02 November 2011

Mommy & Me: A Trip to the Meat Locker

Tired of the same old playgrounds day after day? Crowds at the museums got you down? Looking for a new experience that will be fun for you AND your toddler?

Dress him warmly and take him on a trip to Peoria Packing’s Butcher Shop, where heaps and heaps of unpackaged meat are piled in open bins. You get to walk right up to the bins, choose your cut of meat, and put it in a plastic baggie all by yourself! Fun for the whole family!

Just look at that!

The sight of the abundantly pink mounds of flesh may be overwhelming to your child, who has probably not experienced such prolonged exposure to meat. When I went with my 15-month old, it was certainly a challenge to keep his pudgy little hands off of the raw meat as I was bagging it. He was strapped to my chest in a carrier, so I had to hold the bag two feet in front of me so he couldn’t reach the meat. But then his giantbaby head was in the way, and I couldn’t see what I was doing, and I kept missing the opening of the bag. Luckily, everyone else in the open-air meat locker was too excited about MEAT PILED HALFWAY TO THE CEILING to notice the lady who could only get her foot-long oxtails into a plastic baggie by turning in circles and holding her flailing baby’s hands in her mouth. The things we do for our children…

Oxtails. Very difficult to place in a plastic baggie while you are also holding a small human.

Recipe follows.

Why didn’t I put the baby in the shopping cart, you ask? Because this place is so crowded that the shopping carts cause traffic jams, and sometimes you have to leave your cart four aisles away so that you can get to the cut of meat that you’ve spied, and I don’t trust my joyfully carnivorous son in an aisle of meat all by himself. Left to his own devices, he might climb out of the cart and start leaping from one meat-piled cart to another, helping himself to the $.89/lb. drumsticks. DID I JUST SAY $.89/LB. DRUMSTICKS? WHY, YES, I DID.

I could go on and on about the prices at Peoria Packing. Actually, I will go on and on.

Oxtail, $3.99 per pound.

Pork shoulder, $1.69 per pound.

Chicken wings, $1.29 per pound.

NY strip steaks, $4.99 per pound.

Beef strips for fajitas, $3.29 per pound.

Italian Sausage (done on premises), $1.69 per pound.

All in all, I purchased 58.9 pounds of meat for $27.30. Unfortunately, in my excitement about my inexpensive fleshy treasures, I had forgotten that I had parked my car almost three blocks away. Carrying 60 pounds of meat and 20+ pounds of little human is a task that I do not wish upon anyone. But the real tragedy is that I did not get a picture of us. THAT would have been something for the baby book.

Braised Oxtail. Why not? It's only $3.99 per pound.

Spanish-Style Oxtails Braised with Chorizo

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 2003 (epicurious recipe here)

The recipe calls for pieces of oxtail that have been chopped into 2- or 3- inch pieces. If you can find whole oxtail (you can at Peoria Packing!), shred the meat from the bones when the braise is done, and it will make for a more appetizing presentation.


· 6 lb. meaty oxtails (2 whole oxtails, or 2 oxtails chopped into 2- 3-inch pieces)

· 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

· 1 teaspoon black pepper

· 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

· 3/4 lb mild Spanish chorizo (spicy cured pork sausage) (original recipe says ¼ pound)

· 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

· 4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

· 4 garlic cloves, chopped

· 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

· 1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (use smoked if you can find it!)

· 1 cup dry white wine

· 1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée, coarsely chopped (including purée) in a food processor

· 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

· 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar ( I always forget about this step and it’s still been delicious. Let me know how it is if you end up using the vinegar!)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

· Pat oxtails dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown oxtails in batches without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

· Remove and discard casing from chorizo. Cook chorizo, onion, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf in fat in pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add oxtails with any juices accumulated in bowl and chopped tomatoes (liquid should come about halfway up sides of meat) and bring to a boil.

· Cover pot and braise oxtails in lower third of oven, turning once or twice, until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

· Optional: remove oxtails from pot let cool, then shred meat from bones. Add back to the stew.

· Skim fat from sauce, then stir in cilantro, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

· Note: Oxtails improve in flavor if braised 2 days ahead (add cilantro and vinegar just before serving).


lauren said...

oh. my. god.

I need to go to this place.

Alison said...


Middle Class Mama said...

Love this post. Next time I'm in your area, let's bring the kids for a field trip!