When Latin Lover went out on the streets of New York in search of the best Dominican restaurant, we soon realized the best dishes didn’t come with a maître d’. You have to know people. You need connections. If you want unparalleled Dominican food, go home. Home is where those recipes—the ones that have been passed from generation to generation—continue to live on. The place where all the magic happens has a table reserved only for the most privileged.
My golden opportunity came when I met Guiselt Jimenez-Carballido over a few mezcalitos in a Mexican event at Obra Negra (Casa Mezcal). She and Ignacio her husband invited me to try a family staple—Rabo Encendido. Guiselt, along with her mother, Teresa, and grandmother, Idalia, welcomed Latin Lover into their home and revealed the secrets behind the special dish. Rabo Encendido, which literally translates to Burning Oxtail, is a bony cut of meat slowly cooked to tender perfection. “When mom was a little girl,” remembers Teresa, “they wouldn’t eat the tails. These were usually thrown away. Today you can find them, but they’re not cheap.”
I was under the impression that encendido stood for spicy but it actually signifies that the meat has been marinated in liquor—Brugal Rum to be precise. “Ron Brugal can be very dangerous,” says Teresa, “because there can only be two outcomes: you either fight or settle.”
Even if Guiselt—who is expecting her first child—is a vegetarian, she still can’t shy away from this special dish. “Well, this and Grandmother Idalia’s caldo de gallina (chicken broth), which is given to women who have just given birth as an energizing elixir,” says Guiselt.
Idalia and her daughter Teresa migrated to Washington Heights—where Guiselt grew up—in 1976 from San Francisco de Macorís, a small town located in the northeast portion of Dominican Republic. Today, they are part of three generations—almost four—who are spread between Brooklyn Heights, New Jersey, and Washington Heights. They get together every Sunday to share their passion for cooking and homemade meals. “My husband says we’re always looking for an excuse to cook and have a party,” laughs Teresa.
In all honesty, who can blame them?
Guiselt Carballido's Recipe for Rabo Encendido — Burning Oxtail.
Photos by Pako Dominguez.