Game Night Guinea Pigs

Over the past year or so, it has become increasingly obvious that I am the sort of person who requires lots of motivation to get most anything done. When that motivation strikes, I need to act on it immediately!
So, when the motivation to organize my kitchen and living room struck, I immediately formulated a plan that would not allow room for any excuses. I invited people over for game night, forcing us to clean up and prepare for company.
Turns out, this plan was two fold. Now that we had company coming over, I needed to feed them! This got me really excited.

My local meat guy at Cason’s Fine Meats has an excellent variety of beef and pork cuts. Every time I go in there I stare at the oxtails wondering to myself if this is an ingredient I want to play with. Well, I finally got to actually try some braised oxtail when we were in Jamaica and I was so disappointed in myself for not having tried them sooner! They are fatty, cartilaginous chunks of goodness, and while that may not sound so appealing, just look at them.

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I had the perfect reason to try them out, and get feedback as well!

Here is what I did.
I marinated them overnight in red wine. I used the Yellow Tail Shiraz since that’s what we had laying around (leftover from the wedding).
In the morning, I drained them and tossed them in a spice rub. I put them in my crockpot with one roughly chopped onion, 4 whole cloves of garlic, 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, 2 tbsps of cider vinegar, and 1 heaping tbsp of whole grain mustard. I let these bad boys cook on low for 8 – 10 hours or until the fat has mostly rendered off and the meat falls from the bone.

oxtail-4

Spice Rub:
2 tbsp Chili Powder
1 1/2 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tbsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Traditionally these are served over rice since the pot juices are equally as delicious. I served them with some mashed potatoes and some collard greens picked that day from my own garden!

Collards

I have had quite the yield of greens from my garden so I have been making them frequently. Most of the time I cook them with bacon, in bacon fat, but since the oxtails contained enough fat for the week, I decided to make them “skinny”

Ingredients:
1 lbs Collard Greens
1 Yellow Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic grated/zested right into the pan
2 Cups of Chicken Stock (Tip: Use low sodium to control the amount of salt)
2 Cups of sliced Crimini Mushrooms
1 Tbsp of Lemon Zest
1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp of Whole Grain Mustard
1 Tbsp of Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp of Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:
1. Sautee onions in a bit of olive oil, on medium/high heat until they start to become translucent.
2. While the onions are sweating, cut the stems off the greens (they are fibrous and bitter) and cut the greens in to 1 inch strips.
3. Add the remainder of the ingredients and bring everything up to a boil.
4 Reduce the heat to low and put a lid on the pot.
5. Let them simmer on low for about 45 minutes, or until the leaves become a brownish green and are tender to bite through. They should not be bitter at all. If they are still bitter, continue cooking.

collard-greens-and-caramelized-onions

I received high praises from my game night buddies, and I won our rousing game of Cards Against Humanity.
All in all, a successful evening.

Ps: I have to mention that these photographs are not of my actual food. They are google searched images since I was too busy being a host and cleaning to take pictures of my food along the way. Sorry!

Decompression

Hello!  For a minute there I thought this would never happen again. Through the chaos of getting married, honeymooning for a week, then the shock of returning to the daily grind, I was becoming seriously concerned at my lack of enthusiasm for cooking and really eating as well.  Now that we are settling in, the process of organizing the kitchen with all of our new gadgets has sparked a new wave of creativity and excitement for the multitudes of possibilities!

For dinner last night, I made a slightly altered recipe of Rachel Ray’s Tagine Style Chicken with Couscous.   While I thoroughly enjoy the flavors of Moroccan cuisine, I am not well versed in the spices or how the flavors are layered and extracted.  So, for my first attempt at making this kind of a meal, I decided to try out a “professional” recipe to get a feel for the rations of spices. 

I followed this recipe almost exactly.  I cut it in half as I was only making 2 servings, left out the dates, added some crushed red pepper, 1/4 cup of orange juice and 1 tbsp. of flower to the chicken.  I also added red wine vinegar, orange juice, and chives instead of scallions to the couscous.

Since my kitchen is still a total disaster, I was not able to photograph the meal, but it was really good!  My advice for this week (if that’s worth anything), try creating an meal of international origin, that you have tried before.  Kitchen experiments are fun.

 

Come up next, our Jamaican experience.