If you, like me, have the winter blues and are ready to give this winter a nice strong kick in the butt. Stop. Breathe. Perhaps try a short meditation. Then make this Wine-Braised Oxtail dish while slowly sipping a nice dry Italian red. It will cheer you up or at least give you some momentary pleasure.
This recipe was recently featured in the NY Times by one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark. A prolific cookbook writer and weekly contributor to the Times, Clark frequently features healthy, yet flavorful dishes. But every once and while she goes for pure pleasure cooking. This oxtail recipe is a good example of that. And it is precisely why I identify with Clark and secretly wish I could steal her career out from under her.
My balding hunk of a husband claimed to have had oxtail soup and loved it, but I had never had oxtail in any form before last night. On this sunny morning as I watch the snow drip away (Die snow. die.), I am a new woman — changed after last night’s culinary adventure.
A few points to be made on the “oxtail.” For starters, it is not easy to locate if you don’t have a serious butcher near by. I was missing my Brooklyn butcher yesterday as I called around to a variety of places only to learn that they did not have any oxtail. I did manage to find it eventually at Fairway Market in Stamford. But I recommend locating your source in advance.
Also, note that oxtail is not really the tail of the ox. It is the tail of any beef cattle, although it could be an ox. Who knew?
Finally, oxtail is fattier cut of meat, lending itself and almost requiring slow-braising, much like short ribs or osso bucco (veal shank). In fact, I thought it tasted somewhat like a combination between those two. I was slightly devastated that I hadn’t made this for a dinner party because it is just that good.
I have featured Clark’s original recipe unchanged below, and I am also providing a link to the instructional video that is worth watching. It provides little useful tidbits like cut the carrots and celery root in large chunks so that they don’t simply become part of the sauce and retain some texture.
I would note that I did substitute celery for celeriac (celery root) because I couldn’t find celery root. It tasted just fine. I also highly recommend the little gremolata that you top the meat with at the end of the process. It is important for taste and for presentation.
- 2½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt, more as needed
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 5 pounds beef oxtails, patted dry
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 shallots, peeled, trimmed and sliced lengthwise ¼-inch-thick
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
- 2 small or 1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 bottle (750 milliliters) dry red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 5 parsley sprigs, plus ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
- 2 rosemary branches
- 2 bay leaves
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Torn celery leaves, for garnish (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine salt, pepper and allspice. Add oxtail to bowl and rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Heat an 8-quart Dutch oven, or a heavy soup pot with a lid, over medium-high heat. Add oil and warm through. Add as many oxtail pieces as you can fit in a single layer without overcrowding the pot. Sear, turning occasionally, until the meat is uniformly golden brown all over, including the sides. Transfer meat to a plate; repeat until you’ve browned all the oxtail.
- Add shallot to the pan drippings and cook over medium heat until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery root and cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and two-thirds of the garlic (save the rest for garnish) and cook 1 minute.
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pour wine and stock into pot. Bundle parsley sprigs, rosemary branches and bay leaves with kitchen twine and drop into pot. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook over medium heat until liquid has reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
- Return oxtail to pot and bring to a simmer. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook, turning oxtails every 30 minutes, until meat is fork tender, 3 to 3½ hours.
- Transfer oxtails to a plate. Spoon off fat from surface of pan juices and discard (there will be a lot of it). Toss oxtails with remaining pan gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. In a small bowl, toss together chopped parsley, garlic, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Scatter mixture over oxtails and garnish with the celery leaves, if using, before serving.