Oxtail Stew, Cheering Up A Dreary Day

Today is a dreary New England day. I thought that I could transform it from dreary into cozy with a bowl of oxtails and a loaf of bread. Truthfully, I haven’t seen much oxtail up here, so when I saw it at the market, I jumped on it.  Is it just that I haven’t noticed it?

One might assume oxtail would be found in any market.  When you appraise the cultures that eat oxtail, you cross every corner of the world from Asia & Eastern Europe to the myriad islands of the Caribbean. Not surprisingly the preparation method in each area is very similar and it is typically served in soup or stew form.  Large pieces of oxtail cut from the top of the tail are marbled meat steaks with a round tail bone through the center. Smaller pieces have more bone than meat but add rich flavor to a broth.

I think the first time I really appreciated oxtail was in college.  A friend in the dorm had just discovered a place serving Jamaican style comfort food and he was eager to share. I was hungry to try everything. We feasted on take-out of rich greasy beef in a thick stew flavored heavily with allspice.  I nibbled on large pieces trying coerce the succulent meat that tried in vain to cling to the bone.  The sauce dripped down my chin and my hands were a mess.

I was in love!

Oxtail can be very tough, but low and slow with get you there every time. Look for high quality oxtails from your butcher.  If possible, select pieces of similar size so that they cook more evenly.

Oxtail Soup serves 4

  • 2-3lb Oxtail, trimmed of excess fat 
  • Scant 1/4c Flour (more flour = thicker sauce)
  • Salt/pepper
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1Tb paprika
  • 1t oregano
  • 1t thyme
  • 1T tomato paste
  • 1/2c red wine
  • 2c broth
  • Dried mushrooms +1/2 soaking liquid*
  • 3 carrots, 1” dice
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 14/c fresh parsley, chopped. For garnish.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

*dried mushrooms: I happen to have a couple lovely jars of dried mushrooms hanging out in my pantry and I just grab a handful here and there. I used one handful of mixed dried mushrooms and covered them with 1/2c boiling water. You could also use hot broth.  If you are purchasing dried mushrooms, look for dried porcini or shitake.

Begin by patting the meat dry and then season the oxtail with salt & pepper. Dust lightly with flour.  Using your beloved dutch oven, and working in batches, brown the oxtails on all sides and remove to a plate.

Drain any excess fat, leaving 2T in the pan.  Add the thinly sliced onions to the pan and allow to cook down until translucent and soft.  Add the sliced garlic and cook 3-5 more minutes.  Next add the spices and tomato paste. When the mixture begins to stick, de-glaze the pan with red wine. Stir scraping up any brown bits of flavor. Next add the broth, mushrooms, carrots and bay. Add the oxtail back to the pan and bring the stew to a simmer.  Partially cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Allow the stew to bake in the over (or stew on the stove) for 2-4 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone tender.

Serve with buttered noodles and large pieces of hearty bread.

This meal will warm your soul.