Oxtail - isn't it beautiful? I admit that I blatantly nicked the idea for today's post from the wonderful Jeanne in London, who wrote about a 20-hour sous vide oxtail stew in her award-winning blog, Cook Sister! Here's my oxtail story.
Albarracín at night, March 2008
I still remember my first encounter with oxtail - on a plate, I mean. My dear K. and I were travelling in Spain in March 2008, visiting the lovely Ximena of the Lobstersquad fame in Madrid, and visiting some other off-the-beaten-track cities that Ximena and her also very lovely husband J. had suggested. One late afternoon we arrived in the picturesque Albarracín in Aragon (yep, on the lands of the medieval Kingdom of Aragón). After checking into our hotel for the night, we wandered on the streets of Albaraccín, looking for a tiny restaurant called Rincón del Chorro. Somebody somewhere had recommended it, you see. The night was already dark, but we were obviously too early for dinner, as all we found was a locked door. We returned an hour later, to find a small but busy restaurant. The menu wasn't long - I opted for the pickled partridge (a local speciality, I was told), K. ordered the rabo del toro or oxtail.
Both were brought to the table pretty quickly. While the partridge was lovely, the oxtail was wonderful and although the idea of cooking it myself seemed a wee bit daunting initially, I've become a huge oxtail convert over the years and cook this particular cut of beef regularly.
My favourite oxtail dish takes slightly less time to cook than Jeanne's and as there's definitely no sous-vide machine in my kitchen, it can be cooked in a simple stovetop saucepan. But I guarantee it'll be just as delicious ;) The inspiration for the dish is from a blog written by an Estonian restaurateur, Mme Randrüüt - see here. It's an interpretation of the French classic, mijotée de queue de boeuf et purée de céleri rave or stewed oxtail with celeriac pureé. If you haven't cooked oxtail before, then slowly cooked oxtail has the most wonderful sweet and meaty flavour, which is pretty much universally liked. While we happily gnaw away on the slowly cooked oxtail pieces (there's a link to another oxtail stew recipe here on Nami-Nami at the bottom of this post), it can be intimidating to somebody who's new to oxtail - or if you're wanting to serve oxtail in a slightly more elegant manner. This oxtail ragout is the perfect solution then.
In Estonia I usually get my oxtail cut into chunks and packed neatly on a tray. Very convenient, even if it is only sold in one major supermarket and only on certain days, so one has to pre-plan carefully. If you have a friendly butcher at your favourite market, you can obviously order some whenever you need it.
Oxtail ragout with celeriac mash
Serves two to three (can be easily doubled)
1 kg oxtail pieces
2-3 Tbsp oil
500 ml (2 cups) boiling water
few fresh parsley sprigs
few fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
3-4 whole black peppercorns
3-4 whole allspice berries
salt, to taste
Season the oxtail pieces with salt.
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, sauté the oxtail pieces until dark golden brown on all sides.
Add the water, herbs and seasonings. Bring into a boil, then reduce heat and cover the saucepan. Simmer gently for about 3-4 hours until meat falls off the bones easily.
Remove from the heat, cool. Remove the meat off the bones, discard the bones and return the meat into the stew.
(This can be done a day in advance).
Skim the excess fat from the top of the stew. Re-heat the stew and simmer gently for another hour or two, until the stew has thickened. Taste for seasoning.
Serve with a celeriac/root celery mash - prepare like your regular potato mash, just use root celery instead.
Looking for more oxtail inspiration? Here are some recipes:
Papardelle with oxtail ragu by Skye Gyngell
Oxtail ragout with papardelle by Sammy and Bella (My Kitchen Rules)
Oxtail braised in dark beer by Nami-Nami
Coda alla vaccinaria by Food Lover's Odyssey
Glazed oxtails by Simply Recipes
Korean braised oxtail by Kitchen Wench
Alsatian oxtail stew by Choosy Beggars
Home Cuisine: French Location: Spain Recipes: Gluten-free Recipes: Offal Recipes: Red Meat Oxtail ragout with celeriac mash