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Ox Tail Stew

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Until recently I eluded cooking ox tail stew, I thought beef tails were best for meat jelly (kholodets), one very popular Russian dish. Besides, the idea of eating  t-a-i-l-s  just didn't appeal to me. Boy was I wrong. A friend of mine enlightened me and handed out the best pack of tails he had in his store.

I compiled my today's recipe from a few I found on the web. It is very time consuming, since ox tails cook for a few hours to get meltingly tender, and that's what you should be striving for.  The good thing is you don't have to stand over the range, just check every hour or so. Well, let me tell you how I did oxtails for the first time in my life.

What you need:
About 2 lb ox tails cut in 1.5-2" chunks
3 medium onions, chopped
1 big carrot, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
Black ground pepper
Black pepper corns
2 bay leaves
Other spices of your choice
2 tbsp flour
Filtered water
2-3 tbsp oil
Deep skillet/frying pan with lid

Put skillet with oil on medium heat. Slightly salt and pepper oxtail pieces, roll in flour, shake off excess flour, and brown on all sides on your heated skillet. Add onions and saute until onion pieces are golden. Add a little more salt. Barely cover with boiling water, turn heat on low, and simmer for about 4 hours, checking every 40 min or an hour. If water evaporates too much, add more.
In 2 hours turn pieces over. In 3 hours check if the tails are tender. Their readiness depends on the quality of the meat. The meat should almost fall off the bones, then the tails are ready. So when they are soft to the fork, add carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, other spices, taste for salt, add more if needed, skim access fat from the surface. I put carrots in the stew about 3.5+ hours later from the beginning. It could be different in your case. Please make sure that you have enough gravy in the end - it is delicious!
Serve with pasta, rice, buckwheat or other grains. Potatoes would do, too.
The result was marvelous: the meat was ve-e-ry tender (literally melting in my mouth), with robust flavour that is impossible to achieve with just beef, and the sweetness of carrots complimented it nicely.

Please be patient. The key is to cook long enough to get to the point when the meat is almost off the bones, but still holding on. Set the timer every time you leave the kitchen, and you'll be fine. :)
I used buckwheat as a side dish - works perfectly well, especially with the rich gravy. Sucking out the broth from the bones was a bonus pleasure.
Some ox tails recipes that I found call for dry red wine or beer for the gravy. Sounds interesting, but I will try it next time.
The dish was so good, it will definitely be in the list of favourites now, it's a real discovery for me.

M-m-m-m...M-m-m-m... Can I have some more, please?..

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