This is my "go to" recipe for oxtails, period. I've made it so many times since getting my sous vide device (the Anova Precision Cooker) as a Christmas present last year that it's earned a spot in the list of Filipino recipes I can reliably make at home. I didn't exactly expect this notoriously fussy "special occasion" peanut-based stew to become a staple in the sous vide roster, but time does wonderful things! Here's why I love it:
When I told my dad I planned to cook oxtails in a bag submerged in water for 24 hours, he said "That sounds good!" but I imagine his real train of thought went something like "Okay, that's interesting..." (because being Filipino + Canadian means you're extra polite) 🙂
There is no other way I know of to keep the cartilage around the oxtail bones intact after cooking. They would just melt right off with a traditional braise. It's also my favourite part of the oxtail!
You can go the traditional route of serving the oxtails with steamed rice, vegetables and the stew's must have counterpart, bagoong alamang (fermented shrimp paste).
Or, enjoy it on toast at a later time as "meat butter". Definitely not traditional, but delicious.
24 Hour Sous-Vide Oxtail in Peanut Sauce (Kare-Kare)
2 lbs oxtails
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup diced tomatoes
¾ cup 100% natural peanut butter
2 tsp annatto oil
1 tsp fish sauce
½ tsp white miso paste
500 g bok choy
500 g yard-long beans or green beans
3 Japanese eggplants
Set your sous-vide device to 80 C/176 F.
Lay oxtails out on a flat surface and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
Using an immersion blender, blitz tomatoes, peanut butter, annatto oil, fish sauce and miso into a smooth, thick paste. Yes, Filipino cooks who specialize in traditional kare-kare will balk at calling this paste your “sauce” but trust for now!
Transfer the paste into the Ziploc bag. Toss in the oxtails. Squeeze most of the air out of the bag so you can rub the paste well into the oxtail pieces. Once the pieces are evenly covered, open the bag again and then seal using a water displacement or vacuum method.
Place the bag into your water bath and set a timer for 24 hours. Cover your container with plastic wrap; leave just enough room so the plastic doesn’t come in direct contact with the metal on your sous-vide device. This step is essential for long cook times, to minimize water evaporation.
Halfway through cooking (at about the 12 hour mark), check to see that your bag is still fully immersed in water. When you reach the last 30 minutes of cooking, start prepping the vegetables.
Slice the ends off the bok choy bunches, rinse under cool running water, then drain and set aside in a medium bowl. Trim and discard the ends off the beans, chop into roughly 1-inch long pieces and place in another bowl. Chop the eggplants into roughly 1-inch pieces and combine with the beans.
Time’s up for the oxtails! Remove your bag from the water bath and dump the contents into a large bowl. With a ladle, scoop out the oxtail pieces and set aside. The meat on these pieces will fall apart; I like to think of 24-hour oxtails as “meat butter” to spread on toast or dollop over rice (I’ve done both these things and recommend them highly, if you have any leftovers).
Heat a large pot over medium and toss in the beans and eggplants. Pour in the sauce from the oxtails; it will be thick, chunky and visibly gelatinous in texture. That is all good. Cover and continue to cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When your timer rings, add the bok choy and oxtail pieces and cook for another 10 minutes.
Serve with a side of steamed white rice and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste).
Timeline: 24 hours
Equipment: 1 gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag, colander, 2 medium mixing bowls, 1 large mixing bowl, 1 large sauce pot