Some where over the course of raising my children, this dish took on the name elephant stew. I had submitted several recipes in the Laneview School Favorites Cookbook published to raise money for school field trips in the 1970’s. One of the recipes was for Elephant Stew which went like this:
1 Elephant, Chopped
72 gallons prepared Gravy
2 rabbits (optional.)
Cut elephant into bite size chucks. Cover with gravy and slowly simmer two weeks. Serves 4600. If expecting more people, add the rabbits. A word of caution, however, since some are rather put off to find an unexpected hare in their stew.
Now I cannot remember where the actual Elephant Stew recipe came from. I am sure I read it somewhere. My daughter, who was only 4 at the time, overheard her brother say “his teacher especially liked the recipe for Elephant Stew.” Since one of her favorites was this oxtail stew, she made the leap that this must be the one. Here it is for your pleasure: Elephant Stew in the Jungle. As your guests query “but where is the elephant?” of course you answer in the Jungle.
3-5 Pounds of oxtails (Have these quartered in the butcher's saw.)
1 Large diced yellow onion
3 Cloves garlic
Beef bullion granules as required (see text)
2 Finely diced small carrots
1 Stalk of celery, finely diced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 Small can of tomato paste
6 Bay leaves
1 1/2 cups of water
1 Cup of white wine
1/2 cup of brandy
1 Cup scotch
1 Tablespoon sugar
A few sprigs of Italian parsley
Greens from 2 scallions
1 Tablespoon of minced fresh orange zest
Broil oxtails on high until nicely brown, turn and repeat for the other side.
In large stock pot, add onions, chopped celery, chopped carrots and sauté until the onions begin to clear. Add browned oxtails. Add all other ingredients except scallions and parsley is set aside for the garnish. The stew will be cook until tender about 3 1/2 hours. Cook with a lid for the first hour. The remove the lid. It is desirable to reduce the liquid to enhance the gravy. Caution needs to be exercised as a low liquid level could mean burning. The stew should be monitored closely as the liquid evaporates and stirred. If the bottom of the pot is thin walled, the risk of burning is higher; hence, you will need to stir more often. When the liquid has reduced sufficiently, add back the lid and place the pot in the oven at 350 F to finish cooking. The meat is done when it can be easily forked off the bone. Correct the seasoning. Salt will be added last in the form of granules of beef bouillon. Thicken the remaining liquid with flour shaken through a sieve (or use gravy flour) and stirred in. The gravy will not attain its thickest until it begins to boil so add the flour in stages and bring to a boil each time. I optionally add 1 tablespoon of minced fresh orange zest. Serve over wide noodles.
Garnish with chopped Italian parsley and chopped scallion greens sections cut diagonally into diamonds.
1. For those familiar with Roman food, this recipe is remarkably like Coda alla Vaccinara the way the Romans prepare it. Undoubtedly when living in Rome, I had it on the menu as it was very popular. My mother prepared oxtails in my youth and back then, few Americans ate things like tail. Somewhere along the while, I discovered that Scotch and Brandy made a much richer flavor. In fact replacing all the water in this recipe with a good homemade beef stock makes it more “over-the-top-good”.