Braised food

Caramelized balsamic braised red kangaroo tail

The end of winter is approaching but there is still time for us to talk about braised meats. Slow cooking has the advantage of being easy: mix a bunch of ingredients, add a little heat and you’re done. Put a casserole in the oven in the morning and, no fuss, dinner will be ready in the evening. Your home will also be warm and filled with appetizing aromas.

One of my favorite versions is the Chinese Red Ember. I like the balance of flavors – woody, lemony and sweet – which combine to create a heady, almost irresistible scent. I believe the red ember has magical powers. You can make a big batch, keep reusing it with any number of meats and cuts, and it will get better over time. Just strain it, freeze it, then refresh it next time with any of the spices or fresh ingredients it lacks.

The red ember is loaded with soy, sweetened with rock sugar, and flavored with cassia (for an earthy, woody edge), star anise (for sweet licorice notes), and orange or lemon peel. tangerine (for the citrus burst to help balance the salty soy and sweetness). In this recipe, I strayed from tradition and added fennel seeds for the extra anise, cloves for depth, and coriander seeds because I love them. And then I throw caution to the wind and season the dish with balsamic. While it doesn’t make sense in terms of an Asian dish, it does in terms of flavor. Red ember can be extremely sweet, and if you want to turn it into a sticky caramel sauce at the end, you need the acid. The dark notes of balsamic match the braise and are a delicious combination, while the orange adds a fresh, sour flavor.

To this mishmash of cuisines, let’s add the kangaroo, our national emblem. It makes sense that we should all be eating more kangaroo, but that’s easier said than done because it’s not the most convenient meat to find. Supermarkets sell it sporadically, but if you want to find a certain cut, like tail, then you have to go hunting (not literally). Other hurdles are that people often feel funny eating something so cute, and it’s also not the easiest meat to cook. It’s super lean, can be quite strong in flavor at times, and needs to be processed well.

I’ve had success serving it as a tartare (it works great with the rump) and there’s also a great kangaroo jerky recipe floating around our house.

The tail is my favorite cut. It is well suited for braising because the meat is gelatinous and soft and falls off the bone with the flavors of the braising incorporated. The sauce is sticky and rich, and the toasted spices add extra bite and bursts of flavor. This dish is not subtle and should be served with side dishes for relief. You can go the Chinese route and serve it with steamed rice and greens or embrace the culture shock and make a radicchio salad and sweet polenta. Either way, it’s a warming winter treat.