the dark side of the cow.
Good evening, everyone.
Tonight’s dish generated a small bit of controversy from various people whom I told prior to making it. Fear not, squeamish readers; it does not (unfortunately) involve tripe, offal, or any other “nasty bits.” What, then, is the mystery ingredient? Oxtails!
Oxtails are, well, segments of tail from cattle. They’re quite tough, so stewing or braising is a must. Before reading on, you should know that I refer to these tails as being “full of fat” (because they are). I know some of you squirm at the idea of something being fatty and delicious at the same time. And why wouldn’t you? We do, after all, live in a culture that mandates you eat the leanest meat out there (I saw someone buying 95/5 ground beef the other day and almost cried. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!). Those who fear, I ask for your trust. Things that are fatty can be delicious (seriously, ditch your flavorless filet mignon and get with some oxtails)! Food must be savored, not scoffed. Take time tasting all the ingredients, and you won’t always need *more* of what you’re eating. Don’t get me wrong, I understand Americans “have no time” for slow eating. In this eat-and-go culture, no one does (not that you needed reminding of that). People eat as quickly as they can, without being conscious of what they just put in their mouths. Eating meals has become an accessory to our day, not a focal point as it once was. I bet if people could have food in pill form to save the 20 minutes that would have otherwise gone toward eating lunch, they would (it’s a little science fiction fantasy I have). I could go on and on about where Americans are going wrong regarding the way they eat and think about food, but that is for another post. Just….love the fat. Love butter, bacon and flavor. You will be okay. You won’t eat these FATTY HORRIBLE THINGS all the time if you let yourself love them, trust me. I don’t think you should use butter and the like all too frequently, anyway. Just believe you will be okay (I am).
Now. Back to the oxtails….
I didn’t really know what to expect out of them (I made two). Would they be too tough to eat? Would they have a weird texture? Would they smell horribly and be unappetizing? Or would they be the greatest thing I’ve ever made?
Ah, they were delicious. I would almost consider this a special occasion ingredient. Throw on some jazz, light a few candles, make a nice dessert to follow dinner, and you’ve got an awesome night (even if it’s just you). Since the tails are fatty, they’re loaded with this unctuous flavor. They absolutely melt in your mouth after being stewed for a while.
For this meal, I followed perhaps the most basic recipe I could find. It worked out really well. I stewed the oxtails in a liquid largely made up of balsamic vinegar and water, along with lots of thyme, plus some salt and pepper. What’s great about this is by the end, you have a really awesome beef and balsamic vinegar stock. Do not even think of throwing that out, you WILL use it for something else later (I know I will).
Braised Oxtails adapted from here
1 small yellow onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp (or more, depending on your taste) balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. dice the onion, mince the garlic. you know, get all your ingredients together and organized (this includes washing and patting your oxtails dry).
2. in a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium. once fragrant, add the sugar. stir with a wooden spoon or whisk until it melts. you just don’t want it to burn, that would ruin everything. *just a little…note. there’s going to be some delicious looking melted sugar hanging on to the spoon. upon seeing this, i immediately thought OOHH, CARAMEL! and touched it in a very futile attempt to taste it. don’t do this. sugar gets very…..very hot.*
3. once the sugar has melted, sear the oxtails on all sides for about 1 minute. remove from the pan, and place on a plate. deglaze the pan with the vinegar.
4. once you’ve got the bottom of the pan cleared, add the onions and garlic. stir to combine, and saute for about 5 minutes.
5. put your oxtails back into the pan. season generously with salt and pepper. add the thyme at this point, also. now you’re going to add enough water so that the oxtails are covered. bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer.
Simmer, covered, for about 2.5 hours. Now, I got impatient and took the oxtails out after 1.5 hours. They were tender (not fall off the bone tender, but they were definitely tender), so that’s an option if you are ready to eat everything in the kitchen before the recommended 2.5 hours. Drizzle the sauce over the tails, serve with rice or a nice spinach salad..that sort of thing.
The original recipe called for a shallot. I would definitely recommend going with shallots as opposed to onions. I was just using what I had laying around, especially since spring break starts this Friday and I won’t be around for a week. Like I said, save the resulting stock! It’s a bonus with this recipe, and you’d be foolish to toss it away. It’s beefy, sort of sweet, sort of tangy, garlicy and fragrant. This recipe is really basic, and the oxtails are begging to be experimented with. I will definitely be cooking with them again, so look forward to some future oxtail recipes!
As I mentioned before, I’m off for spring break beginning this Friday. Although tomorrow is traditionally a no-cook day, I’m thinking of creating a meal out of some Israeli couscous, leftover olive tapende, and cabbage I have hanging around. Perhaps stuffed cabbage with couscous and olive tapenade? Maybe throw some dates in there just to experiment? Hmm….perhaps, perhaps. I may just end up having leftover mac and cheese!