Oh, oxtail… I love oxtail. You’d be hard pressed to find a more flavorful and fall-off-the-bone kind of meat. Paired with cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, and piled onto pretty much any starch, it’s comfort food at its best. Its stick-to-your-ribs quality combined with the long, house-warming braise required to cook it is a perfect recipe for staying warm, which is exactly what many of us need right now. This isn’t pretty eating- the shape of the bones makes for some pretty intense maneuvering to get to all of the delicious bits of meat and cartilage, so save it for eating with someone with whom you are totally comfortable getting messy at the table. You can serve this with something green and crunchy to keep the meal from getting too heavy, and make it ahead- it’s even better after sitting for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
A few notes: I use green peppercorns here for their light, floral notes, but you can use black peppercorns if that’s what you have. If cooking with wine isn’t your thing, replace it with more beef stock. As far as braised oxtail recipes go, this method is pretty standard, so feel free to swap out the spices for others that you have on hand (but give this combination a try- it’s quite good). If you’ve never learned how to cook oxtails before, this is a great way to start.
Oxtail Braised in Red Wine with Cinnamon and Cloves
Special Equipment: A dutch oven or another heavy-lidded, oven-safe pot
3 to 4 lbs oxtail
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
6 allspice berries
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon whole green peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Half a bottle of dry red wine
Homemade beef stock
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Season the oxtails with kosher salt.
2. In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, brown the oxtails on all sides, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding (and thereby steaming) the meat.
3. Once the oxtails are all deeply browned, remove them to a plate and then add the onions and carrots to the pot along with a couple healthy pinches of salt. You may need another splash of olive oil if there isnt enough fat left in the pot. Add the spices and bay leaf. Let the onions slowly caramelize over medium heat until soft and golden, about ten minutes.
4. Pour the wine into the pot and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all of the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the pot and incorporating them into the wine. Nestle the oxtails into the wine, then add enough beef stock to come just above 3/4 of the way up the oxtails.
5. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover and remove to the oven. Cook for two hours or until the meat is tender and pulls easily from the bone.
6. At this point, you can serve the oxtail right away; however, I like to turn off the oven and leave the oxtails in there to slowly cool for a couple of hours. This makes them even more tender and gives more time for the flavors to meld. You can also move the pot to the fridge overnight to let it chill further and then remove the excess fat the next day before reheating and serving, if you’d like.
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