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


  1. Oxtails are my favorite caribbean dish....what are some other side dishes can I serve with them besides rice and beans?

  2. I have literal fantasies about making oxtail empanadas and sandwiches. I believe a Jamaican-style oxtail sandwich would taste a lot like a braised short rib sandwich. I also would love to try oxtails in a tomato gravy, like the ones Nigerians use for their rice and fried meat dishes. What do you think?