An e-mail earlier this week advises that my oxtail stew recipe on Recipezaar.com has received a rating of three stars from a member with the user name Zurie. Harrumph! My 43 public recipes have an average of 4.3 stars over 27 reviews, so this comes as a bit of an insult, especially since some of the criticisms are mitigated if not obviated by my February blog post oxtail stew.
I am taken to task for not specifying a longer cooking time: "First of all the cooking time generally is longer, and 4 hours + would be nearer the mark." My posted recipe says "simmer gently until meat is tender when pierced (about 3 hours)," with a note re using a crockpot (certainly implying a longer cooking time), and in my blog I call for "overnight in the crockpot!" I want to shout: "Hey! Simmer is a subjective term, depending as it does on the condition of one's stove and the limits of one's patience."
Zurie also objects to my discarding the chopped onions and herbs that have been simmered for hours with the meat. To me, these bits seem disgustingly bland and greasy -- not to mention their wet-cardboard texture. They belong in what Anne Burrell calls the "thank-you-for-coming bowl," having "fulfilled their destiny" by lending flavor to the broth. But Zurie lives in South Africa and hence may not share my California prejudice against overcooked veggies.
Perhaps I am most miffed by Zurie's citing me for "rather careless ingredient measures, and ... unnecessarily intricate directions." The only wiggle-room I give in ingredients is the main one: "3-4 lbs oxtails." Well, OK, this is a factor of 25%, but who knows how much one will find in a supermarket meat tray. Maybe Zurie has the advantage of a face-to-face butcher. I relent slightly on this point but cannot forgive the charge of "unnecessarily intricate directions." Indeed, my account of making this dish is carried to a much higher level of detail in my blog version of the recipe, which starts out: "First, you have to FIND oxtails in your market and be willing to pay close to $5 per pound.*"
Of course I must admit that Zurie thanked me for the recipe and specifically praised the marinade. She even took a picture and posted it. Oddly, she apologizes for the quality of the picture, which shows steam rising from her old iron pot. But then Zurie's Recipezaar profile indicates that she has worked as a food editor and currently host's the website's African Cooking Forum.
Zurie has posted 284 public recipes on Recipezaar and has an average rating of 4.7 stars. Guess I'll try some of her stuff. Maybe even write a review.
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*Here I'm reminded of my mother talking about her Aunt Jessie's recipes, which tended to start with "Take a crock."