If you buy a whole or half beef in bulk directly from a farmer (shout-out to our loyal beef customers!), or butcher your own, you’ll likely end up with a few odd cuts of meat you’d never see in the grocery store and may not know what to do with.
One of those rare but delicious cuts is the oxtail.
The oxtail is the tail of any beef animal, no matter if your beef was a heifer or steer, Angus or Limousin
The tail is a well-used appendage and works overtime. Its muscles are strong, well-developed, and beautifully marbled (which means it’s also full of flavor). Because of that, it needs to be braised low and slow so that the meat melts off the bone, tender and succulent, rich and delicious.
The first time I was going to cook an oxtail, I turned to Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking.
This is one of my very favorite resources for traditional cooking skills and recipes. If I’m going to do anything old-school, or make something off the beaten path (liver, sweet breads, home dairy, a whole goose), I always open this cookbook first and Darina always has something insightful to teach me.
I’ve since adapted her recipe to make better use of the ingredients I have on hand and adjusted to my own method and preferences. The basic method is this: sauté the vegetables in lard, brown the meat in the drippings, add wine and deglaze the pan, add stock and tomato paste and herbs, return the vegetables and meat to the pan, cover, and braise all afternoon on low heat.
I use the same method to cook beef shanks (another rare cut whose praises I will sing all day long) with only a few variations.
For these cold midwinter days as I’m working my way through the freezer and looking for hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare to warm cold fingers and toes after hours spent outside in the snow, you just can’t beat this hearty, delicious oxtail stew.
Farmer’s Oxtail Stew
- 2 Tbsp beef drippings OR lard
- 3-4 strips bacon (optional)*
- 2 carrots, diced
- 3-4 celery ribs, diced
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 oxtail, cut into segments
- 1 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1.5" cubes
- 1 cup red wine
- 4 cups beef stock*
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Heat beef drippings or lard a dutch oven or heavy oven-safe saucepan.
- Add the bacon (if using) and sautéed 1-2 minutes.
- Add onions, celery, and carrots and sautée 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bacon and vegetables and set aside.
- Add oxtails to the hot drippings, turning every 2-3 minutes to brown each side. Remove and set aside. Add the beef stew and do the same. Remove and set aside.
- Add the wine and 1 cup of beef stock to the dutch oven and bring to a gentle boil, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the broth, herbs, and tomato paste. Season with salt & ground pepper.
- Return oxtails, beef stew meat, and vegetables to the dutch oven. Stir to combine.
- Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook gently for 3-4 hours until the vegetables are very tender and the meat is falling off the bones.
- Use a fork to pull the meat from the bones, removing the bones. Taste & season if necessary with salt & freshly ground pepper.
- Serve over buttered mashed potatoes or polenta.