The fact that beef has never played the same leading role as pork or poultry in Southern cooking explains partly why the tough, bony, but extremely flavorful oxtail has not been used more (despite the wide popularity of short ribs). Today, however, oxtails are much more available in supermarkets than in the past, and since they lend themselves so beautifully to soups and slow braising, it’s a shame not to exploit their potential. I remember one exceptional oxtail and vegetable soup I ate at a friend’s home in Oxford, Mississippi, but without question, these crusty deviled oxtails I relished at the renowned Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, serve to illustrate just how glorious this lowly cut of beef can be.
In a large casserole, combine the oxtails, water, onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and bay leaf, cover, and braise in the oven till the oxtails are tender but not falling apart, about 2½ hours. Uncover and let cool.
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper, stir till well blended, and set aside. Place the bread crumbs in a wide, shallow bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven broiler.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the oxtails to paper towels and pat dry. Coat completely with the sour cream mixture, dredge in the bread crumbs, and arrange in a single layer in a greased baking pan. Drizzle the butter over the oxtails and broil about 4 inches from the heat, turning once, till golden brown and crusty, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve piping hot.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.