Oxtail Stew

By admin | October 20, 2009

Oh the weather outside is frightful… I think it’s been raining in Atlanta for 40 days and 40 nights. And now the temperatures are falling as we ease into Autumn. There’s nothing better than soups and stews during this kind of weather to help knock the damp and chill out of your system.

This is a very hearty stew, with Souther/Caribbean/African roots — anyplace you find oxtail in the regular grocery store. Apparently in some cities you have to request oxtail or visit specialty butchers, but here it’s commonplace. In fact, I can remember a few years ago when oxtail was CHEAP meat, but it’s come en vogue since then and chefs were braising them and using them like mini-ossu bucco and stuffing handmade raviolis with pulled oxtail and all kinds of marvelous stuff. One thing has outlasted the oxtail trend, and that’s the oxtail price tag. Still, here in the south the meat is common enough that you can catch it on sale, or buy it in bulk and for me, it’s a child-hood nostalgia related comfort food.

This version is more vegetable laden and “lighter” than the stewed oxtail in gravy that I grew up with, but it’s delicious and satisfying any day the weather isn’t cooperating. If you’re pressed for time, just throw everything in the crock pot in the morning before you got to work and dinner will be waiting for you when you get home. The results won’t be identical, but you’ll still have a yummy oxtail stew.

Making oxtail stew
Rinse and pat dry your oxtail pieces. Don’t season yet because you’re going to get a good browning on them.

Brown oxtails on all sides
Brown the oxtails on all sides by cooking in about 1-2 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat in a large, uncrowded pot (crowding causes steaming and prevents carmelization). Take your time to do this because you’re developing texture and flavor that you won’t get if you just threw all the ingredients together in a crock pot.


Add onion chopped onion, carrot and garlic and saute until you get some light caramelization (browning) on the vegetables as well. This will help add depth of flavor to the overall dish.

Deglaze the pan by adding one can of diced tomatoes, or the equivalent of fresh chopped tomatoes if they’re juicy and in season. Using a wooden spoon scrape all of the yummy brown bits (called the “fond”) from the bottom of your pot. This will add beefy flavor to your stew.

+ bayleaf garlic 1can tomato 1c h2o

Stir in bell pepper, 2-3 bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

+ 1tbsp each paprika turmeric cumin

Allow the stew to come up to a simmer, then add 1 Tbsp each of turmeric, cayenne and Hungarian paprika. If you prefer a smoky flavor substitute smoked Spanish paprika for the Hungarian paprika and consider using about half the amount.

Simmer covered til oxtail are tender

Cover the pot and cook over a low simmer, medium to medium-low heat, for about 2 hours or until the oxtails are tender and the meat is falling off the bone. Alternatively, you can prepare this dish in a dutch oven, and transfer it to a pre-heated 375 degree oven and allow to cook, covered in there for at least two hours as well.

Serve over cooked brown rice with some hot sauce on the side.

WHY THE LONG COOKING TIME?
Well, oxtail has a lot of connective tissue. It’s part of what makes it so good. It also has marrow and cartilage, all of which have nutritional value IF you can break them down, and that takes two things: heat over time and acid. The acid is present in the form of our tomatoes, however the real force at work here is heat over time. The longer they cook, the more the tissues are broken down (and the more the meat absorbs flavor) which results in something tender and oh-so-yummy.


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