Bringing in the New Year

Today I feel sore from laughing and happiness is rising up in me like bubbles in champagne.  I love how I feel after partying with my boozter buddies; bringing in the New Year with a shot of Patron tequila, kissing My Pirate and hugging my friends.  Somehow, someway, I’ve found myself right smack dab in the middle of a marching band family that I will keep for the rest of my life.  I treasure my friends.

Yesterday while I was whipping up the last details for my braised ox tail and mushroom tartine, it started to snow.  And I grabbed my camera and raced outside like a giddy five year old.  Snow here is a treat.  And I snapped as many shots as the battery on my camera would let me.  Then, I came inside and helped My Pirate finish up the oxtail dish.

Now this appetizer will not be winning any beauty pageants, but it tastes like the most amazing rich, succulent pot roast that you have ever eaten, kicked up a few notches.  Thomas Keller’s Braised Oxtails and Mushroom Tartine is a recipe that I pull out around the holidays.  I meant to serve it on Christmas, but as you know I got sick, so we brought it to the New Year’s Eve party in a small crock pot and we piled it on top of grilled crostini or crackers.  I heard no complaints.  Only silence and closed eyes.  It’s that good. 

On the ride home from the party last night, I realized that I am in a good place in my life.  I love my friends and family.  The pain in my life is a decade behind me.  And as I put my Grandpa’s memory to rest, I’m able to find peace.  I can savor my happy memories as I step forward into new territory in 2013.  I’m on the threshold of many new adventures and it feels good.  Happy New Year!

Braised Oxtails and Mushroom Tartine
Slightly adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a light main course

For the braise:
9 pieces (about 10 ounces each) oxtail
Kosher salt and pepper
Canola oil—I used vegetable oil because I prefer it.
5 cups of beef stock—Just use good stock—vegetable and chicken work great too.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dry the oxtails with paper towels and then generously salt and pepper them.  Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium high until it shimmers but doesn’t smoke.  Add half the oxtails and let them cook for five to seven minutes until nicely seared.  Flip over and cook for another two to three minutes.  Remove from oil and place on rack or plate with a paper towel.  Repeat with the remaining oxtails.

Pour the oil out of the bottom of the Dutch oven and nestle the oxtails in the pot.  Pour stock in until it’s just below the level of the oxtails. Place in the oven and cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours.  I usually roast them for 2 ½ hours.  Remove from oven.  Let cool and then place in refrigerator overnight or up to two days.  Trust me, letting them rest improves the flavor and textures.

Completing the dish:
12 ounces oyster mushrooms, cut into 1-1/2” pieces—use what’s available
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
One 1-pound loaf ciabata or other thick flat bread—I use grilled crostini
Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup thinly sliced white onion

Remove the Dutch oven from the fridge, and pull the meat off the oxtails being careful to remove the cartilage and fat.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté the mushrooms in one layer, don’t crowd them.  Let them brown for about three minutes.  Then flip over.  Lay them out on a plate with a paper towel.  Then repeat with the remaining mushrooms.

Add all the mushrooms back into the pan, thyme, and shallot and sauté for a minute.  Add the butter and sauté until the mixture is glossy.  Then add the oxtail meat and remaining strained juices in the Dutch oven.  Bring to a simmer until heated through. 

Spoon the mixture onto the bread.  Place a slice of white onion on top.  Make sure not to forget this step, because it pulls all the flavors together and tempers the richness of the meat.  Then serve.