This Year, I’m Celebrating Black History Month With Oxtail Pot Pie

The comforting dish is a celebration of foods’ uniqueness in Black culture and all those that have come before me.

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Photo by: Will Coleman

Will Coleman

To me, Black culture smells like cocoa butter and hot cornbread baking in the oven. It sounds like family discourse and robust laughter filling the hallways. It looks like church hats with colorful ribbons and pound cake sitting on the kitchen counter. It tastes like a buttery pie crust and tender stewed meat. Celebration and gathering together is what fuels Black culture. As a child, I always looked forward to reuniting with my large family every year at my Grandma Jackie’s home in Detroit. While there, you could always count on your cheeks hurting from hours of laughter and antics, a full belly from my Grandma's signature dishes and pure joy from being a part of something bigger than the physical space we occupied.

As an adult, I look forward to Black History Month so that I can continue to be intentional about making time to celebrate with my community through food, like I did all those times at my Grandma’s house. Having the opportunity to show up as my whole self in today’s world is something that I don’t take for granted because that wasn’t the case for my ancestors. For centuries, food has been a tool for nourishment, celebration and inspiration, but it’s also been used to impair not only the Black body, but also to deprive communities of resources, government funding and access to fresh produce and meat. To solve these disparities, leaders all around America are having conversations and creating notable changes that continue to uplift Black communities, like implementing community fridges in food deserts and fighting for legislation that will provide free school lunches for children nationwide.

Sharing my voice through food is how I chose to express my love and gratitude to the men and women who’ve come before me. They inspire me to put my culture at the forefront of every recipe I create, and to reflect on foods’ uniqueness in Black history. Coming together with my chosen family is how I celebrate Black legacy during Black History Month and beyond. It’s also a way for me to build my own kind of community. You’ll see this appreciation for community reflected in my Oxtail Pot Pie recipe. The delicious dish is a culmination of the comfort foods I grew up eating and the flavors I’ve had the opportunity to experience along my journey as a rising chef in New York City. It features two fundamental elements: a hand-formed crust and a braised oxtail filling.

The golden and flaky crust is inspired by the classic Jamaican Patty, a savory shelled pastry that’s usually filled with a mouth-watering combo of ground meats, fish, veggies and robust spices. For my pot pie recipe, it comes together with flour, turmeric, salt, sugar and butter. The simplicity of the ingredients and the preparation is what makes this crust a staple to this dish. To prepare the oxtail meat, I marinate it in a combination of sweet, umami and salty flavors and sear it until golden brown. The oxtail is then cooked with aromatics including onions, garlic and thyme, and covered with broth. After a couple of hours in the oven, the oxtail meat is flavorful and falls off the bone. To finish the dish, the meat is combined with a rich brown gravy and hearty vegetable filling.

Though it takes a bit of time and organization to put together, this pot pie is well-worth the effort. Making the complete recipe, or some of the components, ahead of time is a great way to reduce time in the kitchen the day of serving. I’ll definitely be bringing this comforting dish with me to the many dinner parties and spontaneous hangouts I have coming up. After all, my love for food was ignited from gathering with my family, and I look forward to continuing spreading that robust love through my cooking during Black History Month and always.

Will Coleman is a Chef, TV Personality, and Food Writer and is inspired by connecting with people and adding a spark of diversity, adventure and joyfulness on and off the screen. He focuses on infusing American cuisines with Southern and global avenues. Based in Brooklyn, NY, Will spends time experiencing and writing about all things food and culture. Besides being obsessed with Jeni’s Ice Cream, he is also an advocate for flaky salt and hot sauce on almost everything.

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