I really goofed on this one.  I totally forgot that we were making Oxtail this week and I forgot to order it.  My butcher didn’t have any and I went all over town trying to find one but alas, it seems no one keeps it in stock, you have to order it.  Oh well, my butcher recommended that I substitute beef shank for it which is what I did and then supplemented that with beef stew meet and it worked out fine.  I love these rustic, homey stews that are rich with aromatics and fresh herbs.  The lushness of the carrots and onions and the sweet perfume from the fennel and garlic makes this perfect for Sunday night supper and Monday lunch.  Then we have that extra hit of heat from the chile and the soothing robustness from the simmering in hearty red wine.  You just can’t go wrong here.  You can also have the added bonus of tossing in whatever extras you happen to have on hand.  Some celery, a few potatoes, some tomato, or peppers or lovely parsnips or turnips. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your mood or just clean out your vegetable bin at the end of the week.  Everything benefits from the aromatics and the long slow simmering in wine and you always end up with the most homey and satisfying dish.

As for polenta, well growing up in an Italian household, polenta was a staple in my parents home and it also a staple in mine.  My mom would always cooks it a bit thick and spread it on a big board with tomato sauce and then we would all dig in from our places with our spoons and make little roads as we ate towards the center of the board.  Talk about the communal table.  We dont’ quite do it that way at my house these days but I still to that when I am home alone and need some comforting.  This was delicious cooked in rich chicken stock with lots of parmesan cheese. I usually cook mine in water and season with whatever I want of have on hand.  I always make extra to have as leftovers.  Some favorite ways of using up the leftovers is to cuts slices and layer it with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce and bake it in the oven until the cheese is oozing.  Delicious with a salad.  Also, I love to just cut off slices and saute them in butter until golden brown and crispy and then drizzle them with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  I have been known to eat this for breakfast.  No matter how you fix it, polenta should be a staple in your house too.