About once a year I get up the gumption to make my oxtail stew. With the cold weather and my generally foul mood of late, I figured that today was the day for making this ultimate of Vicky comfort foods.
Unfortunately the most common reaction I receive when I tell people I’m going to make oxtail stew is, “Ox tail? Like the tail of an actual ox? Um, no thank you.”
On the one hand this is a crying shame, as these poor people are missing out on a very good thing indeed. On the other hand I don’t cry too much as it means that I get to keep the entire pot of stew for myself, which suits me just fine.
The recipe is one of my own devising and does not reflect many modern cooking sensibilities. First of all it uses oxtail, which, as alluded to above, is considered a beef by-product by most Americans. Secondly it uses spices which are not in favor in modern savory cuisine. Rather, they hearken back to medieval preparations. I don’t mind, as the final product is outstanding regardless. And now here it is, the never before published recipe for Brasseur’s Oxtail Stew:
- About 2 lbs oxtail (one entire tail; your butcher will cut it for you)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tsp flour
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbl vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
- 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbl. tomato paste
- 1# turnips, 1″ chunks
- 1# rutabega, 1″ chunks
- 1# parsnip, 1″ chunks
- 1# carrots, 1″ chunks
- 2 cups strong red wine
- 1 quart beef stock
- 1/2 oz dried mushrooms (optional)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 8 or so whole cloves
- 8 or so whole allspice berries
- 3 or 4 large sprigs of thyme
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 325° F
- If using the dried mushrooms. heat 1/2 cup of the stock then soak the mushrooms in it until needed.
- Heat the oil in a heavy oven-proof dutch oven.
- Mix the salt, pepper and flour in a zip top bag. Coat each piece of oxtail in the flour mixture. Brown in batches in the dutch oven. Set the oxtail aside.
- In the remaining oil, sautee the onion and garlic until softened.
- Push the onion and garlic to the sides of the pan and sautee the tomato paste in the middle for a couple of minutes.
- Add the wine, spices, vegetables, oxtail and enough stock just to cover.
- Bring the pot to a simmer, then cover tightly and place in the oven for three to four hours.
- Remove the whole herbs and spices which you can find
- Add salt to taste.
- Serve over buttered noodles, hearty bread, polenta or whatever else you feel like.
By the end of the cooking the mixture will be coated in this fantastically aromatic unctuous sauce. Please keep in mind that there is nothing subtle about this dish. The flavors are bold and in your face, but warm and comforting. Also, please remember to pick up the oxtail bones and suck on them a bit. Otherwise you’re missing all the really good stuff. Yes, the bone looks like a vertebra once you get all the meat and fat off of it. That’s only because it is. It’s tasty. Deal with it.
At the end of it all the meal ended up fantastic. I highly recommend this recipe to anyone who’s spending the day in the house anyway and who wants a good hearty tasty meal. Your house will smell fantastic and you’ll be happy that you took the time to try it.