or lard if you want that flavor.

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Lightly dredge the oxtail pieces in about 1/3 cup of flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Reserve the extra flour. Brown the meat on all sides.

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While the meat is browning, get your merde en place (as my husband calls it): one good-sized onion, diced; two ribs of celery, diced; three or four smallish carrots, diced. Also a couple good-sized cloves of garlic (or 6 of these stupidly small ones) and a sprig of rosemary, if you like.

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Once the meat is golden-brown and delicious, remove it from the pan and set aside. Preheat your oven to 300° and make sure there’s a rack set in the middle.

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Toss the veggies into the pan with a pinch of salt (reserve garlic and rosemary for later) and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they look like this.

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Get yourself a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, a bay leaf, and about 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh thyme).

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Stir the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs into the pan and cook for about 30 seconds. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THE PAN HERE. It will burn very quickly if you don’t pay attention. Add your reserved flour and cook for a minute or two. Reduce the heat a bit if things are browning too quickly.

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Get yourself about 12oz or so of red wine. I’m using my favorite boxed wine here. You could also use a zinfandel, a malbec, merlot, or whatever you like – use something you like to drink that’s not too tannic or sweet.

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Stir in the wine and bring it to a boil, then let it reduce for a few minutes. Add about 12oz or so of water and bring to a boil. Tuck the pieces of oxtail into the pan and cover it, then place the pan in the center of the oven and let it sit for about 90 minutes.

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Get yourself some lunch. I recommend cheese and crackers with homemade rhubarb chutney.

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After about 90 minutes, this is what your food is going to look like. It is not done yet, but it smells amazing, doesn’t it? Give it a stir and put it back into the oven, with the lid open about 1/4 to 1/2 inch and let it go for another 90 minutes or so.

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About 40 minutes before you want to eat, draft a passing child to cut up some potatoes. Boil the potatoes in salted water until they’re tender. Mash them with some butter and buttermilk, season with salt and pepper. Garlic would be a smart addition at some point, too.

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After the meat has been in the oven for about 3 hours, it should be nice and tender. Remove the pieces of oxtail from the pan and set them aside, covering them with foil.

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Remove the bay leaf and herb stems from the pot and puree it (or don’t, if you like a chunky sauce). Season to taste and add a splash or two of sherry or red wine vinegar to brighten the flavor. Seriously – don’t skip this step! It makes a huge difference.

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Chase the kale-stealing kitten out of the sink, then drain the kale and sautee it with a little garlic.

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I’m about 11 years out of restaurant work, so please excuse my uninspired and sloppy plating. We were just in a big hurry to eat!

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This bearded man thoroughly enjoyed his dinner, as did I. The older kid ate the meat even though it tasted “weird”. The younger one flat-out rejected everything. Nothing’s a surprise here.

Braised Oxtail with Red Wine
Serves 3-4 people, depending on appetite and accompaniments.

2 lb oxtail, cut into 2″ chunks
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 TB lard or oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 4 sprigs fresh
2 TB tomato paste
1.5 cups dry red wine (shiraz, malbec, zinfandel, etc.)
1.5 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 TB sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 300°

Season flour with salt and pepper, then dredge oxtail pieces in it. Reserve flour to thicken stew. Heat lard or oil over medium-low flame in medium-sized Dutch oven, then brown meat on all sides. Remove meat from pan and add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized – about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in reserved flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine and bring to a boil, then allow to reduce for a few minutes. Add water and bring to boil, then return the oxtail to the pan. Cover the pan and place it in the middle of the oven. Cook for 90 minutes, then stir. Return pan to oven, with the lid cracked open 1/2″, and cook another 90 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, then remove the meat and set aside, covering it with foil. Remove bay leaf and herb stems from the pot, then puree if desired. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in vinegar. Serve with your preferred sides.

New Socks!

Chris blew out several pairs of socks at the end of this winter, and since darning socks is extremely low on my list of priorities I knit a new pair for him. I’m hoping to make him a few more pairs before wool sock season rolls around again, we’ll see how well I do with that.

Big brown socks!

I talked him into a patterned pair this time instead of the plain ribbing or stockinette that we’ve usually gone with. Cables always seem to make a project go faster for me! I landed on Filey (Ravelry link) by Ingleside Belle. It’s a nicely-written pattern, as far as I noticed, but I mostly just used the pattern charts and knit the heels and toes in my usual manner. Here’s my project link – it goes to Ravelry but it should be publicly viewable!

I used KnitPicks Essential Sock Yarn (now called Stroll) in Auburn. I like the yarn well enough – it’s certainly well worth the price I paid for it! The colors are lovely and I love the slight variegation from the kettle dyeing.

I’ve got another pair of socks on the needles now – one of the ones from Sensational Knitted Socks that’s intended for self-striping yarns. I’ve also got to start on another baby hat – my friends keep getting pregnant and I can’t not knit for a new baby! This mama requested the Sweet Baby Cap that I knit for another friend, so I get to knit another one – I’m so excited to knit it again! It’s a fun, easy pattern and so, so adorable. I’ve got to toss through my stash for the perfect sock yarn for it, though. There’s got to be something appropriate in there.

No Knitting Today

No knitting today. Why?

I had a crappy morning, so I saddled up my trusty steed,

Went and picked up my kid from school,

And ran errands.

That’s 40# of cat and dog food. Did I mention that I love this bike?

No Gold Medal For Me…

I enjoyed participating in the 2010 Knitting Olympics but didn’t manage to finish my project in time to get a gold medal. I had some good reasons for not finishing – Chris, Grace, and I took a trip to San Francisco, my friend had her baby (I was her doula), and I went to a couple great concerts. I finished up on Monday, so I really wasn’t *that* far behind. I probably would have finished it on time if I hadn’t needed to rip back a lot of work twice. Ah well. The challenge was fun and I’d definitely do it again!

Slinky Ribs from Custom Knits, knit in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, color 52 (Ravelry link)

Overall, the pattern was great and I only needed to make a couple modifications. #1: I raised the neckline a couple inches – that below-the-boobs thing only looks good on certain people and I’m not one of them! #2: Added short row bust shaping. The front of the sweater was going to be significantly shorter than the back without short rows, which is not at all the look I was going for! I followed the directions in Big Girl Knits and am really happy with how well they worked out! It takes some thinking to make sense of the directions and it definitely pays to check your math (twice, if you’re like me), but it’s well worth the time and effort.

Also, I love Silky Wool! It was great to work with, even with the occasional piece of vegetation in the yarn, and it feels great on! It’s really nice for next-to-the-skin wear and it feels like I should be able to wear this well into warmer weather. Probably not in the height of a MN summer, but definitely through spring and early summer. I’ve got 10 skeins of another color in my stash and I’m looking for the perfect pattern for it – any suggestions?

On the needles now: Baby Chalice Blanket in Plymouth Encore color 7129. It’s zipping along – I started it a week ago and I’m already about halfway done. The pattern’s not hard to follow but it’s not so mindless I lose interest. A good combination, generally. And the size 8 needles I’m using seem huge compared to the tiny needles I usually use, so progress is fast.

All Ready for the Knitting Olympics!

I’m all ready for the Knitting Olympics, are you?

Pattern: Slinky Ribs (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, color 52 (which is NOT anywhere near a green despite what their color card says!), purchased at Borealis Yarns several years ago, probably in 2005 or 2006.
Needle: US 4 KnitPicks Options

I’m all ready to cast on during the opening ceremonies tonight!

Blogging Dinner

I’m a pretty good cook. I don’t say this to brag, it’s just a statement of fact. My kids don’t like what I cook much of the time, but hey – they’re 4 and 6, ages at which many kids refuse to eat anything but quesadillas and fruit. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I’m making chicken & wild rice soup for the first time today. How I managed to avoid it for so long is a good question, seeing as this is Minnesota and EVERYBODY eats this stuff. Right?

I poked around on the internet for a while, looking for recipes to follow. Nothing really looked right until I came across this recipe on A Good Appetite, which is a fantastic food blog. I’m modifying her recipe a bit to suit my needs, but it was a good place to start.

First of all, I poached a package of 5 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts in enough water to cover, seasoned with salt and pepper. Once they were cooked through, I pulled them out to cool and threw in 2c of raw wild rice to cook in the broth. Once that was tender (it took almost an hour), I drained it and spread it out to cool. I won’t use all of the wild rice and chicken in the soup, but the rest of it will go in the freezer to be used in this recipe later this week.

Meanwhile, I pulled out two packages of chicken stock to thaw – roughly a quart. I also chopped up my vegetables – several shallots (the end of my CSA allium stash), two large cloves of garlic, several carrots, and two stalks of celery. By then, the chicken had cooled enough to handle, so I removed the skin and bones and broke it into bite-sized chunks.

The cast of characters

Now, time to cook! I melted 2TB of butter and 1TB lard in a pan (the lard kept the butter from burning) and threw the veggies in with some salt and dried thyme. They cooked with the lid on until the onions had become translucent and the vegetables had rendered some liquid. At that point I threw in about 1/4c flour and mixed it around, then let it cook for a few minutes to take off the raw flavor from the flour. I added the chicken stock and let it come to a boil and thicken, then reduced the heat to a simmer and let it cook until the carrots were tender. At that point, I added in 1c heavy cream (milk or half & half would be good here, I just had the cream on hand), about 2/3 of my cooked chicken and about 2c of the cooked wild rice and let it simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.

Looks right, tastes right!

We’re off to go sledding now, this will be a good dinner when we come back!

Well how about that…

I designed a pair of mittens AND finished them. Despite having to rip and reknit the first mitten several times. Despite not having the recipient’s hands um… handy to try them on when I ran into a questionable spot. I’m pretty damn happy with how they turned out, hopefully they’ll be well-received.

Bike Mittens!

Stripey palms!

Details:
Plymouth Galway in colors 738 (blue-green) and 1 (cream), less than 1 skein of each
Needle: US 2
Started: January 28, 2010
Finished: February 3, 2010
Ravelry project page

I am planning to write the pattern up and make it available at some point, but I want to try it in a thinner yarn and see if I can make it work for smaller hands too – these are a men’s large.

Next up: Squirrel Sampler Mittens from Hello Yarn. I’ve got an oatmeal-y color for the background, moss green for the contrast, and chocolate brown alpaca for the lining. These are going to be LOVELY to wear with that alpaca.

After all that fuss…

It wasn’t all that bad. I crocheted the steeks and ended up dropping my steek stitch down, then cutting the ladders – somehow that was less scary than cutting the intact stitches. Don’t ask me why, it just was. Sewing the sleeves into the armholes was pretty simple. Who knows if I did it “right”, but it looks good and is secure so in the end I did it right enough.

He loves it. He’s worn it every day since I finished it – if he wears it today that’ll be six days in a row. This from a guy who insisted he wouldn’t wear a sweater for years. I have no idea what finally convinced him, but I’m glad he changed his mind!

Not a fake smile!

We’re talking about his next sweater now. Cobblestone is a front-runner. We’re talking about Beaverslide Dry Goods yarn for it, but the price is giving me a little pause. It’s so lovely, though! We’ll have to see.

While that’s under consideration, I’m working on a couple other things. First of all, a sock (naturally). The pattern is Sunday Swing from the Summer ’09 Knitty. Yarn is some Berroco Sox Metallic that my aunt brought me. The yarn feels a bit scratchy due to the metallic thread, but it feels just fine on my feet. The pattern’s easy enough but I have to pay attention to it (just a bit, though) so it’s not so boring I want to cry. Good thing, too – boring never gets finished.

Still life with sock and chart

What’s that in the picture, you ask? A bike chart, of course. I’m working out a mitten pattern with that bike on it. The chart knits up just fine – I had to make a couple modifications to the chart as I test-knit it, but I’m pretty sure that happens just about every time you convert something from a drawing into knitting. Here’s how it knit up:

Not bad for the first shot, right?

I already know I need to use a bigger needle – this doesn’t stretch nearly enough for my liking. I need to revisit the handlebars a bit, too. There’s a white stitch in there that just isn’t showing up as much as I’d like it to, and there are a couple spots that need fiddling with, but ultimately it’s pretty good! I’m planning to make the pattern (or just the chart) available once it’s finished, so watch this space.

I’m off to work on my sock and stalk the First Avenue site for Spoon tickets.

(St)EEK!!

So I finished the sleeves for Chris’s sweater:

And now I have to do something scary:

I’m using Eunny Jang’s extremely well-written tutorial for my crocheted steek, it worked on my swatch, but it’s still scary to think about taking a pair of scissors to this big piece of knitting. If I fuck it up… well, it’s not going to be pretty – there’s a lot of emotional crap knit into this sweater (to put it mildly). My sanity may not *quite* be riding on my success here, but it might not be off the mark to guess that there could be tears and a fire if there is failure.

Resurrection

So it’s been just over a year since I last posted. There’s been a lot going on around here, between my shoulder getting screwed up and making it painful to knit for much of 2009, the depression that was exacerbated by the removal of my favorite creative activity, and life in general. The depression lifted in November and life is beautiful again – I’m so thankful for everything in my life. It really feels like I got a new chance at everything and it’s amazing.

But enough about my crap, I know you come here (or at least you used to) for the knitting content. My Ravelry page is mostly up-to-date with project information, if not pictures of all the projects, so you can look there if you’re curious what I made last year. This year I’m hoping to share my projects with you here as well as on Ravelry, starting with this one:

Berlin Muster socks (Ravelry link)

I loved knitting this pattern! It wasn’t a chart I could memorize or just work out from reading my work, but that wasn’t too much of a hardship. The pattern is only 60 stitches around, which would normally be far too small for my wide feet. I took the designer’s suggestion and added a couple stitches to each purl panel and knit all the way down past the heel before trying it on – the sock could have fit my foot and my hand! The lace pattern is extremely stretchy, so most people should have absolutely no problem with it as written. My only modifications were to cast on 68 stitches and to knit the ribbing a bit longer than the pattern specified. I then decreased the extra 8 stitches on the first row after the ribbing and continued as written. It’s great, although they were a tad snug in the instep when I put them on this morning. They’ve stretched a bit so it’s all good now!

The title of this post is not only in reference to the resurrection of the blog but also to the resurrection of a project. I’m going back to the project that screwed up my shoulder in the first place, but this time around I’m going to be more careful with it. It’s the Aran Sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac (Ravelry link). I knit the entire body of the sweater in the month of January and the twisted stitch pattern caused some pretty nasty tendinitis in my right shoulder. It’s been in time-out for nearly a year and I’m finally feeling up to working on it again. The sleeves aren’t nearly as cable- and twisted stitch-heavy as the body, so I’m pretty confident I can knit them without destroying my shoulder again.

Did I mention that my husband’s a tall beast? Wow, what a project.

Here’s a close-up of the pattern.

I’m knitting pretty much according to the pattern, but I had to add a number of purl stitches to each panel. I have no idea how many, now, but it was a few inches’ worth. I’m so excited to finish this but the steeking is intimidating – I’ve only done that once and it was a Lopi sweater, which is a much different creature in my mind. I’ll probably take EZ’s suggestion and have a nice glass of wine before I cut, just to steady my nerves. Hopefully I’ll get to that this month!

I’ll make no promises, but I do plan to blog more frequently this year. Not that I can really beat last year’s inactivity…

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