By Fernando and Marlene Divina
During the cool winter months, much of our menu planning shifts to quite simple fare that is easy - from planning to serving to preparing and cleanup. These hearty dishes pack a powerful flavor punch and a resonance that remains long after the post-production cleanup. For us, in the winter, braised proteins and meats from hooved animals in particular are relished. We recommend a dish like this to celebrate the frigid months of our Pacific Northwest winter, There are ranches and farms that produce products in a regenerative and sustainable manner. Find one in your community and support them.
The method and process used to make unctuous oxtails applies to all meat joints and cuts with similar meat-to-bone ratios like hocks, shanks, and shoulders. Once you master this recipe, apply it to expand your menu planning. Slow cooked dishes like these improve when cooked, cooled, and reheated making them ideal make-ahead solutions that also freeze well.
Preheat oven to 300°F
5-6 small paste-type tomatoes like Roma, about 1 ½ cups
1 small white onion, about 1 generous cup finished product
1 1/2 tablespoons neutral oil or canola oil
3 pounds cut oxtail sections
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
Scant ¼ cup all purpose flour for dredging
1 small celery root, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice, about a generous cup
2 small carrots, scrape, trimmed and cut into 6 pieces each, about 3/4 cup
1/2 pound wild or domestic mushrooms; wiped and torn or cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup tomato puree
3-4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced, about 28 grams1 cup dry sherry (or substitute red wine or dry white wine)
1/2 inch lemon slice, seeded. Remove after cooking and before serving or storing
1 quart stock made from roasted beef bones or substitute low sodium beef stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. Fennel seed, ground
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Tabasco of favorite hot sauce
Here is a flavor building step you may opt for long-cooked dishes to impart a little smoke from the fire.
If you have access to a grill, begin by placing the halved tomatoes and quartered onion directly on a hot grill and allow to blacken slightly and blister the skin of the tomatoes while merely letting the onion soften and benefit by its own smoke.
Peel the tomato skin away from the flesh, remove the core and halve, then cut into 1/2 inch dice.
(If you plan to forego the previous step of grilling the vegetables, simply cut into the prescribed fashion and begin.)
To cook the oxtails
1. Measure the oil into a heavy pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients and place over a medium high flame. Before adding the oxtails, season the meat with salt and pepper, dredge in the flour then brown the piece in the pan, turning to brown evenly.
2. Add the celery root, carrots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring from time to time for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato puree, fold the puree into the mixture to fully incorporate and cook stirring for another 3 minutes.
3. Add the sherry and bring to simmer, cook for a few minutes to cook out the alcohol.
4. Now add the lemon, stock, bay leaf, fennel and mustard. Bring the liquid to a boil. As small particles of proteins coalesce as they rise to the surface, skim and discard them. Or my dog likes them on her food so feed them to Fido!
5. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven. Cook for about 2 hours, then remove the pan from the oven. Taste the liquid and skim fat from the surface if it is present. Add the Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces now with additional salt or pepper if you like. With a fork, check for tenderness. The meat should slide off of the bone with a few remaining bits attached to the cartilage. Cook until the meat reaches this state of tenderness. Allow the oxtails to relax in a warm spot on a trivet or the stovetop for at least 10 minutes or up to the day prior, reheated.
This is particularly good with a slice of buttered, crusty bread, potato puree notwithstanding!