Nastasha’s Worry-Free Weeknight Kare-Kare (Slow-Cooked Oxtail Stew with Crushed Peanuts and Leeks)

Nastasha’s Worry-Free Weeknight Kare-Kare

This photo isn’t much, but for 20 minutes of effort and 8 hours of slow cooking, a serious craving for kare-kare is very definitely sated. Filipino food classics within reach!

This week’s recipe revolves around the theme of learning how to manage expectations.

I’d like to think I’m not alone in setting lofty goals that push me to my extremes; I’m part of a generation that understands you need to be ballsy to succeed, after all. But some days (truthfully, many days), those expectations are a lot to bear – whether they’re something as simple as the expectation to shop for healthy groceries, or reaching for that one professional goal you so clearly have in mind.

I experience a lot of frustration and disappointment when something prevents me from meeting those expectations. Thankfully, I’m fortunate to have people around me who support and stand behind my quirky reasonings. Should you have trouble with managing expectations yourself, know that you have what it takes to get past your personal hurdles – and then make a pot of slow-cooked kare-kare to remind you that some culinary expectations can be consistently met.

Purists won’t agree with my approach, but these substitutions and techniques work extremely well for cooking in apartment kitchens. No time to hit the Asian supermarket?Leeks bring a complex depth of flavour on their own, and can stand in for a host of other vegetables (its whites deliver a texture similar to slow-cooked eggplant, while the greens meet a need for somewhat leafy vegetables). I’m also a huge fan of roasting with bones – essential for extracting the most flavour (and a significant amount of fat) from of cuts of oxtail.

What started as a slow-cooked requirement for dinner while the boys were at work/school and swim practice (and I was asleep for the day) turned into a must-keep recipe!


For true 20-minute prep time:
3 lbs oxtails (pre-cut into roughly 2-inch thick chunks)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
3 leeks, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp annatto oil
2/3 cup all-natural chunky peanut butter (made of 100% peanuts only, please!)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups beef broth

Optional (adds an extra 10 minutes total):
Handful of yard-long beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium Japanese eggplant, sliced into 1-inch thick coins
5-6 heads baby bok choy

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place oxtails in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Apply liberal amounts of salt and pepper on both sides. Once the oven reaches temp, slide the oxtails onto the middle rack and set your timer to roast for 10 minutes.
  3. While the oxtails are roasting, peel and crush the garlic, then wash and trim the leeks. If you’re throwing in yard-long beans and the eggplant, prep them now as well. Place vegetables into your slow cooker. You should have enough time to complete this in 10 minutes.
  4. Once your timer goes off for the oxtails, take the baking sheet out and flip the oxtail pieces to roast on their other side. Slide the sheet back in and set your timer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Measure out everything else – bay leaves, peppercorns, annatto oil, peanut butter, fish sauce, lime juice and beef broth – straight into the slow cooker. You should also have enough time to complete this before the timer rings.
  6. Once the oxtails have completed their roast, take the sheet out of the oven and carefully transfer the oxtail pieces into your slow cooker. You’ll have to nestle them in with the rest of the ingredients (I had to stack a few pieces vertically) and try to get the peanut butter as evenly distributed as possible. It won’t be perfect, but they’ll be in there for awhile so it’s okay!
  7. Set your cooker on low for 8 hours.

If you need to be legit, set a pot of steamed white rice to cook approximately 30 minutes before you eat. Steam the baby bok choy over 1 cup of water while the rice is cooking, too. Don’t forget to scoop some bagoong onto a saucer for sharing!

I’ve also had this as a crazy good toast topper – wholly unconventional (you’ll have to get messy and pick the oxtail meat from its bones) but easily beats a ham and cheese sandwich when you’re strapped for lunch ideas and find a few pieces sitting idly in your fridge.

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