Braised Oxtails: A Taste of the Caribbean

Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. Just Offal is here to explore these oft-neglected byproducts of butchering, featuring different offal meals from establishments across the valley.

This week: Oxtails served up by A Taste of the Caribbean.

The Ick Factor: We humans don't have tails. That is, unless you're one of the unfortunate few who were born with that funny vestigial appendage. (Now that's a dirty little family secret.) Tails are pure and animalistic. Your dog wags it. Your cat's looks like a question mark. And your hamster's looks more like a floppy pink worm. Tails are mysterious and utterly foreign. We're not quite sure what they're for (is it balance or knocking glasses of the coffee table in one swift wag?) but we're pretty sure they're edible. Heck, if you can eat chicken feet, you can certainly chow down on some tail.

(all the juicy details after the jump)

The Offal Choice: Braised oxtails served up by A Taste of the Caribbean, accompanied by a side of stewed cabbage, plantains, and dirty rice.

Tastes Just Like: The most succulent, fall-off-the-bone tender shredded beef your mouth has ever made love to. If you can get over the fact that you need to pick the meat straight off what look like vertebrae, then you are in for a treat. The meat will practically flake off into your waiting fork.

Oxtail is basically vertebral segments composed of muscle wrapped around fat, cartilage and bone. However, the oxtail was so tender from being braised that I would challenge you to distinguish these components from one another while eating. (Aside from the bones. Those are pretty noticeable.)

Everything melds together into a slightly greasy, super succulent mass of soul satisfying shredded beef. This is Caribbean soul food at its best.

You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: It's tough and fatty. If you have an old cut of meat or the oxtail isn't braised long enough, then the meat will be wholly unlike the delicious dish served up by A Taste of the Caribbean. You will have tough, stringy beef on your hands instead.

Always been a DIY-er? Oxtails can be picked up processed and ready to cook at a variety of ethnic markets. I have yet to see them on the mega mart grocer shelves. Pick up some tail and get to cooking some braised oxtails.

Know of some offal we just have to try? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

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Erica O'Neil