Stop-and-Go Braised Oxtails with Oyster Mushrooms

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    5 to 6

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

This French Catalan-inspired stew is a perfect example of how fatty meat, cooked on the bone, will produce a memorable succulent dish. Prepare it a day in advance so you can remove all the fat and allow the full flavor to develop.

On the first day, I rub the oxtails with herbs and spices and then brown them under the broiler, which imbues the meat with a faint scent of smoldering aromatics, thus launching the first layer of richness. The following day, I finish the dish with multiple reductions, deglazing repeatedly to develop complexity and a syrupy sauce, produced from nothing more than a little vinegar and dried porcini soaking water.

Serve this unctuous stew with Golden Potato Gratin.


  • 5 pounds meaty oxtails, cut 1½ inches thick, fat trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or teaspoons dried
  • 1 teaspoon bruised fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms Pinch of sugar
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • Bouquet garni (celery leaves from 1 small rib, 1 sprig of parsley, 1 sprig of thyme, and i bay leaf, tied together)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Banyuls or aged sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon bitter orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • pounds oyster mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. One day before serving, place the oxtails in a large bowl with the ground pepper, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; turn to coat all over. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Soak soak the dried porcini in cups warm water with the sugar until softened, about 1 hour. Lift the mushrooms from the water, rinse them briefly, and coarsely chop. Strain the soaking water through a coffee filter or doubled paper towel and reserve.
  3. Set the oven rack about 7 inches from the heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the oxtails in a single layer in a broiling pan without the rack. Broil the oxtails, turning often, for about 20 minutes, until they are nicely browned.
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté over moderately high heat until well browned and lightly caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. In a deep roomy pot (enameled cast-iron or ceramic set over a heat diffuser), heat the wine to boiling. Slightly tilting the pot and averting your face, ignite the wine with a long match. When the flames subside, add the oxtails, browned vegetables, chopped porcini, bouquet garni, half the garlic, and salt and pepper. Slowly bring to a boil.
  6. Pour the vinegar and 1 cup of the reserved mushroom water into the broiling pan and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from the pan; add to the pot. Repeat deglazing the skillet with the remaining mushroom water. Cover the oxtails with a sheet of crumpled wet parchment and a lid, set over very low heat, and cook without uncovering for 2 hours.
  7. Transfer the oxtails to a side dish and season with salt and pepper. Strain the cooking liquid, pressing down on the vegetables to extract all their juices. Skim off as much fat as possible. Pour back into the pot and stir in the orange marmalade. Return the oxtails to the pot. Cover and cook over the lowest heat for 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  8. The following day, scrape off any solidified fat. About 1 hour before serving, arrange the oxtails and sauce in a shallow ovenproof baking serving dish (I use a cazuela). Cover loosely with foil and set in the oven. Set the oven temperature to 350°F.
  9. Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the oyster mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat until shiny and light brown, about 8 minutes. Mix in the remaining garlic, half the parsley, and a pinch of salt. I like to splash them with an additional dash of vinegar.
  10. Remove the meat from the oven, spoon the mushrooms around the meat, loosely cover with foil, and return to the oven to bake for about 45 minutes, or until the meat is slightly crusty and dark brown and the sauce is reduced to a thick syrup. Serve with the remaining parsley scattered on top.