In my circle of friends, I am notorious for not being a particularly adventurous eater. Keep those beef hearts and chicken feet away from me, and don’t even get me started on the time that I found out that beef tongue (something my mom made for us a lot growing up) was meant to be taken literally. I mean, it’s not like “pigs in a blanket” means you’re eating blankets, right!? With that in mind, I can’t really explain why I still love rabo encendido (oxtail stew) so much. Yes, you’re technically eating a cow’s tail. I don’t care. It’s delicious.
According to my mother, she and my father first had rabo encendido at a Cuban restaurant long before I was born. He liked it so much that he begged her to learn how to make it. This was long before there was the Internet and sources to get copycat recipes from, so she just set out to figure it out on her own. In the end, her version of rabo encendido is different than what you get at a traditional Cuban restaurant, but it’s what I grew up eating. As a result, none of the versions that I get at Cuban restaurants ever tastes “right” to me. So, thanks Mom for ruining my palate for the real thing, but I love you anyway because your version tastes better. 🙂
Originally, making oxtails was a stovetop affair that took a good 6 hours. Nowadays, I make them in my Instant Pot, and it makes the process MUCH faster. I can get rabo encendido on the table for dinner on a weeknight after work, which is a VERY big deal.
The base of the sauce is made from tomato, garlic, and red pepper. Just throw this into a blender with white wine and puree. Add your oxtails to the liner of your pressure cooker and throw the chunks of green pepper and onion on top, along with the bay leaves. Pour the tomato and red pepper puree over the ingredients in the pressure cooker liner, then add the seasonings. Seal the pressure cooker and set to 45 minutes. When the timer goes off, allow the pressure to release naturally for another 15-20 minutes, then release any remaining pressure.
When it is safe to open the pressure cooker, do so and remove the cooked oxtails and vegetables, but leave the liquid in the pressure cooker liner. Set the oxtails aside and discard the cooked onions and peppers. Skim as much fat as you can from the cooking liquid, then set the pressure cooker to Saute/Browning on the highest possible setting, allowing the liquid to come to a simmer. When the liquid is simmering, add the cooked oxtails and continue heating until the sauce has reduced by about half.
This results in oxtails that are tender, but may still have a little bit of resistance near the bone. This is how I like them, but if you like them to be completely falling apart then you might want to add another 10-15 minutes of pressure-keeping time. Either way, they will be flavorful and delicious! I like to serve them with a side of white rice, and sometimes I’ll fry up some sweet plantains if I have them.
Pressure Cooker Rabo Encendido (Oxtail Stew)
- 3 lbs oxtails
- 1 medium onion, cut into large chunks
- 1 green pepper, cut into large chunks
- 1 red pepper
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 packet Goya seasoning (the kind that says “con Azafran”)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)
- 1 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 cup white cooking wine
- 1 8oz can Spanish-style tomato sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
Using a blender, blend the tomato, red pepper, garlic, and white wine until a coarse puree is formed.
In the liner of the pressure cooker, combine the oxtails, green pepper, onions, bay leaves, Goya seasoning, cumin, hot sauce, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Pour the red pepper and tomato puree over the ingredients in the pressure cooker, then cover and seal.
Cook on Manual (High pressure) for 45-60 minutes (depending on desired tenderness), then allow the pressure to release naturally for about 15-20 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure. Open the pressure cooker and remove the oxtails and vegetables, but leaving the liquid in the liner. Discard the vegetables and set the oxtails aside. Strain as much fat from the cooking liquid in the liner as you can.
Add the tomato sauce to the liquid in the pot, then set the pressure cooker to the highest Saute/Browning setting. When the liquid starts to simmer, return the oxtails to the pot. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced by about half, then taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve hot.
Makes about 4 servings.