Oxtail Soup Disaster and Recovery

May 23, 2009


I bought four pounds of oxtail from North Star Neighbors through the Nebraska Food Cooperative last month.  The oxtail sells for $2.95 a pound.  I got around to using it earlier in the week.  My original plan was to use up the last of my kimchi making a Korean inspired soup.  Somehow during the process, I forgot about Korea and drifted to Mexico for inspiration.  That’s when things went wrong.

My plan was to sear the oxtail, simmer for two hours, and during the last hour, add the aromatic vegetable bits that I had dutifully saved in the freezer.  I forgot to add the aromatics during the last hour, which turned out to be a good thing.  Not wanting to cook the meat into oblivion, I pulled the meat and added the vegetables to the broth, and simmered for an additional hour.  Then disaster struck as inspiration kicked in — I decided to add some smoky heat to the broth, in the form of one ancho chile and four chipoltle chilies.  Someone out there is probably cringing right now, who knows much more, or even a little more than I do about these dried peppers.  I was reveling in the bouquet the broth was giving off as I took my first taste….. and then bletch.  All it tasted like was, well I don’t know how to describe it, a smoky, bitter, bad.  I paused for a bit and then thought, add some salt and acid, and the soup will be back on track.  I added salt and it was a bit better.  I grabbed a bottle of red wine and added a cup or so, tasted, added more wine, tasted, and then added the whole bottle.  The broth still tasted terrible.  Now I was in a real pickle.  I was at the end of my culinary recovery ability.  Part of me wanted to press forward, add the meat and vegetables and make the soup.  The other part, the rational part, finally won.  I poured the whole works down the drain.  I pulled the meat from the bones, put it in the fridge and we ate cold cereal.


Luckily, due to the fact I hadn’t cooked the chilies with the meat, there was flavorful, tender beef to use.  I decided to attempt making a barbecue sauce for the meat.  For a side I settled on a Sicilian Style Sauteed Greens recipe, from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, using the swiss chard I purchased from the farmer’s market.  I turned to the Internet for a barbecue sauce template and settled on one from Culinary Cafe.  I’m happy to report both the swiss chard and the barbecue turned out wonderfully.



  • 4 pounds of oxtail, cooked until tender and pulled
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 onion diced and caramelized
  • 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


In a sauce pan, over medium high heat, add butter and onions.  Saute onions until just beginning to brown on the edges.  Then reduce heat to medium low, and slowly cook onion until caramelized.  While the onion is cooking, combine: brown sugar, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, cayenne and black pepper.  Once the onions are caramelized increase the heat to medium and add the spice/oil mixture, deglazing the pan.  Next, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 30 minutes, add meat and warm through.

Sauteed Swiss Chard



  • 1 pound swiss chard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Nut mixture

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins, roughly chopped


Pull stems off chard and chop.  Cut chard leaves into one inch strips.

Next prepare the nut mixture.  In a large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil, red pepper flakes and onion.  Cook until onion is soft, then add garlic.  Once garlic has added it’s flavor, about one minute, add the nuts and raisins.  Cook until the raisins are soft, approximately two minutes.  Pull mixture from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and chard stems.  Cook stems for one minute, then begin adding chard leaves a handful at a time, as the leaves wilt, stirring between handfuls.  Once the chard is tender, reduce heat to medium, add the butter, stir to incorporate.  Add the lemon juice, stir, and add the nut mixture.  Stir for about a minute and pull off the heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

By Kenton


Chicken Fried Steak and Parsnip Mash Potatoes

March 14, 2009


I seem to be on a cheap beef cuts cooking string.  First it was beef shanks at $2.54 a pound.  The cube steak for the CFS is $2.31 a pound.  And I also purchased some beef neck bones the other day, which I haven’t done anything with yet, for $1.69 a pound.  The chicken fried steak was a big hit with us.  It was as good or better than any CFS we’ve ever had.  I followed a recipe from Cooks Illustrated.  I was going to pair the CFS with mash potatoes and roasted garlic or celery root, but my father-in-law stopped by bearing parsnips from his garden.  So I opted for a parsnip/potato mix.  Corn was the vegetable.  We’ve got a bunch of frozen corn my sister Jill gave us last summer.  This is corn from one of the fields around Ainsworth; quite possibly our cousin’s, I forgot to ask.  When she put it up, it was fresh from the field.  If you’ve only had corn from a grocery store, I don’t care if it was on the cob, you’re missing something.  Try getting your hands on some corn picked the day you eat it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Chicken Fried Steak


  • 4 cube steaks
  • cooking oil

Dry coating –

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Wet coating –

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder


Adjust oven rack to middle position and place baking sheet underneath to catch drips.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  This is where you’re going to put the steaks after they’re fried, to keep warm.

Get your breading mix ready.  You’ll need two bowls big enough to dip steaks in, one at a time.  In one bowel combine and mix your dry coating: flour, cayenne, black pepper and salt.  In the other bowl combine and mix your wet coating: buttermilk, baking soda, baking powder and egg.  For a buttermilk substitute, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk.

Place a wire rack on your counter over a cooking sheet.  Make sure steaks are dry, blot with a paper towel if needed.  Coat steak in flour and shake off access, coat with wet coating and allow access to drip off, put steak back into dry coating and shake of access.  Place each steak on wire rack to hold until cooking time.

In your frying pan, add enough cooking oil so that when you place the steaks in, their sides will be half covered.  Bring the oil to 375 degrees.  Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to fry the steak in batches.  You don’t want to crowd your pan, causing the oil temperature to drop too low.  Cook steak to golden brown on one side, then turn and do the same on the other.  When they’re done dab off extra oil with a paper towel and place on oven rack to keep warm.



  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Carefully pour oil from your frying pan, leaving 2 tablespoons of the oil and as much of the brown bits as you can.  Add thyme and onion, saute until softened and beginning to brown.  Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, don’t burn.  Add flour, stir until well combined with the other ingredients, about a minute.  Add chicken broth and whisk until smooth.  Add rest of ingredients: milk, cayenne, salt and black pepper.  Blend with whisk and bring to a simmer.  Stir gravy occasionally until thickened to the consistency you like.  The gravy will thicken more as it cools.

Parsnip Mash Potatoes


  • 4 pounds potatoes, fingerling or Yukon Gold
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled
  • 1/8 to 1/2 cup butter, to taste
  • 1 cup hot milk, cream or half-and-half
  • salt and pepper


Peel potatoes or clean well and leave the skins on.  Cut potatoes and parsnip into similarly sized pieces, smaller cooks faster.  Put potatoes and parsnips in a pot and add water until it’s half way up the sides of the contents.  Cover and gently simmer until tender, start checking around 30 minutes.  Place colander over a bowel to reserve the potato water and drain.  Mash the potatoes and parsnips in a bowl, adding butter and milk.  Continue to mash, adding potato water until the consistency you like is reached.  Salt and pepper to taste.



  • 1 can corn or fresh corn kernels if possible,
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon butter
  • milk
  • salt and pepper


Drain corn if canned.  In a sauce pan, add corn and enough milk to cover bottom 1/4 to 1/2 of the corn.  Bring to a simmer.  Stir occasionally, make sure the liquid doesn’t go dry, and taste kernels.  When kernels reach desired tenderness, stir in butter, salt and pepper to taste.

By Kenton

Spaghetti Bolognese

February 8, 2009

piccini_chiantiLately I’ve been working with recipes from Cooking, by James Peterson.  On Friday I was leafing through the pages looking for some weekend cooking inspiration.  The Shellfish Risotto with Saffron sounded interesting.  I’ve never cooked with shellfish.  I was also thinking, maybe a fish dish of some kind…  And then a bottle of wine popped into my head.  A Chianti I had tried about a year ago.  When I first started getting interested in wine and food pairing, sangiovese was one of the the grapes I gravitated toward.  I like the earthy, smoky, old world taste of the varietal.  The Piccini Chianti I’m talking about, fits that bill nicely.  Even better, the wine is $10.99 a bottle!  Red meat and tomato goes great with this wine, and making my own pasta sounded like a challenge, so spaghetti bolognese it was.

The sauce went together rather quickly, but the cooking time was quite long.  I modified the ingredients a bit from the original recipe.  The biggest change was using 2.5 pounds of meat instead of the 5 pounds listed.  This is the first time I’ve made pasta from scratch.  I was a little worried about it, since I haven’t worked with dough much, but it was actually fun.  In terms of taste, Melissa seemed to enjoy the dish more than I did.  I thought the pasta needed a little salt and the sauce less salt.  I used canned tomatoes in the sauce because fresh tomatoes this time of year aren’t very good here.  Unfortunately the canned tomatoes contained salt.  Next time I’ll use fresh or make sure I get canned without salt.  I’ll also use even less meat, I would have liked more sauce in this dish.


The Sauce

  • 2.5 pounds beef stew meat
  • 4 tablespoons of an equal mixture of olive and canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • Four 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
  • One 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • Bouquet garni (about 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 sprigs fresh oregano, 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 2 cups chianti
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons of granulated sugar

In 3 tablespoons of oil brown the meat.  Pull meat out and set aside.  In the same pan add oil if needed and over low heat, toss in the onion and carrots.  Cook until the onion becomes translucent.  Add garlic, stir for thirty seconds, then add the wine, 1/4 cup wine vinegar, bouquet garni and the meat.  Simmer slowly uncovered for about three hours, stirring occasionally.  At this point the meat should be tender, with just a few small puddles of liquid simmering at the top.  Take off heat, pull the bouquet garni, stir to break up and shred the pieces of meat.  Add salt, black pepper and sugar to taste.  If sauce is too acidic add the rest of the vinegar.


The Pasta


  • 6 large eggs, (add more if needed)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Knead these ingredients together until you can form a ball.  Once you’ve pulled the dough together, it should be moist but not sticky to the touch.  Adjust by adding flour or egg as needed.  If you use a pasta machine start with the largest setting, running the dough through until it has the consistency of suede.  As you cut the dough, break apart the strands if needed and sprinkle liberally with flour to keep them from sticking.  To cook, bring a pot of water and two tablespoons of oil to boil, and add the pasta.  The pasta is done when al dente, check by tasting.  It should only take a minute or two for the pasta to cook.

Author: Kenton