Oxtail is a peculiar but wonderful piece of meat. It's literally the tail of the steer, or any type of cattle these days, making it thick at one end and skinny at the other with a bone running down the center. Oxtail is sold cut into sections, which means you'll usually get a few big meaty pieces and a few really little ones. Although originally a "poor man's food," oxtail's appeal has been discovered by chefs and gourmands and is now an expensive item in the butcher shop.
The oxtail has a lot of cartilage and connective tissue, so it needs to be cooked slowly for a long time using moist heat. One such method is braising, which melts away all those sinewy bits and turns them into gelatin, yielding succulent, flavorful meat and a very rich and delicious sauce. Oxtail is best served with something to soak up the sauce, like pasta, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, or creamy polenta.
- 3 to 4 pounds oxtail pieces
- 1/4 cup canola oil or other vegetable oil
- 2 to 3 medium onions (peeled and diced)
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
- 1 cup red wine
- 4 cups beef stock
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 to 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Gather the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Dry the oxtails well with paper towels. This will help to get a nice brown exterior when searing.
In a heavy, cast-iron Dutch oven or brazier, heat the oil over high heat. Once hot, add the oxtails and sear them thoroughly, turning to brown on all sides. Once they've developed a nice brown crust, remove the oxtails from the pan and set them aside.
Lower the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic to the pot; sauté for 5 minutes or so, until the onions are slightly translucent.
Add the wine and use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to loosen all the bits from the bottom of the pan.
Return the oxtails to the pot along with the stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, peppercorns, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.
Raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven, take off the lid, and let the meat cool in the braising liquid while you make the sauce.
Ladle out about 2 cups of the braising liquid and pour it through a mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup. Skim off any fat from the top.
Heat the butter in a separate saucepan set over medium-high heat, then gradually stir in the flour until a paste forms. Heat for a few minutes, stirring until the mixture (called a roux) is a light brown color.
Whisk the strained hot cooking liquid into the roux a little at a time. Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes until thickened. Strain it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any lumps and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove the oxtails from the pot, place them on a deep serving platter or individual plates, and spoon over a generous portion of the sauce.
- Make sure to pat dry the oxtails well; any moisture will prevent the meat from developing a nice, brown crust when searing.
- If your pot isn't wide enough to hold all of the oxtails in one layer with space in between, sear the meat in batches. If the pan is crowded, the oxtails won't brown well on all sides.
- If there is leftover sauce, store it in the refrigerator to spoon over rice later that week.