What does the bony, gelatinous piece of beef that is pictured above, conjure up for you? After some random questioning of people I know, the two dishes that came back over and over again were soups and stews. The common ingredient, or should I say the common element was clear as day; a long, slow cooking time. Myself, well I didn’t grow up with oxtail at all. I don’t think it was until my early teens when I started eating oxtail stew done the Jamaican way. Okay, maybe it was the Jamaican patties I kept coming back for, but the oxtail was good and its meaty profile started to make roots in my mind. The strange thing is that even with this being one tasty cut; I don’t do much with it at home. So last week I threw caution to the wind and grabbed a package. This then left me standing in line at the grocery store wondering what Sarah was going to think when I got home
Sitting down at the kitchen table, I pulled out my laptop and started looking for hints. After only a few minutes, I came to realize that while there are some elaborate preparations, most come down to a slow braise in liquid. No surprise there. And as I just so happened to have a bottle of red on the counter, my braising liquid decision was that much easier. I also found some chatter about trimming excessive fat from the oxtail, but the package I bought didn’t seem to require any serious discarding of meat butter. After the meat came to room temperature, I seasoned it with salt and pepper before searing each piece in a smoking hot cast iron pan. Once all the sides were golden brown and delicious, I removed the meat from the heat (oh what a rhyme) and set about sautéing down vegetables in the leftover fat. Once the onions were translucent, I deglazed the pan with wine and scrapped the bottom to loosen all of those tasty bits. Without a lid for this cast iron pan, I moved all the goodies into a heavy pot. Why I didn’t start in dutch oven, I don’t know *shrug*. After putting the oxtail back in, I added enough wine to cover about 85% of the meat, added the herbs, and brought everything to a light boil. Once bubbling, I covered the pot with a lid, and lowered the heat to a simmer. Now it was time to go tell Sarah what was for supper!
After 60 minutes I flipped the pieces of meat, put the lid back on and let it simmer for an additional 90 minutes. 2 and ½ hours later and I was left with the above. Just look at how the meat has absorbed a gorgeous red hue from the wine. And the meat, well, it was cooked to perfection, with just a minimal effort required to shred, or remove from the bone. As I set about cooling both the braising liquid and the meat (so much easier to remove the liquid fat), I tore a piece off and took it to Sarah who proclaimed, “Delicious!”
Maybe this cut isn’t as cheap as it once was, but with a bit of time and a bit love, you get meaty, fatty, and delicious hunks of beef. Serving these can be elaborate, but why go big if you can go as simple as mashed potatoes. Just warm the meat up in the cooking liquid before plating and pouring about a ¼ cup of liquid over everything. If you want a nice topping for pasta, pull the meat off the bones, thicken the sauce and you have a mean ragu. I think I’m getting hungry just thinking about the possibilities.
Oxtail (package of 4)
1 stalk of celery
1 bottle of red wine
2 bay leaves
5 thyme sprigs
1 tomato finely diced
1. Finely chop the onion, carrot, and celery and season oxtail liberally with salt and pepper.
2. Heat pan over med-high heat, coat with olive oil and sear all sides of tail (3-5 minutes per side)
3. Remove meat from pan and drain any excess fat. Leave at least one tablespoon.
4. Turn heat down to medium, and sauté carrot, onion and celery. About 7-10 minutes.
6. Toss in tomato and continue cooking for another minute.
7. Pour a glug of wine into the pan to deglaze and scrape of the nice meaty bits at the bottom.
8. If like me, your pan is too shallow, put everything into a pot.
9. Add meat, toss in the herbs, and pour enough wine in to just about cover everything.
10. Bring it to a boil, then cover and drop to a simmer for 2-3 hours.
11. Remove the meat, it should pull apart easily at this point, and cool.
12. Transfer the liquid to a bowl and cool over night. The next day, skim the fat before using to reheat meat.