Grandma Aki's Oxtails
This delicious oxtail dish comes not from my Midwestern side of the family but from my wife's Hawaiian grandmother. They raise a lot of cattle in Hawaii, too.
Put the oxtails in a good-sized pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, so that scum that can cloud the finished sauce rises to the surface. Drain the oxtails in a colander and rinse them and the pot with water.
Return the oxtails to the pot and add the 2 quarts of water, the star anise, and the cinnamon. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 1 hour.
Add the pepper flakes, brown sugar, and soy sauce, cover, and continue simmering for 2 more hours, until the meat is tender and almost falling from the bone. Remove the oxtails to a serving platter. Turn the heat to high. Boil the sauce 4 to 5 minutes, until it has reduced by a third. The brown sugar causes the sauce to thicken to a rich, shiny gravy. Pour the sauce over the oxtails and enjoy. Don't try to be neat! Serve with rice or pilaf.