Oxtail is a peculiar and wonderful piece of meat. It's literally the tail of the steer, which means it's thick at one end and skinny at the other, and it's sold cut into sections, which means you'll get a few big meaty pieces and a few really little ones.
The oxtail is full of all kinds of cartilage and connective tissue, which means it needs to be cooked slowly for a long time using moist heat.
Fortunately, that kind of cooking melts away all those sinewy bits and turns them into gelatin, so you can use the cooking liquid to make a really rich and delicious sauce. And the meat itself is absolutely succulent.
The funny thing about oxtail is that it used to be peasant food, but now it's like six bucks a pound, which means a four-pound oxtail might cost nearly $25. I guess someone finally figured out that the Ox only has one tail, so they should be charging more for it. Still, it feeds four people and it's so worth it.
- 1 meaty oxtail, between 3 and 4 pounds
- ¼ cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
- 4 cups beef stock
- 2-3 medium onions, peeled and diced
- Sprig of fresh rosemary
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 cup red wine
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Pre-heat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Dry the oxtails well with paper towels. This will help you get a nice brown color when you sear them.
- In a heavy, cast-iron dutch oven or brazier, heat the oil over high heat, then add the oxtails and sear them thoroughly, using a pair of tongs to turn them. When you've developed a nice brown crust on all sides, remove the oxtail from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onions and garlic to pot and cook for 5 minutes or so, or until the onion is slightly translucent.
- Add the wine and use a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula to loosen all the flavory bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Now return the oxtails to the pot along with the stock, bay leaves, rosemary, peppercorns and tomato paste. Heat on the stovetop until the liquid comes to a boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer the whole thing to the oven.
- Let the oxtail braise in the oven for three hours. You don't need to touch it at all during this time, but you can use some of that time to prepare some creamy polenta or mashed potatoes.
- After three hours, remove the pot from the oven and let the meat cool in the braising liquid while you make the sauce.
- Ladle out around two cups of the braising liquid and pour it through a mesh strainer. Skim off any fat from the top.
- Heat the butter in a separate saucepan, then gradually stir in the flour until paste forms. Heat for a few minutes, stirring until the paste (called a roux) is a light brown color.
- Now whisk the hot liquid into the roux, a little at a time. Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes, then strain it through a fine-mesh strainer and season to taste with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve the oxtail over some polenta or mashed potatoes, and a generous portion of sauce.