Recipe For Oxtails With Peanut Butter?
A group of us eat in the same Basque restaurant every January when we're in town for a Scrabble tournament (don't ask) and the best in the family-style parade of dishes is their oxtail stew.
When we ate there this past January, I was sitting next to a friend who said her mother (from the Philippines) made oxtails with peanut butter! It sounded pretty weird, but I make a curry with tuna and peanuts that is fantastic, so how could it be bad?
Has anybody ever heard of this dish? Any recipes or history info? I always mean to search for it online and then forget the minute I exit Chowhound.
We cheat and buy the powdered kare kare mix which contains the rice flour and annato together (along with salt, etc), and just needs to have peanut butter added before going into the soup. It makes the preparation extremely simple: boil the oxtails in water with onions for a few hours until very tender and the broth is significantly reduced (skimming it along the way). We don't bother with de-fatting, actually. After the broth is reduced, add green beans, cabbage/bok choy, eggplant (if you want). Mix the packet (or rice flour and annato) with 3/4 cup of smooth peanut butter, and stir in about a cup of the broth. When the veggies are close to done, pour this into the broth and let it thicken and make a smooth stew, to serve with rice and shrimp paste (bagoong) There's nothing really magical about the mix, though--in fact, some rice flour and annato powder does do the trick just fine.
I also have to agree with a comment on the web page linked to from above--my mother-in-law uses a homogenized processed smooth (reduced sugar) peanut butter which I imagine still has lots of sugar in it and sounds like it would be horrible, but it makes the stew very smooth and the sweetness complements the oxtail and the saltiness of the shrimp paste very well! So, I guiltily admit that if I end up needing to buy peanut butter for a batch of kare kare, I may grab a processed one.
Kare-kare is a perennial favorite among Filipinos when they gather together for fiestas. Tender cuts of meat in a rich and meaty sauce with sweet tropical vegetables is a much better combination than you might imagine. Traditionally the stew would be prepared using bony cuts of beef, sources of ample gelatin for a rich stock (i.e. trotters, shins, tails), cooked overnight in a clay pot over a low fire. Today pressure cookers and prepared seasoning mixes (Mama Sita's is particularly good) cut down the production time without sacrificing too much in quality, though the traditional method yields a sauce richer in texture and flavor. New variations substitute seafood for the meat.
The name kare-kare is probably a corruption of the word "curry" and combined with the peanut sauce it seems the basic outlines of the dish may likely have been brought to the Philippines from Southeast Asia, which features peanut-based sauces more abundantly. On an Indonesian table, the flavors of kare-kare would meld seamlessly. On the Filipino table, it is a stand-out, which is yet another reason for its popularity.
If you decide to make it, beware prepared peanut butters which can make the sauce too sweet. Smooth natural peanut butter makes for an optimal choice. Also the toasted rice flour should be finely ground to avoid grittiness in the sauce and incorporated gradually into the dish to avoid turning the liquid into a paste. Be certain to scrape the bottom of the pot to fully incorporate the peanut butter and rice flour otherwise you stand the risk of scorching.
10 c. water
2 bay leaves
2 stalks celery
1 onion, quartered
1 lb. tripe
4 c. water
1/3 cup rice
2 tbsp. annatto seeds
1 c. water
4 tbsp. oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 head garlic, minced
1/3 c. peanut butter
1 banana blossom, quartered
2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise
1 bunch bok choy
2 c. long beans, sliced in 2-in. pieces
Simmer 4lbs. oxtails with aromatics until tender (approximately 2 hours). Strain out aromatics, reserve oxtails and chill the stock to defat. In another pot, simmer the sliced tripe until tender (approximately an hour). Meanwhile toast rice in a dry and hot pan. You will know the rice is done when all the pieces are browned and smell nutty. Remove from the pan and grind to a fine flour. In a mug, steep 2 tbsp. annatto seeds in 1 c. of hot water for 30 min., occasionally mashing the seeds. Strain out the seeds and reserve the annatto water.
In a separate large pot, heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic. When browned, add half the rice flour, the annatto water, oxtail stock and peanut butter. When the liquid is uniform, add the oxtails, tripe and banana blossom. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add the eggplant. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add the bok choy. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add the long beans and remove the pot from the heat. Add more toasted rice flour and/or peanut butter to thicken to your desired consistency and peanut butteriness. Season with fish sauce or salt. Serve with bagoong guisado and rice.