This recipe is one of the recipes in the book that I was pretty sure I would never get to make, because really--how often do you go to the supermarket and see oxtails snuggled up next to the hamburger? Like, never. I have never ever seen them for sale and I was sure I'd have to special order them or drive into Boston to shop at one of the many Asian supermarkets.
But, there I was one evening browsing the meat department of our brand new Market Basket, and what do I see? Oxtails. Yes, this is the same store that had rabbit, and they have an offal section too so be prepared!!
It goes without saying that I've never cooked with oxtails. Perhaps you never have either. This is what they look like:
It never occurred to me that a package of oxtail would actually be one tail chopped up but that's clearly what it is. Hmm. I'm not a vegetarian anymore but it's hard not to see the source animal and feel sorry for it. Sorry cow! Thank you for being my dinner!!
There was a bit of a disconnect for me between buying the oxtails and looking at the recipe, so when I DID look at the recipe I was like, damn, this calls for 6 lb.s of oxtails and I only have one. Back to the store! And, no oxtails to be found! So I got some short ribs, figuring same basic idea (a lot of bone and some meat/cartilage). And I decided to cut the recipe in half since there were not 6 to 8 of us, just 2.
I was amused to note the amount of chorizo in the recipe. For six pounds of oxtails, the recipe calls for a mere 1/4 pound of chorizo. That ain't much, folks. There are more carrots than chorizo. But it looks good in the title, I guess!
Here is my 1/8 lb. of chorizo for my half recipe:
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The idea here is to sear the oxtails in an oven-safe pot, then set them aside while you make the sauce. OK, back to the chorizo. Grind it up:
...and saute in some of the oxtail fat with chopped onions, carrots, garlic and a bay leaf:
Add paprika and then some dry white wine and bring to a boil, deglazing the pot. Add the seared oxtails and chopped canned tomatoes so that the liquid is about half way up the meat, put the lid on, and then pop that baby in a 350 oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
The recipe says this is best made a day or two ahead, and that's exactly what I did. I cooked this while we had something else for dinner, and the next day I was all about getting the fat out.
This is not as easy as it seems, because what you're looking at in the now-cold pot is something like meat islands in a sea of fat--it's all kind of integrated. My solution was this--I heated it up to boiling, then removed the oxtails (and ribs) and set them aside. The sauce at this point was pretty thick--not very liquidy, and I didn't want to solidify the fat and have it catch some of the tomatoes or carrots in it...so I knew I needed a) more liquid and b) a tall, narrow container to cool it down so the fat would be up high on top, far away from the veggies.
My solution? A blender. I added water to the sauce, put it in a blender and threw it in the fridge. Later that day, a nice fat cap that popped right off and went in the trash.
Here's the dinner plate:
Totally worth the wait! I have to say that knives and forks really don't suffice for this dish--it sort of devolves into a finger-food experience because of the odd shape of the bones. The flavor--fantastic. The sauce is rich and complex, and complements the meat beautifully.
Stay tuned for more dishes featuring offal--I have at least three in The Gourmet Cookbook: Sliced Calf's Liver with Golden Onions; Tongue with Mustard Horseradish Sauce; and Crispy Sweetbreads with Parsnip Potato Puree, Braised Endives, and Port Sauce.