Oxtails Braised in Red Wine

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    8 to 10

Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

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.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds oxtails cut at least 1 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups pearl onions or cipollini, peeled
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced on the diagonal (for looks)
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 2 cups quartered crimini mushrooms
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, cored and cut in wedges
  • 6 cups hearty, full-bodied red wine preferred
  • 3 cups homemade chicken or beef stock or your favorite canned broth
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries, slightly crushed (see Note)
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 3 cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

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 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery, crimini mushrooms, garlic, and fennel, and sauté over high heat until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes—they don’t need to be cooked through. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set them aside. Return the oxtails to the pan along with the wine, stock, juniper berries, bay leaves, tomatoes, and dried mushrooms, if using. Cover and bake for 2 ½ hours. (If you left the vegetables in for this whole cooking time, they would be mush by the end. In this dish, I like them to retain some texture.)

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.

To Serve Immediately

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.

To Make Ahead

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.