"Now this is how oxtails should taste," my father declared after taking a bite of these glazed oxtails.
I couldn't agree more. We have a thing for oxtails in our family. Oxtail stew was a favorite winter dish my mom prepared when we were growing up.
What Are Oxtails?
If you are unfamiliar with oxtails, they are tails of beef cattle (formerly only steers, now both male or female), typically sold cut into segments. Most of what you buy is bone, and the meat is well exercised and fatty, so oxtail preparations lend themselves to slow cooking.
Oxtails are a lot like short-ribs, but in my opinion, even better. Think of the best pulled pork imaginable, but with beef.
In this recipe the oxtails are first browned, then slow cooked with red wine and stock. Then the segments are removed so you can strip the meat off of them and the liquid is reduced to a glaze.
It's actually pretty easy to make, most of the cooking time is hands-off while the oxtails are simmering.
The Best Wine for Glazed Oxtails
Any of these full-bodied, dry red wines work well in this recipe.
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Why Oxtails Are Better the Next Day
You know how beef stew is better the next day because the flavors all meld together overnight? That's the same thing that happens with this oxtail recipe. It starts out very much like a stew, and the flavors from the wine, stock, herbs and vegetables with the meat improve overnight.
Another plus is the fat solidifies when the stew is refrigerated, which makes it a lot easier to remove. Sometimes a lot of fat renders off when you cook oxtails.
Great Ideas to Serve With Oxtails
- Creamy Polenta
- Homemade Pasta
- Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale
- White Rice
- Roasted Radish and Feta Salad
As in any recipe that requires an entire bottle of wine, use a wine that you would enjoy drinking. The flavor of the wine will only be concentrated in this recipe, so if you don't like it to start with, you will not like it in this dish.
- 4 pounds oxtails
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped carrot
- 1 (750ml) bottle full-bodied red wine
- 4 cups veal, beef, or chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Freshly ground pepper
Brown the oxtails:
Pat the oxtails dry with paper towels and sprinkle them on all sides with salt. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 5 to 6-quart, thick-bottomed Dutch oven on medium-high to high heat. Working in batches, add the oxtails to the pan, fat side down. Add more oil as needed with additional batches of oxtails. Do not crowd the pan.
Let them get well browned on one side before flipping over with tongs. Brown well on all sides. Remove to a large bowl.
Sauté the vegetables:
Add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot. Sauté until translucent and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pot to a bowl, cover and set aside.
Deglaze the pan:
Add the bottle of wine to the pot. Increase the heat to as high as it will go, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil the wine, uncovered, until it is reduced to about a cup.
Simmer the oxtails 2 1/2 hours:
Return the oxtails to the pot (but not the vegetables). Add the stock and enough water to just cover them. Add the thyme. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, covered.
Simmer on the stovetop for 2 1/2 hours. (You can also place the simmering oxtails in a 350°F oven for the same amount of time if the oven is more convenient.)
Add the vegetables:
Add the vegetables back to the pot and simmer 30 minutes longer.
Remove the pot from heat and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator overnight so that the flavors blend and the fat on the surface solidifies, making it easier to remove. You can skip this step, but the oxtails will be better if they are chilled in this state overnight.
Remove excess fat:
The next day, remove the pot from the refrigerator and scrape off the layer of rendered fat that has solidified on top of the oxtails. If you are not waiting for the oxtails to chill, the fat still needs to be removed. If working with a room temperature or warm pot, use a fat separator or a large metal spoon to skim away the fat.
Reheat, remove meat from bones:
Heat the oxtails on medium heat. Cook uncovered for about another half an hour, or until the meat can easily be pulled off the bones. Then use a slotted spoon to remove the oxtails from the pot. Let cool enough to touch. Use your hands to remove the meat from the bones to a bowl. Take care to remove as well the round tough cartilage caps on either end of the vertebrae.
Strain and reduce the sauce:
(Optional, if you want a smoother glaze) While the oxtails are cooling in the step above, strain the mixture in the pot, discarding the solids and returning the liquid to the pot. Increase the heat to high to bring the liquid to a boil.
Simmer meat until sauce reduces to a glaze:
When the liquid has reduced by about a half, add the oxtail meat back to the pot. Bring to a boil, continue to boil away the liquid until it has reduced to a light syrupy consistency.
As the mixture boils down, you may want to reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir the oxtails a little so that the glaze doesn't burn and so that the meat doesn't stick to the pan. When the right consistency, remove from heat and serve.