I mentioned to a friend in France that I was looking for a good quality cover for our feather bed. There was an awkward pause, and then she asked why I would need a cover, other than the one that enclosed the feathers. She explained that she and everyone she knew took her feather bed to the cleaner? There, the bed was picked apart, the feathers removed and they were fluffed and aired in the sun. The cover was washed by hand and hung to dry also in the sun. Finally the feathers were returned to the cover, resewn and returned to the bedroom. This particular bed had been in the family since her grandmother’s wedding. Good luck with trying to find a feather bed specialist here in the U.S.! We don’t roll that way; if it’s old we toss it. The French “conserve”, the feather bed being only one in a thousand ways they place value on the items that they pay for and avoid what they consider foolish waste. The point I’m making is that the French are…can I say “conservative” without meaning politically?
I started thinking about this as I was making braised oxtails in the pressure cooker. Oxtails are so expensive these days! It’s almost better to buy a steak! Back in the day, when I was I child, my mother often bought this almost free cut; if they were even 10 cents a pound, I’d be surprised. ($5.99/lb at Petes today.) She didn’t make oxtail soup, but a big, thick, tomato or gravy rich pot of gloriously meaty bones that were eaten with rice or potatoes. It was a feast! Oxtails were considered slave/poor people/soul food cuisine and not many people were interested. However some smug American chef decided to expose and educate the “chic” and trendy to the oxtail as a meat and not just the bony, fly flecked end of the cow. Prices soared and remain an outrage! I mentioned the French early on because they’ve always considered oxtails and just about everything else food, whether a tail or a steak, it’s beef and charged for accordingly. Waste not want not. Maybe it was the war but I tend to think they were born this way 😀
I started out thinking that I would make Asian glazed oxtails but, as so often happens, I was mind-snatched and it turned into something else. I even add 3 orphan strips of what are called “boneless spareribs” (but they’re not) to the oxtails in the pressure cooker. Whatever. They were good and I’ll make it this way again.
To appease my husband’s rice eating cravings that he probably learned in Peace Corps, and certainly not in his Irish childhood home, I made orzo pasta that looks a bit like long grain rice but is so much better. I added basil from the garden, butter, onion, garlic, pancetta and Parmesan cheese. Get’s him every time 😀
Braised Curried Oxtails with Orzo
2 1/2-3 lbs oxtails
2 cups beef broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 cube S & B hot golden curry, grated
1 tsp onion powder
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 star anise
3 slices fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup melted butter
Place the oxtails, as much as possible, in one layer in a pressure cooker. Mix all the other ingredients together and pour over the oxtails.
Put the top on the pressure cooker and seal well. Put the little bobble thing over the vent in the middle of the pressure cooker top. Turn the gas up to high and when the bobble starts to swing back and forth, decrease the heat until the bobble continues a gentle swing. Cook for 30-35 minutes, remove from flame and set aside until the pressure button, located at the top of the handle, sinks completely to the bottom.
Open the pressure cooker and place the oxtails in a platter. Boil the liquid down (no top) until it is reduced by half, then pour over the oxtails.
2 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup dried orzo
1 2/3 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Melt the butter in a large saute pan, then saute the orzo and garlic until the pasta begins to brown. Add the broth, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and cheese and serve.