The Basic Steps of Braising or Stewing

  1. Trim the meat if required, and dust in seasoned flour if required.
  2. Brown the meat or poultry on all sides in a small amount of fat.
  3. Remove the meat or poultry from the pan and add the aromatic vegetables to soften.
  4. Return the meat or poultry to the pan, add the required amount of liquid and herbs, if using, and bring back to a gentle simmer. Never let it boil.
  5. Cook until meltingly tender.
So, on the back of the basic step list, I’ll go through a dish we used to make at Stephanie Alexander’s restaurant way back in 1982. I have made it many times since, and if you are an oxtail fanatic like me I’m sure you’ll love it.
Take some sliced oxtails and dust with flour. Using a frying pan large enough to hold all the oxtail at once, heat a little oil. Brown the meat carefully on all sides (you may need to do this in two batches). When all the meat has been browned, return it to the pan. Pour some brandy over and flame; when the flames die out, transfer the oxtail to a saucepan. Add a little bit more oil to the frying pan and add some chopped onion and carrot and brown thoroughly. Pour over some good-quality red wine and boil fiercely to evaporate the alcohol. Add the vegetables and liquid to the oxtail, along with a bouquet garni, a few whole garlic cloves and some strips of orange zest. Pour enough chicken stock in to cover the meat, bring to a simmer and push a buttered wax paper circle down on the meat. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook very slowly for 2½ hours. When the oxtail is nearly falling off the bone, remove from the heat and allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight. The next day, there should be a crust of fat on the top of the pan; remove and discard it. Sprinkle over black olives and slowly reheat. To serve, place the oxtail in bowls and season the sauce with freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs, if you like, then pour over the oxtail. This dish is wonderful served with potato or parsnip purée.