Caribbean Merlot-Braised Oxtail with Coconut Frunche

By Marta Rivera Diaz – January 26, 2024

Caribbean Merlot-Braised Oxtail with Coconut Funche (Polenta)

I developed and combined oxtail and funche in homage to the memory carried since I was Martita, the little girl. A little girl who grew up with food that some people considered inferior. The result is a representation of the Black culture, which spans languages, countries, and religions. This dish honors the African diaspora for what it is: a cuisine that doesn't have to compete or be held up in comparison to more revered cuisines, which are often incorrectly labeled as superior.


Caribbean Merlot-Braised Oxtail

  • 3 ½ pounds (1 ½ kilograms) oxtail, rinsed under cool water
  • ¼ cup (60 milliliters) fresh lime juice (from 2 medium limes)
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) adobo, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) ground allspice
  • ¼ cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium (200 grams or 1 ½ cups) white onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves (20 grams or 2 tablespoons) garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 (55 grams or ¾ cup) green onions, chopped
  • 2-inch piece (20 grams or 3 tablespoons) ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium (175 grams or 1 ½ cups) green bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (45 grams) sofrito (epis or green sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) browning sauce, optional
  • 2 cups (500 milliliters) Black Girl Magic Merlot
  • 3 cups (750 milliliters) beef stock
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 large (205 grams or 1 cup) carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large (355 grams or 2 cups) russet potato, peeled and diced and stored in cool water
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) cornstarch, optional to thicken the sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) cold water

Coconut Funche (Polenta)

  • 3 cups (800 milliliters) beef or chicken stock (or water)
  • 2 cups (400 grams) yellow cornmeal
  • 2 13.5-ounce cans (800 milliliters or 3 cups) coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) adobo or salt, optional
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, optional


  1. Place an oven rack in the lower-third section of the oven, then preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, “wash” the oxtail pieces by pouring the lime juice over the oxtail and rubbing it in. Ensure each piece of meat is coated in the lime juice, then allow the oxtail to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine the adobo, black pepper, and ground allspice to form a spice rub. Remove 2 teaspoons of the spice rub to season the braising liquids later.
    After 5 minutes of marinating in the lime juice, sprinkle the remaining spice rub over the oxtail to season them. Next, add the flour to the bowl with oxtail. Toss the meat in the flour and spice rub to ensure they are evenly coated.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil in the pot begins to shimmer, add half of the oxtail to the pot.
    Sear the oxtail in small batches for 2 minutes on both sides. Try not to crowd the pan while you’re searing the meat.After 4 minutes, the exterior of the oxtail should be deep brown, but not fully cooked. Remove the
    meat from the pot to a plate or platter. Sear the remaining oxtail this way, adding an additional tablespoon of olive oil, if needed, to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Once all of the oxtail is seared, add the white onion, garlic, green onions, bell pepper, and sofrito to the dutch oven with the rendered fat from the oxtail.
    Sauté the aromatics in the fat for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are glossy and milky white in color.
  6. Stir the tomato paste and browning sauce (if you’re using it) into the aromatics in the pot. Next, add the Black Girl Magic Merlot to the ingredients in the pot. Use your spoon to scrape the browned bits of food from the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the beef stock, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and the remaining spice rub to the liquid in the pot.
    Return the seared oxtail to the pot and allow the liquid to come back up to a boil.
  8. Cover the dutch oven and carefully transfer the pot to the preheated oven.
    Cook the oxtail for 2 ½ hours.
  9. After 2 ½ hours, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Uncover the pot and stir in the carrots and drained potatoes.
    Cover the and return the pot to the oven to continue cooking for 1 hour.
  10. Optional step: If you prefer a thick, gravy-like sauce, five minutes before the cooking time has elapsed, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl.
    Once the oxtail has finished cooking, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Uncover and stir in the cornstarch slurry in a slow, steady stream. The liquid in the pot will thicken slightly and create a gravy.
    If you don’t want a thick sauce, omit this step and simply remove the pot from the oven. Allow the braised oxtail to cool on the stove in the dutch oven while preparing the coconut funche.

For the Coconut Funche

  1. In a 4-quart saucepot, bring the beef stock up to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
  2. While waiting for the liquid in the pot to come to a simmer, use a whisk to stir together the cornmeal and coconut milk until it forms a sludgy liquid.
  3. Once the beef stock comes to a simmer, carefully whisk the cornmeal mixture into the liquid.
    Heat this mixture, constantly whisking, until it thickens to a thick-oatmeal consistency. The mixture will be very thick once cooked through. Season the mixture with adobo and pepper.
  4. If you prefer a looser consistency, you can whisk in more beef stock or coconut milk as desired.

To Serve

  1. Spoon 1 cup of the coconut funche into the bottom of a serving dish.
  2. Use tongs to top the funche with 2-3 oxtail, then ladle a generous amount of the gravy and vegetables over the top.
  3. Garnished with sliced green onions or fresh thyme leaves. Pair your Caribbean Merlot-Braised Oxtail and Coconut Funche with a glass of Black Girl Magic Merlot or Zinfandel.