Braised Oxtails

Ox tails used to be cheap, but not so much anymore. They’re a tough cut that requires long cooking, but when they’re done right, they’re as tender and flavorful as a prime cut. Still, you can’t just toss them on the grill and have dinner in ten minutes. That’s why they’re supposed to be cheap. You’re best off buying them from an actual butcher, in an ethnic market, rather than at the grocery store. 

The basic braising technique is pretty much the same no matter what you’re cooking—lamb shanks, osso buco, ox tails, whatever. You start by searing/browning the meat in oil, then letting it simmer in liquid (which must include something acidic such as wine or vinegar or tomatoes or orange juice) until the tough connective tissue breaks down. You can cook them at low temperature in an oven, or you can simmer them on the stove (but you’ll need to keep an eye on them). You’ll want to serve them over something starchy that will absorb the sauce, such as mashed potatoes or polenta.

What you need

  • 2-3 lbs. ox tails

  • flour

  • olive oil

  • garlic

  • onion

  • celery

  • carrot

  • crushed/chopped tomatoes

  • wine

  • stock (chicken or beef)

  • spices (bay leaf, thyme, basil, salt, pepper)

  • parsley

braised oxtails techniqye

How you make it

  • Mix a teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper into a tablespoon or two of flour.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a Dutch oven over medium high heat.
  • Dredge the ox tails in the flour mixture and brown on all sides in the oil.
  • Meanwhile, dice a garlic clove or two, and chop up a carrot or two along with a stalk of celery and a small onion.
  • Transfer the oxtails to a plate when they’re well browned. Spoon off some of the oil and rendered fat (never put it down the sink!) so you have maybe two or three tablespoons left in the pot.
  • Lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic, onions, celery, and carrot and saute until they start to soften, maybe five minutes.
  • Add a packet or can of crushed or chopped tomatoes.
  • Add a cup of wine (I typically use white, but red is fine, too).
  • Add a cup of stock.
  • Add a bay leaf or two and sprinkle in some basil and thyme.
  • Add the ox tails along with any juices. Add more stock, if needed, to nearly cover them.
  • Cover the pot, but leave a little opening for the steam to escape. Simmer on the lowest setting for about three hours—you really can’t overcook them, but the longer they cook, the more often you’ll have to check to make sure the sauce isn’t starting to burn.
  • Serve on a bed of polenta or mashed potatoes, garnished with some chopped parsley.

Note: the leftovers make a great sauce for pasta such as tortellini or gnocchi. Take the meat off the bones and mix it in with the sauce (give the bones to the dog).

Buon appetito!

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