30 January 2007

Braising the Night Away

You can have your prime cut steaks—juicy rib eye, thick porterhouse, tender filet mignon—grilled to medium-rare perfection. I'll take a tough cut of meat braised to soft, buttery goodness over those premium pieces any day. When handled with patience and care, they are as rich and rewarding as any marbled beef.

Last weekend, I stayed in one evening to cook a large pot of oxtail for my eating pleasure. Slow cooking transforms this "scrap", releasing its full flavor and lush gelatinous texture. The next day I had it over a bed of rice.


6 lb (2- to 3-inch-pieces) meaty oxtails
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb mild Spanish chorizo (spicy cured pork sausage)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée, coarsely chopped (including purée) in a food processor
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
Special equipment: an 8- to 9-quart heavy pot

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat oxtails dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown oxtails in batches without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

Remove and discard casing from chorizo, then finely chop sausage in food processor.
Cook chorizo, onion, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf in fat in pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add oxtails with any juices accumulated in bowl and chopped tomatoes (liquid should come about halfway up sides of meat) and bring to a boil.

Cover pot and braise oxtails in lower third of oven, turning once or twice, until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Skim fat from sauce, then stir in parsley, cilantro, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cooks' notes:
• Oxtails improve in flavor if braised 2 days ahead (add parsley, cilantro, and vinegar just before serving). Cool, uncovered, then chill, surface covered with parchment paper or wax paper and pot covered with lid. Remove any solidified fat before reheating.
• You can also braise oxtails in a roasting pan. First brown oxtails in a 12-inch heavy skillet, then transfer them to a roasting pan just large enough to hold oxtails in 1 layer.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Gourmet, January 2003

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Blogger Andreea said...

this in wonderful. i love slow cooking. so tasty and great for dinner parties.

2/02/2007 2:31 AM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

How interesting--I've never had oxtails--what are they like? (Earthy? Mild? Gamey?)


2/04/2007 6:36 PM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

Hello Andreea,

Welcome. I totally agree. I like to pop things in the oven and let the low heat work its magic while I do other things; and it's definitely the way to minimize the stress factor in dinner parties.

: ) Blue Plate

2/04/2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

Hello Jasmine.

Earthy, for sure. There's also a slight gelatinous quality and texture to meat; and while that may sound unpleasant if you don't like that kind of mouthfeel, I do and think it makes this cut of meat that more lush and flavorful.

Jamaicans make a wonderful oxtail stew and so do the Cubans. They are good places to start if you want to give oxtail a try, although cusines from other countries cook with it, too.

: ) Blue Plate

2/04/2007 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

That looks delicious! Just the thing for this arctic chill we're having on the east coast. Another benefit of stew for those of us in colder climates is having the oven or the stove on for hours while the stew slowly simmers.

I completely agree about the cuts that have a gelatinous quality being the most delicious. Shortribs and chuck roast fall into this category also.

2/06/2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

Hello Julie,

True. Keeping warm is important, although I don't need to try very hard here in milder LA. I love shortribs too, but I don't cook with chuck roast as much.

Bundle up and I hope Spring is around the corner for you.

: ) Blue Plate.

2/08/2007 2:43 PM  

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