Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oxtail and Barley "Risotto" or Reason #247 to own a slow-cooker

Five years ago Mrs.Redroots and I got a slow cooker as a wedding present. For four years the stainless and ceramic apparatus sat quietly in our cupboard waiting to be unleashed. I must confess, before this year I was never a fan of these behemoths. I always saw slow cookers as oversized uni-taskers that took up space and could never produce real flavor since there was no caramelization to add depth. Oh how wrong I was.
The thing with slow cookers is that you need to do a little bit of flavor building prior to putting everything in the cooker. That means browning meats and sautéing veggies till they loosen up and begin to release flavor. After that it’s a waiting game as low & slow heat coaxes out the flavors stored deep within. The best part is that once everything is in, it’s a hands-off operation. It basically cooks itself while you’re at work, asleep or doing chores around the house. You can definitely do this on the stove top but I guarantee it won’t be this easy. Here’s a recipe I prepared recently that is sure to make you a slow-cooker convert.
Oxtail and Barley “Risotto” with Florida Grown Vegetables

Into the slow-cooker:
2-3 lbs of Oxtail
1 ½ cups hull-less barley (Bob’s Red Mill)
4 cups beef broth
¼ cup sherry or red wine (optional)
1 lg zucchini
1 lg summer squash
1 red pepper
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 leek
2 cloves garlic
6 yellow new potatoes
Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked Pepper
Olive oil (extra virgin…the ONLY kind there is as far as I’m concerned)

Finish with:
2 tbs fresh grated Parmesan
Juice from ½ lemon
Chopped parsley

Season your oxtail generously with kosher salt and pepper and brown in a heavy skillet over Med-Hi heat with a bit of olive oil. Once browned toss oxtail pieces into slow cooker. Dice all your fresh from Florida vegetables and quickly sauté in the same pan till onions are just transparent. Add to cooker. Pour in the beef broth set on high for 8 hours or until barley is tender to the tooth. It should give with a soft “pop” when you bite into it.
Once the barley is ready stir in the parmesan and lemon juice into the “risotto” and serve with a bit of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. Voila, you’re done. Now dig in and enjoy!