Quintessential Soul

Nothing says soul food like oxtail stew. At Blue Mountain Cafe (8245 West Bellfort, 713-988-4925), it's prepared with a Jamaican flair and served with the national side dish of peas 'n' rice ($7.95). The peas, which are actually red beans, are cooked with the rice in some coconut milk, giving the dish a definite Caribbean air. Oxtail is by nature bony, but it's also one of the tastiest cuts of meat available. In this dish, the numerous pieces sit smothered in a rich, thick brown gravy, which is slowly absorbed by the rice. Judging by the way the meat falls from the bone, it's obvious that the oxtail has undergone a long, slow braising that locks in all of the wonderful flavors. It warms the soul.

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