This is one of those warming, old-time winter dishes made with an inexpensive cut of meat that many cooks have forgotten about. “Oxtails” don’t actually come from oxen (which are castrated bulls used mainly as draft animals). They are the tails of ordinary beef cattle. Oxtails are very high in collagen, which when cooked breaks down into a mouth-filling, unctuous texture. Dried porcini add a wonderful flavor note to this and almost any recipe in this lesson, but if you can’t find them or if they’re too expensive, you can leave them out. I love this hearty concoction served with good homemade or other fresh egg noodles.
Trim the oxtails of any excess fat and season well with salt and pepper. Dredge them in flour (dip them in and roll them around) and shake off the excess. In a deep Dutch oven or casserole, heat the olive oil and over high heat, brown the oxtails in batches on all sides. Remove the oxtails from the pot, set them aside, and pour off all but about
Take the pot out of the oven and skim off as much of the fat as possible (it’s the clear liquid floating on top). Add the reserved vegetables to the pot, cover, and return the pot to the oven. Cook an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Check on it a couple of times to make sure that the oxtails are nearly covered with liquid. Add more stock or wine as needed.
Remove the pot from the oven, and skim off as much of the fat as possible. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Serve the stew with some or all of the bones, depending on your preference.
Transfer the stew to a storage container (or let the pot cool down) and refrigerate for up to 3 days. At serving time, you can easily remove the congealed fat from the surface of the chilled stew. Reheat the stew on the stovetop, and serve.
© 2004 John Ash. All rights reserved.