Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heaven-Bound Oxtails

On January 2, 2002, the greatest Jamaican oxtail stew cook to ever walk this earth died. Her name was Coralee Ivadney Vaughn, and she was my grandmother. That same year I wrote a poem called “Heaven-Bound Oxtails,” and the poem would go on to win $500 in some bootleg poetry competition. But Moms (my grandmother) would have been so proud. I often think of her preparing Jamaican oxtail stew for God and all the angels. I imagine everyone from Bob Marley to John F. Kennedy, Jr. chewing bones and laughing, those sin-tender oxtails taking their palates to places way beyond the firmament. I know there are many Jamaican take-out spots serving mediocre oxtail. Shame on you! When oxtails are made with love and care, the dish becomes foie-gras- delicate. This isn’t Moms’ recipe as she died before I got a chance to get hers, but this is pretty damn good, too. Enjoy!

                                         In loving memory of Coralee Ivandney Vaughn
                                                        Sunrise: August 4, 1916
                                                       Sunset: January 2, 2002
3 pounds of oxtails

Nature’s Seasoning or your favorite meat seasoning (dry jerk seasoning works too)
Season to taste (2 tablespoons recommended)

2 chopped large onions

8 chopped cloves of garlic

12 thyme sprigs

4 ounces Gravy Master  

15.5 ounces of canned butter beans

1 tiny piece of chopped scotch bonnet peper


Season oxtails with Nature’s seasoning, half the chopped onions, half the chopped garlic, 6 thyme sprigs, and 2 ounces of Gravy Master. The longer the meat marinates, the better. Try to marinate overnight.

Put oxtails in pressure cooker.

Put enough water in the pressure cooker to cover the oxtails.

Place pressure cooker on stove top over high heat.

Pressure meat for at least 45 minutes or until tender.

Transfer meat from pressure cooker into Dutch pot or large deep pot meant for stews.

Place all the remaining chopped onions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper and thyme in pot. Taste oxtails to see if they need more meat seasoning.

Cook over medium-high heat for half hour or until the gravy has reduced.

Drain canned butter beans of all juice then add to stew.

Remove meat from stove stop.

Serve with Busha Browne banana chutney.

Serves 3 people

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Beloved Strawberry

I was completely disenchanted with the strawberry. I was tired of buying a container of them then dousing them with sugar because they tasted so blah. I had dismissed the strawberry as a lame fruit that was better enjoyed when articulated through the aromas of a French rosé or a morning jam. After all, if one cannot afford to drive to Homestead or Kendall to pick strawberries from a patch, he is doomed to the dismal, watery flavors of strawberries that have breathed their last breaths in some warehouse truck. What if you don’t have an artisan strawberry jam farmer-friend who rocks a gnarly beard? But today my faith has been restored in my beloved strawberry. Not only does Walmart have affordable strawberries, but their locavore-perfect, their aromas filling the air like Victoria’s Secret Pure Seduction bath splash lol Their juices oozed unto my fingers from the container like a lovely jam. The strawberry is God’s most perfect work (Well almost lol)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Those Lovely Legs

So, I decided to take on the daunting task of impressing a squadron of saved, sanctified, Holy Ghost-filled, water-baptized meat masters. I invited my aunts for my mother’s birthday dinner and decided to rebel a little and prepare something besides jerk chicken. These women have walked for miles and miles, pots on their heads, life swaying from their hips. They’ve sashayed through bushes, rivers and mountains. They’ve made meals for the apostles and kissed the bitter lips of time when dreams washed away. But through it all, they’ve maintained their swagger, especially in the kitchen. And so I humbly accept my inheritance, washing my chicken legs with vinegar, massaging them with poultry seasoning, onion, garlic, and obscene amounts of scallion, thyme and rosemary. I drizzle my lovely legs with extra virgin olive oil, the same one used to anoint my head for protection, place them in a plastic container and set them in the fridge. The result: standing ovation, cheers, love and my aunt who asked, “Where’s the gravy?”

Hallelujah Rosemary-Thyme Baked Chicken


6 pounds of all natural or organic chicken legs

Vinegar (To clean chicken)

Poultry seasoning (I used Nature’s Seasoning)

1 Large chopped onion

6 cloves of chopped garlic

3 stalks of chopped scallion

8 sprigs of fresh thyme

5 sprigs of rosemary

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 tablespoons of butter

Prep Work:

Clean the chicken with about three tablespoons of vinegar.

Cut off any extraneous chicken fat.

Rinse thoroughly.

Pat dry with good paper towel (I used Bounty).

Massage chicken with poultry seasoning, onion, garlic, scallion, and extra virgin olive oil. Add fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs throughout the chicken.  

Place chicken in sealed container overnight or for at least 12 hours.


Preheat oven at 475 degrees for at least 15 minutes.

Line a deep baking pan with foil.

Coat pan with olive oil and butter.

Place chicken legs in baking pan.

Turn down oven to 375 degrees.

Place chicken in baking pan uncovered for 15 minutes or until chicken starts to cook.

Cover chicken with foil and turn down oven to 350 degrees.

After 20 minutes, check on the chicken.

Flip the legs around, so both sides get more of the gravy.

Check on the chicken in 25 minutes to coat chicken with gravy that’s in the pan

(I used a big spoon).

Chicken should be ready in an hour, but if they’re not fully cooked, leave in the oven longer, but make sure to keep coating chicken with gravy to keep it from dying out.

When chicken is ready, they should be gorgeously brown.

Let it sit outside of oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

Beer Suggestion: Ice-cold Red Stripe (Classic Jamaican food pairing) or Monk in the Trunk (An almost sweet, yummy, organic amber ale)

Wine Suggestion: Veuve du Vernay Brut or Veuve du Bernay Brut Rosé (Cheap and delicious French bargains)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Unworthy American’s Jamaican Smorgasbord

Okay, so I have taken on the daunting task of preparing my mother’s birthday dinner. I, the unworthy American, dare to dazzle a squadron of Jamaican cooks who can jerk chicken blindfolded and transform white rice into a cauldron of coconut-perfumed ecstasy. What’s on the menu—jerk and barbecue chicken, smoked ham in maple sugar and ginger glaze, rice and red peas with coconut milk, Iceberg salad, and a faux-sangria. I’m cheating on the rice. My neighbor, Claudette, is making the rice as I’m just not mature enough to pressure cook dry kidney beans, but I am doing everything else. “No curry goat,” my mother exclaimed from her kitchen-pulpit upon hearing about the surprise dinner. Um, please pray for me. Lol This is my last moment of calmness before judgment.