On a cold winter day, braised meat makes an ideal comfort food to warm your home and your belly. I got turned on to oxtail several years ago after making an oxtail ragu with friends. Recently I started buying this cut of beef again, and after a few tries I think I have perfected the recipe. Oxtail is the relatively inexpensive tail of cattle skinned and cut into short lengths. The meat has a large bony center with a gelatin rich core, excellent for making stock. When cooked low and slow the meat will fall off the bone while the gelatin and fat will melt to make an amazingly flavorful and hearty meal.
You will want to start this dish early in the afternoon to give it adequate time to develop flavor. Braising is a simple but long process that yields delicious results with cheap cuts of meat. One thing to keep in mind when braising any cut of meat is to use a wine that you enjoy drinking on its own, since the wine is such an integral part of the dish. While at the market I was enticed by an even cheaper cut of beef along with the oxtail, the beef shank with bone, which I used in the dish with the oxtail. I bought it because it basically looked like a larger piece of oxtail. The friendly butcher at the Paulina Meat Market assured me it would braise beautifully. He was right, I will definitely be buying and braising this cut again.
Oxtail (left) and Shank with bone (right)
Previous times braising oxtail I did not bother to make a sauce out of the remaining juices, I just ladled the thin juices on top. I found several recipes that recommend making a simple roux to thicken the liquid into a sauce, so I thought I’d give it a try. It took an extra 5 minutes to make the sauce, but it was well worth the effort. The sauce brought the dish to a whole new level, and if I do say so myself was better than anything I’ve eaten out in a while.
-4-5 pounds of oxtail (I used 2 lbs of oxtail and 1 large shank of beef with bone)
-6 Tbsp butter, divided into 2 Tbsp pads
-2 large onions, diced
-3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced
-5 carrots, peeled and sliced
-2 stalks of celery, sliced
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
-Salt and pepper
-2 sprigs of rosemary
-3 bay leaves
-3 Tbsp tomato paste
-1 bottle of red wine
-4 cups of chicken or beef stock
1. Season meat on both sides liberally with salt, pepper, and powdered garlic.
2. In a large dutch oven on medium heat melt 2 Tbsp of butter and brown meat on all sides. Brown in batches to avoid over crowding the pan.
3. Remove meat when browned and set aside. Add onions to dutch oven and season with salt, up to 2 tsp of black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook on medium/low heat with 2 additional Tbsp of butter until lightly browned.
4. Add garlic, carrots, and celery and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes before adding tomato paste.
5. Add wine, broth, rosemary sprigs, and bay leaves returning heat to medium, simmer until liquid is reduced to nearly half.
6. Preheat oven to 325F. Return meat to dutch oven with juices, bring to a simmer. Cover with oven proof lid or cover tightly with foil. Cook in oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
7. Carefully remove bay leaves and rosemary sprigs. The rosemary will break off from the stem, which is fine. Remove 2/3 of the liquid from dutch oven and spoon into a small pan to make a sauce.
8. To make sauce: soften remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and mix with 2 Tbsp of flour to make a roux, stir into hot liquid to thicken into a sauce over medium heat for a few minutes to desired consistency.
9. Serve over a bed of creamy mashed potatoes.