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ox tails: Tips & Techniques


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Speaking of rich-on-rich, has no one mentioned the classic Italian treatment, served with risotto alla Milanese (a rare example of two dishes being served on the same plate in Italian cooking)? As usual, Marcella has an exemplary recipe. Interestingly, she eschews the typical garnish of gremolada (parsley, garlic, lemon zest) as unnecessary gilding.

As a practical matter, I've found that it can be necessary to get the butcher to open more than one cryovac-ed package to get four large pieces. He (or she) will inevitably try to sell you consecutive pieces down the tail, meaning that someone's going to get the short end, so to speak.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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  • 4 weeks later...

this recipe is seriously good -and easy.

Ox tail

serves 6

6 ox tails, sawn into sections and trimmed of fat

salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour

butter

olive oil

1/2 cup brandy

1 large onion diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 bottle dry red wine

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

2 cups beef stock

2 cups tomato juice

1 cup kalamata olives, pitted

Coat oxtail with seasoned flour and brown in batches in a pan with butter and olive oil. Transfer to a large casserole, preferably cast iron. Saute onion and carrot in pan until tender, pour over brandy and wine and bubble fiercely. Tip over oxtail. Add herbs, garlic and liquid. Cover with baking paper and place on lid, cook in oven for 2 1/2 hours. Pour liquid off into a jug and scoop off fat as it rises to the surface. Pour sauce back over meat, add olives and continue to cook for another 45 minutes or until meat is falling off the bone.

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Homemade gnochi and oxtail ragu. Braise the oxtaile long and slow with carrots, onions and celery (finely chopped) in lots of red wine. Serve it with gnochi, lots or fresh thyme and shaved Parm.

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  • 2 years later...

Ms. Busboy spent a good part of the weeking trying to make oxtails stew, and coming up with a delicious broth and inedibly tough tails. The recipe is here. We are experienced braisers, and are confident of our technique. Initial thoughts are 1) Frozen oxtails just cook up tough, 2) that, since the tails were not fully covered during the initial braising, (although more liquid than th recipe called for was added in an effort to mostly submerge the tail) they dried out beyond hope 3) Oxtails just suck. We are happy to hear any other suggestions experients tail-braisers may have.

Along the same lines, the next adventure will be pig's tails prepared a la Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast, Nose to Tail Eating (The nose part is also on the screen for the near future, anyone feeling adventurous should feel free to drop by). Has anyone tried this? Cooking tips and serving suggestions are welcome.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Hmmm...Made oxtails a few weeks ago. Previously frozen incredible deal at the Meat o Rama. All I can say is: cast iron dutch oven, brown the meat, add the liquid and aromatics and slow,slow, low heat cooking covered in oven.

Pig heads make head cheese. Snout on a plate scares me, no matter what the garnish.

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I'm puzzled. Oxtails are wonderfully fall off the bone tender usually.

Possibilities:

--Boiling protein toughens it. I assume that cooking the meat in the water at the beginning is to elimated impurities, etc. I would do that step more like an egg, starting in cooler water. Dumping it into already boiling water may have been the problem.

--Or perhaps during your 3 hour simmer it somehow was boiling part of the time. I usually do my long braises in the oven as a guard against this.

--Perhaps despite the recipe, the pieces were larger and simply needed more time.

Or maybe it was the meat, though braising is supposed to conquer all.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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After consulting with the missus, it appears that an inadvertant boil is the most likely suspect in the case of the inedible tails. We will certainly be trying the recipe -- or something silimar -- again, and will likely braise in the oven to avoid this problem. Thanks.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Or cook the oxtails in a slow cooker. I made a batch that way a couple of weeks ago, and they were divine. Slow and steady wins the race.

Actually, I floured and browned them on top of the stove first, but then threw the whole lot in the slow cooker with the deglazing liquid and other stuff, and mmmmmmmmmm. After a few hours the meat was falling off the bones, and the sauce was tongue-coating wonderful.

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I grew up on Oxtail soup and never once had them tough. My grandma always used a pressure cooker and it would go for several hours at a nice simmer. I'd definitely do it low and very very slow. At least 3 hours or longer if you have the time.

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We definitely have the slow part down -- the stuff probably cooked more than five hours over the course of the weekend. I'm convinced it was the boiling.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Your problem is not in your cooking methods but in your source of oxtails. I frequently make oxtail soup and have found that oxtails from a market or butcher that sells choice to prime grade meat are invariably tender. Oxtails from a source that deals in range beef are invairably tough. Change your supplier and assure yourself the tails come from choice or better grade anmals. Oxtails that come cryovac packed are the lowest commercial grade and should be shunned. -Dick

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  • 11 months later...

Bumping this up ... I have an old recipe for braised oxtail that calls for 2 oxtails, jointed. The oxtails around here are already jointed so how much should I buy to equal two whole oxtails?

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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15 or so inch wide pieces should be cool.

How many people does the recipe intend to serve?

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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With the already great recipes posted here for oxtail stew/soup/etc. I admit I don't have much to add except to emphasize that you ought to trim at least some of the fat off of them. I get really big oxtails, but they are loaded with fat. Of course one can trim off the fat and pick the meat off the bones after cooking (makes for a very rich soup/stew), but I like to serve my oxtail soup with the whole oxtails, bones and all. My family expects it, actually. Very tasty!

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Even though oxtails are not sold graded, there is a substantial difference between those that come from lessor grade animals and those that come from choice or better animals. The 'generic' ones that are showing up cryovac wrapped are very tough whereas the ones you get from a butcher that sells choice or prime beef can be very tender. Any recipe as posted can suffice as long as you braise for a couple of hours. I like to cool and remove the meat, reheat with a thickened sauce. Makes it much easier to eat. -Dick

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I bought one whole tail this weekend (which the butcher cut into 2" pieces for me) and it weighed about 3 pounds. The resulting cooked dish (a braise in wine with veg) could feed 4 easily - after serving the two of us, plus seconds for my DH, we still have enough left over for another meal.

So if your recipe requires two tails, you're looking at anywhere from 5-7 lbs. worth. Mind you much of it is bone, especially towards the tail's end.

Cheese: milk’s leap toward immortality – C.Fadiman

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Here's my super-simple favorite, which I got from an old friend. It perfumes the whole house.

Chinese Oxtail Stew

2 medium oxtails (3 to 4 lb.) cut in 2" pieces and well trimmed

6 whole sticks cinnamon, broken into 2" pieces

a handful (1/3 to 1/2 cup) whole star anise

4 to 5 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2-1/2 tablespoons sugar

1. Put the meat in a kettle with water to cover, heat to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the meat and the kettle.

2. Return the meat to the kettle with water to cover, add the cinnamon and star anise, heat to a boil and cook uncovered for 45 minutes over medium heat, occasionally skimming off any scum.

3. Add the soy sauce and sugar, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook until the meat is falling off the bones (2 to 3 hours).

4. Remove the meat to a platter. When it's cool enough to handle, remove the fat and bones. Refrigerate the meat and sauce separately overnight.

5. The next day, skim the fat from the sauce and reduce it in a non-stick frying pan. When it starts to thicken, strain out the solids. Continue reducing until thick, almost a syrup (1/2 to 2/3 cup).

Serve over rice.

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Here's my super-simple favorite, which I got from an old friend.  It perfumes the whole house.

What that sounds just sensational, Kay-Four-Three. I will definitely try this. I can just imagine that glorious, meaty, spicy perfume!

We cook oxtail quite a lot here in England. Yes, there is quite a lot of bone to meat, but the large pieces are very meaty, and the best thing about oxtail is slow cooking until the meat is virtually falling off the bones, and then taking up a piece and sucking the meat and bones to get it all off. The bones go very sticky and gelatinous. It's real winter comfort food.

At this time of year, we love to do the vigneron's favourite method, slow braising oxtail with bunches of wine grapes added to the pot. The sweetness from the grapes mixes with the sticky gooiness of the meat in a combo that is simply incredible.

The key of course is slow cooking, say at 120 degrees C for upwards of 4-6 hours.

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Sloooow cooking indeed!

The recipe I used the other day was "Oxtail Braised in Red Wine" from Molly Steven's "All About Braising" cook book. It too uses some weighty herbs and spices like rosemary, clove, allspice ... and the resulting sauce is absolutely fabulous.

It's nice to be able to try different approaches, and I will certainly give some of the other recipes posted here a try.

edited for clarity

Edited by gourmande (log)

Cheese: milk’s leap toward immortality – C.Fadiman

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one of my favourite dishes that my [korean] mother makes is a chilli/soy oxtail jjim [braise]..

i've been dreaming of it last two weeks so i'm going to ask her for the recipe next time i see her.. i'll post it here when i get it ;)

i love eating the large meaty pieces and the smaller fiddly bits, different techniques required for both..

i always need to floss afterwards though!

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  • 3 months later...

Yummy!

Oxtails are one of my top 5 favorites meals and I particularly enjoy them cooked "Jamaican style."

I made some over the weekend and they came out delicious. And they were quite meaty too...I found some HUGE oxtails and I bought 4 pounds worth. They took 5 hours to cook in my crockpot (on high).

I learned a trick from a Jamaican co-worker who makes really good oxtails...season them at least 2 days beforehand and refrigerate until ready to use. I used salt, pepper, ground allspice (used in a lot of Jamaican cooking, which they call 'pimento') & dried thyme sprigs. I also coated them with browning (also known as burnt sugar or baker's caramel - you can even use gravy browning such as Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master) which gives them the dark color that I love.

I didn't cook them with any vegetables except sauteed onion and fresh garlic. I just wanted the meat, not a stew.

They are greasy though but if you refrigerate them overnight, the fat will congeal and is easily skimmed off.

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Yummy!

Oxtails are one of my top 5 favorites meals and I particularly enjoy them cooked "Jamaican style." 

I made some over the weekend and they came out delicious.  And they were quite meaty too...I found some HUGE oxtails and I bought 4 pounds worth.  They took 5 hours to cook in my crockpot (on high).

I learned a trick from a Jamaican co-worker who makes really good oxtails...season them at least 2 days beforehand and refrigerate until ready to use.  I used salt, pepper, ground allspice (used in a lot of Jamaican cooking, which they call 'pimento') & dried thyme sprigs.  I also coated them with browning (also known as burnt sugar or baker's caramel - you can even use gravy browning such as Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master) which gives them the dark color that I love. 

I didn't cook them with any vegetables except sauteed onion and fresh garlic.  I just wanted the meat, not a stew. 

They are greasy though but if you refrigerate them overnight, the fat will congeal and is easily skimmed off.

I'd be ever so grateful if you could post your recipe for Jamaican oxtails. It's one of my favorite West indian dishes but I've never been able to replicate it on my own.

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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Adding a couple of other thoughts. . .

I never coat meat with flour before browning. I'd rather have browned meat than browned flour. Also, one way I like to thicken the sauce after the braising is complete is to puree some of the braising vegetables. Beats adding corn starch, roux, or anything similar, and yields more volume that reducing, if one needs more sauce.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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