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Oxtails with Rice & Peas

Kwame Onwuachi

Lesson time 35 min

Jewel, Kwame’s mom, just arrived on the island and they are ready to cook together for the first time in Jamaica! In order to properly celebrate Jewel’s visit, they make a Jamaican classic, which is also her favorite dish: Braised oxtails with coconut rice and pigeon peas. And of course, no family gathering would be complete without a cocktail, so they whip up a refreshing rum punch packed with fresh Jamaican fruits.

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– Smells amazing. – Is that who I think it is? Hey, mamma. – Hello. Hello, my love. – How are you? – It is so important to bring my mother here to Jamaica and to have Jamaican food have such an impact on the cuisine of my childhood and to really connect those roots is a full-circle moment for me as well as her. – Oh my goodness, this is your kitchen? – While I’m here. – In Jamaica? – In Jamaica, in Jamaica. – All right. We are here. Can you help me with this? – Yes. – Can you put it underneath? – Yes. – So what are we making? – Oxtail. – Ah, the oxtail. – The oxtail. – I love oxtail, this is my favorite. – Yeah. – And I don’t know how to make it like you make it. – Well, that’s why we’re here. I mean, you set the groundwork for it. I think you introduced me to it, I’ve ate it so many times in the Bronx. – Well, good. Let’s see if yours is better than mine. – You getting your own knives out? – I brought my knives, yes. Because your knives are manly knives and I’m a woman and so my knives are just a little smaller. – All knives are created equal. Oxtails go with rice and peas. – Right. – So, let’s make the peas first. – Okay. – Can you grab me some thyme, some scotch bonnet? I’m gonna grab the peas. I soaked them yesterday, so they’re already really nice and plump and tender. – This looks great. – Yeah, right? – This is really, really fresh thyme. I love it. – [Son] Oh my God, it grows everywhere here. – Wild? – Like wildfire here. – Crazy. And the peas, what are those, Kunga? – Gungo peas. – Gungo peas. – That’s what they call them out here, yeah. So can you just drain it? – Drain it? – Yeah. – I love these peas. – They’re so good, right? – They are very good. – So I’m gonna cut this in half. Just gonna use this part so that way it doesn’t break off into the peas and I gotta sift through it. You can save the rest of this for stock, but we’re gonna go right into this. So I’m gonna add the peas to here. Gonna add some bay leaf. One of these scotch bonnets. I’m gonna add half a knob of ginger. Yeah, there you go. Gonna cut this just like that. – I love how you leave all of it whole. It’s actually better and it gives more flavor and it’s not as labor intensive as chopping everything up. – Exactly, exactly. And we’re just trying to flavor the beans and every single step of the way. So I’m gonna just cover this with water. I’m gonna let this go and it’s important to flavor the beans because we’re gonna use this liquid to help make the rice as well. – Very good. – And that’s how you get that natural, brown tinge without using browning. Can you put some thyme in there for me, please? Yeah, there we go, beautiful. All right, so I’m gonna just put this on, let this simmer. So by the time we’re ready to make the rice, we got our beans already ready to go. – And how long does it simmer? – This is for about 45 minutes ’till it’s super tender. – No salt? – No salt. If you add the salt, then it’ll take longer to cook. – Right. – It’ll harden the beans. – It also makes it harden. – Yeah. – Right. – All right. – Oxtail. – Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for, oxtail. – Yes, oxtail. – So I marinated it already. – You marinated. – [Son] You know I like to marinate it for at least 24, 48 hours. – Right, that’s right. – So, I’ll show you what I got here. So here we have it. – [Mom] Oh, my God. That looks amazing. – [Son] Smell it, give it a whiff. – Mmm, smells amazing. – Yeah, so there’s all spice in here, a little bit of raw cane sugar, scallions, a touch of jerk paste just to accentuate those flavors. Ginger, garlic, onion, and scotch bonnet. So, first things first, we’re gonna sear it. We wanna develop those flavors, deeply caramelize them. So, we’re gonna put this on high, add a little bit of canola oil to this ’cause we just wanna brown it. We don’t wanna cook it. – Right, to sear in the flavors. – Sear in the flavors, create a Maillard reaction. – And also, the browning part of it actually helps with the gravy. – Absolutely, yeah. I’m gonna get the chicken stock. – It’s all congealed. That’s the best. – Yeah, look at that. So, you know you made it properly when it’s like jello. Do you remember the first time I had oxtails? – No. – No. I couldn’t remember. – It’s just always been a part of our lives. – It’s just always been there. – My father, Trinidad, your grandmother, Jamaican. And even Louisiana, we eat oxtail. – In the south you eat oxtail. – In the south we eat oxtails, yeah. – I remember having it for the first time in Harlem at the Japanese restaurant below where we used live. – I remember that. They made it really well. – But no, we eat oxtails. – Yeah, it’s something you eat all the time. That’s a lovely sound. That’s the sound you wanna hear when you’re searing any meat. ♪ That’s the sound of music ♪ All right, so I’m gonna scrape off pretty much as I go. – Smells amazing. – Yeah? – Oh my God. – Searing the oxtail is such an important process. Develops color, it creates that traditional browning, it locks in the flavor. – [Mom] Yes, it helps with the gravy. – Helps with the gravy, exactly. And you don’t wanna crowd the pan, you don’t want it to sweat. So you wanna do half at a time when you’re making this. You see any pieces of garlic in there, just pick it off ’cause all that stuff will burn in this browning. So, this is what I’m looking for. – [Mom] Yeah, that’s beautiful. – That perfect crust all the way around. – Beautiful. So, whenever I’m eating oxtail outside, I always compare the oxtail to your oxtail. – Yeah? – Yeah. Whatever country I’m in. Jamaica, the United States, the Bronx, ’cause that’s a country too. It is pretty amazing. – Thank you. I think that’s the first compliment I ever got. Jesus Christ. Is someone recording this? It’s tough having a mom who’s a chef, it’s very tough. But it’s also beautiful. I mean, you taught me so much about cooking. Your spice blend is here. – You know what I mean? – I saw that. I knew exactly what it was when I saw it. We don’t cook together much, but we started when he was very, very, very young. – [Son] I was on a little stool. – We used to cook a lot. – All the time. – All the time. – All the time. – In fact, he had worked under me. Yeah, he was like, “Ma, you’re harder on me than you are on the other people.” He said that. – Yes, it’s the truth. But I appreciate it now. There’s certain things that you don’t really appreciate until you get older. – You’re younger, yeah. – And used to tell me that because you expect more from me. – Right, yeah. And look at you. – I know. – Look where we’re at. – Look what you did. So all this is great. We’re gonna keep building all these flavors down here. – Oh, yeah. It smell so good. So, do you use the marinade afterwards? – Yeah. – You do? Okay. – So what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna add the marinade all to this pot and sweat it and then I’m gonna add the oxtails back and then just cover with chicken stock. So pretty much everything that you would need to add in the oxtail is already right here. – Is already there. – Just faster with my hands, you know? – Yeah. It’s all good. – [Son] Can you cut an onion for me though? Thank you. – You’re welcome. So, do you remember when we did that Dinner Lab? When I won that Dinner Lab competition? – Remember when I invited you to do Dinner Lab with me? – Do you remember when I won the competition that you invited me? – Yes, I remember, ma. It was a glorious moment for you. – It was. – And I never wanna take away from that. That is not a lie at all. So I’m gonna add my onions and that’s gonna stop the cooking process a little bit. And then add all of this marinade back. And this may look burned on the bottom, but it’s not. – Some people put the browning sauce. This is the proper way to do this, right? – Yeah, I put a little bit in the marinade, but this is definitely the proper way to do it. – That’s the proper way. – Yeah, it’s a development of all the fond, of all of the protein caramelizing on the bottom of that. And it’s gonna give it that deep, rich flavor. All right, I’m gonna add some of the stock. Look how gelatinous this is. – Look at that stock. – [Son] It’s like jello that’s melting as soon as it hits that pot. – [Mom] And that’s what’s gonna thicken it all up and make it all nice and yummy and glossy. – And glossy. So, I’m gonna scrape these beautiful bits. You can see they’re just dissolving. They’re already creating this beautiful gravy already. And we call this a gravy. This is oxtail gravy. – Yeah, not sauce. – Not sauce. – Mmm, gosh. I can’t wait. – [Son] Can you add the oxtails back in please? – Yes. Mmm, my goodness. I can’t wait for dinner. Are we having drinks with this? Because that’s super important. – What you want, rum punch or something? – Yes. – I have all of this fruit from Jamaica here. – Oh my God, yes. I’d love that. The gravy just looks like it should be already. Now it’s just gonna go better from here. – So now I’m just gonna cover it with the chicken stock and let it simmer. I’m gonna turn the heat down a little bit. This chicken stock is so fortified with the natural sugars in that chicken and all the vegetables, that’s what’s gonna create that beautiful sauce as it reduces down and turns almost to a glosse or a jus. – Oh my goodness, can’t wait. – [Son] We’ll put the lid on it. – [Mom] It’s perfect. Oh my goodness. – So I got some fresh papaya, some mango. I actually have some– – What is that? – This is a custard apple. – I’ve never seen that. – Yeah? You wanna try a little piece? – Yes, I’d love that. – So, you can actually take this and put it right in the freezer and it kind of creates its own ice cream. – Wow. – Or a sorbet. So just suck on that, you can spit the seeds out. – Mmm. – Let’s make rum punch. – Perfect. I love rum punch. – I’m gonna get some bowls for us to put some fruit in. We’re just gonna make something on the fly. – Okay, that’s always best when you’re making cocktails anyway. – Exactly, right? So just cut it and kind of scrape it into the bowl and I’ll fabricate this. This papaya is gorgeous, look at that. – [Mom] Yeah, that’s beautiful. – I’m just gonna take these seeds out. – Jamaica is so bountiful. I could live off the land here. I know how to fish, I know how to hunt, I know how to gather forage. I know all that stuff. Look at that. – I know, right? – [Mom] Look how orange that is. It’s amazing. – [Son] Now, this is gonna be good. – [Mom] Yes, it will be. – [Son] I’m gonna add some fresh hibiscus, give it that signature red color. Got it? – Got it. – Wow, this is beautiful. – [Mom] They’re like butter. You remember when we used to sit in Central Park and eat mangoes? – And eat mangoes. – [Mom] Oh my God. – So, I’m gonna get some rum. Can you grab some limes? – Limes. – Squeeze them up maybe in there. – That’s it, yeah. Okay. – [Son] We need this, huh? – [Mom] Oh, yeah. – A little light and dark. Think we need a little more limes. – Okay. – The hibiscus is gonna add some acidity as well, which is nice. – I like these limes. – The sorrel. – There you go. I can’t squeeze and do that. I would totally rather make my own. – Gonna add some dark rum, some light rum, varying sugars for this. – [Mom] Good thing I bought some dark rum and light rum last night. – So, we normally make cocktails together. That’s one thing that we still do. – Yes. – I’m gonna add some ice to this. – Yes, cocktails are on board before anything else. We start with the cocktails and then we start cooking. – So, you know sour oranges are out here? – Yes, I know. – So I’m gonna add that for some acidity and I’ll give it a lot of juice too. – We’re always making different cocktails. Every time we make something we’re like, “Okay, what’s in the refrigerator?” – Exactly. – Or, “You got some berries? Can you make some simple syrup? Can you make a lot of simple syrup?” – A lot of it, for the whole day. – Right, for the whole 10 hours. – Yeah, I think I started making cocktails before I could drink them. – I remember the first cocktail you actually made. It was watermelon. – Yeah, it was a watermelon basal thing. – I had this big watermelon and you started breaking it down, pureed everything, strained it through and it was on the side of the martini glass. I was like, “How does he know how to do this?” – I watched you. So I’m gonna add this right to that and I think we’re gonna be straight. – I need to bite into this, I’ve been waiting. Mmm. There is nothing like the seed of mango. – No, it’s amazing, every time. I used to fight over that. – Yes. – I wanna add some more stuff to this. I’m gonna add another mango. Can you break that down? – Okay, I can do that. – So I’m gonna add more papaya, more mango to this without heating it up. You try it. – That’s delicious. – Can you hold this? Just tap it down. But the trick is you tap it right there and it all just comes through. – [Mom] And it all just comes. – You can do the same thing. I’m gonna get a spoon for you. All right, one more time. And this will be our base. So, we’ll add some ice to this. We’re gonna finish this rice off. And this is like our rum punch puree. – Perfect. – All right. Put this in the fridge please. – [Mom] What are you doing over here? Oh my gosh. – [Son] Gonna check on it. These are almost done. I’m gonna add some salt. – Nice. You can taste everything. The thyme, the scallions, bay leaf. That scotch bonnet, you’re gonna bust it or no? – [Son] No, no. Just for the flavor. – Mmm, yes. – Oh my goodness, it’s perfect. – You actually had said something that I don’t do, which is crushed all spice. – Yeah, so we crush it in the jerk paste. – [Mom] Okay, I’m learning. – [Son] Here, try it. – Oh my gosh. That is amazing. – That’s wild, right? Everything that’s built up for this, right? – I will honestly say that that’s better than mine. – All right, I’m out of here. I’m out. – [Mom] Oh my God, that smells amazing. – Smell it. – It look great. Textbook. So the pea liquid is a little bit brown and that’s what’s gonna help give the rice and peas they’re signature brown color. But as you can see, the peas are very full. – Yes, plump. – That’s ’cause I never boiled it. I simmered it this whole time. – So, you’re saving the juice so that we can cook the rice. – [Son] Exactly. – [Mom] Look at all that loveliness. – [Son] Right? – Oh my gosh, so amazing. I can’t wait for dinner. – It’s coming, it’s coming. All right, so let’s cool these peas down. If you can help me out, just put them on there and then take out all of that mirepoix that we have in there. All right. – Smells delicious. – I’ll put these over here. And they don’t need to be cold, but we just wanna stop that cooking process, right? – Yes, yes. – So, rice. Rice and peas. Rice and peas. – Rice and peas, mon. – I’m gonna get some coconut milk for this. You can put that right there. So, just one green onion. – You just want it rough chopped? – Yeah, just large, large pieces. Like four inch pieces. Yeah, perfect. All right, just cut a little knob of this off. Yeah and this is gonna flavor this beautifully, right? I gots my sugar, my milk, got my pea broth. – Mmm. – I’mma get some rice. You want a lot of rice? What are you thinking? Not too much, right? – Not too much, yeah. – Can you just rinse this rice for me quickly? – I can. – I’m just gonna do like two cups of rice. We don’t really measure in our kitchen. There’s one. – Yes, I just pour. – [Son] And there’s two, there you go. – [Mom] I pour and I cover with water. And that’s it. – Exactly. – People ask me how to make rice. I says, “I don’t know, maybe follow the instructions on the back of the package.” – Box. You think I should add the pea broth? You think I should add some browning or just use this? Just a touch? – Just the pea broth. – Just the pea broth? – Yeah. But you can add just a little bit. – Just a touch? – Just a touch ’cause it does. – It helps. – It spread a lot. It goes a long way. – That’s it. – A drop of it. – I’m gonna add some pea broth. If we’re doing two cups, right? It’s usually two-to-one liquid to rice. So I’ll do about two cups of that. Two cups of that. – Coconut milk. – Coconut milk. – [Mom] Cane sugar. – Little bit of the cane sugar. Stir this up. Oh, man. We don’t use water in anything. – No. – It’s always chicken stock or vegetable stock. – Shrimp stock. – Shrimp stock. – Vegetable. The water from the beans or peas. – Exactly. Add just a touch more to this and then we’ll float this in there. Put some ginger and this thyme. – Thank you. There’s enough salt in it? – Yeah. – A little more sugar. – That’s delicious. – [Son] That’s it, that’s rice. – [Mom] That’s rice. – So, I’m gonna put this on for about 22 minutes. I’m gonna let it go up to a boil and then I’m gonna turn it down to a simmer. So I think the oxtails need some carrots. I always like some vegetables in there. – Very good. – So can we peel some carrots please? – Yes. – Together. – You peel, I’ll cut. – Okay. – Or I’ll peel, you cut. ‘Cause you know how you want them cut. Good. I’m used to being efficient. – The oxtails cook for a long time. So you put them in now so then they can cook while the sauce reduces. – And then they won’t get so mushy. – Exactly. – They’ll be nice and firm. – Exactly. I’m just gonna cut them into little, thin strips so they cook quick. – That’s good too, it’ll look nice on the plate. Oh, I’m glad you did it ’cause I would’ve did it another way. We’re always thinking about the end result while we’re cooking. So, whatever’s gonna look good, taste good. It’s all the whole experience. – Exactly. – With chefing and preparing food and making people happy. Right? – Right. – It’s the name of the game. – That’s the name of the game. That’s why we do it. – So, you remember when I said to you that you needed to go into chefing? – No, when was that? – You don’t remember that? When we lived in Baton Rouge and you were working as a prep cook for me and I was like, “You should just go ahead and do this.” – Do this seriously. – And so the school in Baton Rouge required references. And so, you got a few references from chefs in Baton Rouge that we knew and you got in. And then you said, “If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna go to the best school in the United States.” – Exactly. – Right, I’m not going to do it. I’m gonna go to the top school. – I’m gonna wait. – I’m gonna wait and that’s exactly what you did. – Yeah, but I was cooking alongside you for a long time. I don’t think I ever took it seriously, but it was something I was always interested in. Let’s put these in the oxtail. – [Mom] Okay, let’s put the carrots in. – So, we’re gonna add some of these peas to this rice ’cause it’s almost done cooking and these peas are cooked perfectly. So you just wanna reheat them with the steam gently. All right, so now I just want the sauce to reduce. Look at it. – It looks beautiful. – Look at that sauce. Look how velvety it is. – [Mom] Glossy. – It coats the spoon. So I just want these carrots to get just a little more tender and this oxtail to be glazed beautifully by this sauce. – Smells amazing. Gonna have that, some rum punch. I’m excited and hungry. – [Son] All right, so we’re gonna take this rice off and fluff it. – [Mom] So we’re fluffing the rice? – Yeah. – Oh, gosh. Looks delicious. – See, all the grains are separate. So I’m gonna take off all these aromatics. – [Mom] Very good rice technique. The essence. – Yeah and then we’re just gonna fluff this rice. – [Mom] Oh my goodness. – It’s rice. – That’s it. – All right, looks pretty good, huh? – Looks great, yeah. – So we’ll let that steam out a little bit. – Let’s grab these oxtails. – Look at these oxtails, though. – Yes. Thank you. Mmm, delicious. – Yeah? – Very good. – Wow. – I’ll get the mix. – All right, I’ll get the blender. So I’m gonna put some of this puree in here. Ice. – Some ice. Don’t forget the rum. – Just a little bit more rum. There’s already rum in here, but you want more? – We need more rum. – [Mom] I need to make sure it’s enough. That’s good. – [Son] All right, little splashy-splash of this. – [Mom] Yes, you have to have the dark and the light. Oh man, that looks amazing. So where’d you learn to do that at? – YouTube. You know I learn by tasting. – I know. – So just from tasting different things and just being inspired by the market. I was in Coronation Market. There’s this huge market here and they had every type of fruit you could think of. Cheers. – Cheers to oxtail. – Wow. – That’s really good. – That’s really good. All right, I’m hungry. – Let’s eat. – I’m hungry. We got our drinks, we got the food, it’s time to eat. – Let’s plate it up. – All right. – Oh, thank you. – You’re welcome. – [Mom] Oh man, that looks delicious. – Wow. – Let’s do the rice first. – Yep, always. – Always. Look at that. – Look at that. That’s enough? – That’s plenty. Oh, man. Smells amazing. – [Son] Look at that, look at that. – I like gravy. – Oxtail gravy. More? – Yes, please. – $3.00. – Perfect. – Good? – Yes, thank you. Looks lovely, nice and glossy, thick. – Here we have it. Rice and peas with oxtail and fresh rum punch. – Let’s eat. – Let’s eat. – Mmm, very good.

About the Instructor

Kwame Onwuachi started peeling shrimp and stirring roux at 5 years old in his mother’s catering kitchen in the Bronx. The James Beard Award-winning chef has received many accolades since then, including FOOD & WINE’S Best New Chef, Esquire Magazine’s 2019 Chef of the Year, 30 Under 30 honoree by both Forbes and Zagat, and has appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef as both a contestant and judge. In his class, Onwuachi embraces the richness of Afro-Caribbean culture and cuisine, and teaches students how to cook his favorite Jamaican recipes.

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