A Tale of Oxtail


Let me open by saying I was not snowed in this past weekend. I live in eastern North Carolina and snow is a very rare event.  We did however have rain of Biblical proportions, and I heard a rumor that ONE snow flurry was spotted in my area on Saturday morning. That was the only excuse I needed to plan this meal. 

With more snow forecasted for the mid-Atlantic states this weekend, I thought it only right to share this recipe with you now, to give you adequate time to get to the grocer and stock up on oxtails…the rest of the ingredients are mostly staples so this shouldn’t break the bank. You can put it together after Breakfast and when you come in from shoveling, cold and hungry, you’ll have a hearty, healthy, delicious meal waiting for you. 

Before we dive into the whats and hows, just let me say how underrated oxtails are. Have you ever had oxtail? Most folks haven’t; and just to clear up any misconception, nowadays oxtails aren’t actually from oxen. They are from cattle, but the nod to their origins remains in the name. Seriously, when is the last time you even saw an Ox? 

Oxtail used to be fairly commonly served, figuring prominently in soups, braises, and stews; but it seemed to fall out of fashion here in the U.S. sometime in the early 1940s. I’m sure there’s a complicated socio-economic reason having to do with moving out of the Great Depression and into a more prosperous economy, coupled with war-time rationing and the urbanization of previously rural populations. Whew. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame we don’t eat oxtail more often. It’s delicious, and perfect for crock-pots, pressure cookers, or slow oven cooking, which are amazingly convenient cooking methods for all of us too-busy 21st century people. 

One bit of fair warning though—I was very surprised at the price per pound of oxtail. I paid $7.99/lb for mine. While that’s certainly not the $25.99/lb grass-fed ribeye goes for, it’s still a bit more expensive than I had anticipated. Maybe grocers are catching on to all of us who are in search of these previously ignored cuts of meat? Whatever the reason, this dish was absolutely worth the $16 I spent on oxtails. 

The prep work for this isn’t fiddly at all, just straight forward chopping, slicing and browning. You could even pre-prep everything and then put it all together the day you want to cook it. Or you can make it ahead and then rewarm individual portions as desired. It’s an easy and adaptable dish. I served this over a purée of Celeriac (celery root), but you could just as easily add chopped potatoes or other root vegetables to the pot and cook it all together. Play around and make it work for you. 

Oxtail Soup
Serves: 4-6
Time: 4-4.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Special Equipment: Large, Heavy Dutch Oven (I used my Cast Iron Dutch Oven) 

1-2 slices of applewood smoked bacon (nitrate free)
2-3 lbs of oxtails (Make sure to have at least one for each person you’re serving)
2 medium onions, diced medium
5 garlic cloves, sliced
6 small or 4 large carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch coins
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
Ground Black Pepper to taste
Sea Salt to taste
1 Bouquet Garni (I used Thyme, Rosemary, and Sage)
1 Qt Beef stock
375 ml good red wine (I used a California Petit Syrah)

Preheat oven to 375 F
Tie your Bouquet Garni herbs and set aside
In an ovenproof Dutch Oven (or similar pot), heat 1 TBSP of EVOO over low heat Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon, but leave the fat in the pot.
While the bacon is cooking, season the oxtails with salt and pepper on all sides.
Once the bacon has been removed, increase the heat to medium and add the oxtails to the pot in a single layer. Brown the oxtails on all sides. Once browned remove to a separate plate. 
Drop the Bouquet Garni into the pot and allow it to infuse the fat for a few minutes. Remove the herb bundle to the plate with the browned oxtails. Lower the heat slightly. 
Add the chopped onions, carrots, and garlic to the pot and sauté until the onions are slightly softened and the mixture is fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to burn!  Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the mushrooms and allow to cook a few minutes more. Once the vegetables have sautéed for 7-10 minutes, add in the Smoked Paprika, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg. Stir to distribute evenly. 
Add the oxtails and any accumulated liquid back into the pot, nestling them among the vegetables. Pour the wine over the oxtails, and then toss in the Bouquet Garni. Pour the Beef Stock into the pot to completely cover the oxtails. Increase the heat to medium high, and bring the pot to a high simmer. Allow to simmer on the stovetop for 10 minutes, then cover and place in the middle of the preheated oven. Allow the soup to cook in the oven for 3.5-4 hours, or until the meat is nearly falling off of the bones. 
Remove from the oven and serve in large shallow bowls, placing one or two oxtails in each bowl and surrounding with the broth and vegetables.
One note— If you don’t have an oven you can make this on the stove, just keep it at a low simmer and check the liquid levels occasionally adding more wine or stock as needed to keep the oxtails covered. 
This can also be served over mashed or puréed root vegetables, as I did. Now pour yourself a nice glass of dry red wine and dig in. 

Let me know if you make this— I love hearing how my readers adapt my recipes into their cooking repertoires!  You can always tag me @tenaciousacorn or use #tenaciousacorn in your IG posts if you want to show off your versions of the recipes I post. 

If you haven’t checked out the new podcast I’m doing—well what are you waiting for? Episode #2 is up on our podcast page, and you can also find us on iTunes. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like me to address, or a question you want answered, just click on the Contact link at the top of this page and let me know. I want to make sure I’m giving you information YOU want! 

That’s it for now….