Oxtails? That is often how people react when I mention cooking oxtails. What are they exactly? An oxtail is actually the tail of a steer, which means they are beef. An oxtail has a large bone, and is very gelatinous,which makes them perfect for stewing or braising. They are also often used for making stock. Oxtails are eaten the world around, from China and Korea to Jamaica and the USA.
Although I call oxtails a poor man’s meat, they are no longer as inexpensive as they used to be. I buy mine at Costco, which sells them for about $3.99 a pound. Another place to find them is Asian or Hispanic markets. Oxtails are often sold in packages which weigh between 2-4 pounds. Look for a mix of large and smaller oxtails, not just small, as these are almost all bone.
This recipe for braised oxtails is simple. Once the prep work is done, you just walk away from the stove and let them cook for a few hours.
4-5 lbs oxtails
freshly ground black pepper
2 TB oilve oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef or chicken broth
1 medium bay leaf
Season the oxtails with salt and pepper. In a large, deep pot such as a dutch oven, heat oil. Brown the oxtails in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan.
Once all the oxtails have been browned, saute the onion about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and thyme, saute 1 minute, then add red wine to deglaze the pan. Stirring constantly, scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan while wine reduces by half. Return oxtails to pan, add stock and bay leaf. The stock should almost cover the oxtails. Add more or less, as needed. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover pan.
At this point you can walk away from your stove. Check in with your oxtails every once in awhile, making sure they are happily simmering away. After 1 1/2 hours of cooking, turn the oxtails over. Cover the pan again, and walk away. Cook for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until meat is very tender. Remove the oxtails from the pan, and if necessary reduce the liquid until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I like to serve the braised oxtails with rice or mashed potatoes as a side dish, because they both soak up the braising liquid so well. And like most braised or stewed dishes, it will taste even better the next day.