I remember the first time I ordered oxtail stew at a restaurant. My friends all said it was the most delicious beef stew I would ever enjoy, so how could I resist? It sounded weird, but once I had my first bite I understood why this dish has never gone out of style.
Let's clear up the myth that oxtails are from an ox. They are actually the tail meat of the steer. Oxtails are a tough cut and need to be slowly braised to bring out their tenderness. If you are watching your budget, they are a great alternative to more expensive stewing meat cuts. Ask your butcher to cut the oxtails into 2-inch very meaty slices.
If you love shortribs, you are sure to enjoy these tender morsels. The oxtails are slowly braised in a tomato sauce accented with bacon, anchovy paste and briny olives. Make this stew up a day or two ahead of time so you can refrigerate it and skim off all of the accumulated fat before reheating.
This is a perfect main course on a chilly autumn night. I like to serve the stew with either simple buttered egg noodles, mashed potatoes or roasted baby potatoes. Steamed green beans or spinach also make a nice accompaniment. To drink? Serve a Syrah, Zinfandel or Malbec.
Braised Oxtail Stew with Olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds oxtails, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 pound bacon, cut into lardoons, 1/4-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups beef broth
2 cups white wine
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Brown the meat in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan. This should take about 4-5 minutes for each batch. Remove to a side bowl and set aside. Add the onions, carrots and bacon, and then saute until the onions are softened and bacon is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Return the oxtails to the pot with the broth, wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, anchovy paste, salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 3 hours or until the oxtails are very tender and the meat pulls away from the bone easily. Skim the broth occasionally.
3. When the oxtails are tender, add the olives and vinegar and cook another minute. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate at least overnight.
4. When ready to serve, skim the fat off the top. Gently reheat until simmering. Place in a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Holidays," and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)