Coming home from school and seeing my mom using the pressure cooker, I knew exactly what she was cooking. Growing up, one of my favorite Filipino dishes was kare-kare (pronounced ka-reh ka-reh). It’s an oxtail dish cooked in a peanut butter sauce; served with green beans, eggplant, baby bok choy and steamed rice. A shrimp paste called “bagoong” garnishes to season and salt the dish. It’s only made for special events.
I had memories as a kid using the finished bone tail as a toy. The tail formed the perfect plane: the cartilage at one end was the nose and the two sides formed perfect wings. I would run around the house making airplane noises. Talk about hours of fun, it’s the little things!
And up to last week, I had only cooked one Filipino dish ever: chicken adobo. For that, I thank Connie. She requested I cook her something Filipino for our second date. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know when I would ever make a Filipino dish. With me turning 35 years old come June, I thought I would make another dish. You guessed it… kare-kare.
When I cook, I typically don’t follow recipes. I may read twenty different ones to get the gist of what to do but I don’t know what portions I use, or how many tablespoons of that seasoning I use. I just taste as I go and try to match the flavor.
As I said earlier, this dish is usually made on special occasions. Now I know why. Oxtails are expensive! You also have to get stew beef to supplement the oxtails. Jeez!!!
I started off by boiling about two lbs of oxtails in six cups of water to turn into a broth used later. After, the beef stew meat is cut into 1/2 to 3/4 pieces and put into a pot to brown. One whole onion cut julienne-style and four cloves of garlic minced was added once the beef browned.
For the sauce, I mixed 1/2 cup of peanut butter and two tablespoons of annatto powder. Once combined, I spooned in about one cup of the tail broth to incorporate. The mixture was then added to the stewing beef, onions and garlic.
Remember earlier when I said my mom used a pressure cooker? I decided not to use one. One of the best ways to get meat tender is to cook for a long time so what better way to do that than with a crock pot? I poured the stew mixture in the crock pot, added the oxtails, and ladled about four cups of the broth in with the rest of the meat. I set the temperature in the morning and let it cook all day without worry!
When I got home that evening from work, the house smelled wonderful! I opened the pot and the meat was so tender. I couldn’t wait to eat! But I had to add the green beans in the pot to start to cook, just a bit since I like my beans with a little crunch. I steamed spears of eggplant and baby bok choy to complete the vegetables. And that, my friend, was the first time I cooked kare-kare.