Turn on an Alizee song, light up your fireplace, and grab your current favorite reading piece, because classical and comforting food is coming your way.
Braised dishes are grand and homey, perfect for an intimate dinner or group gathering. They are the Swiss Army knife of the culinary world. Just about anything – meat, fish, vegetable – cooked low and slow in a flavorful bath will be remarkable. This is all the more true when braising one of the most unctuous, royal, and yet misunderstood of ingredients – oxtails. Of course, they are one of my favorites.
Oxtails are the reason why French onion soups and rich demi-glazes exist. They are one of the tastiest parts of the cow and most importantly, so full of marrow and gelatinous fats/tendons that just naturally melt into any soup, stock, or braise when asked to. I have friends that turn up their nose when they hear “oxtails”, but I guarantee this recipe will turn heads and change oxtail affiliations at your next dinner party.
The red wine braise is a classic French style of cooking. The acid from the wine helps further tenderize the oxtail. And throughout the braising process, the oxtail flavors meld into the wine and other aromatics (such as tomato paste, garlic and thyme to name a few) to craft a delectable and deeply satisfying braising liquid, which doubles as our sauce. A simple couscous, polenta or rice underneath the oxtail help soap up all the euphoric marrow-laced and beefy fatty braising liquid. Your family and friends will think of you as a hero.
Red wine braised oxtail recipe
Ingredients (serves 4-6 people or one hungry dog):
- 3-4 lbs of oxtail
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch long pieces
- 3 carrot sticks, cut into 1-inch long pieces
- 1 red onion, quartered
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 bottle red wine, preferably a cheap Burgundy
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Lots of salt and pepper
- Plenty of couscous (I used the instant stuff from Whole Foods cooked in beef broth with sautéed garlic, red onions, and red pepper flakes and topped with parmesan cheese and plenty of salt and pepper)
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
We start off this dish with a multi-tasking. Place a large pot over medium-high heat and allow it to come up to heat. Season the oxtails liberally with salt. Add olive oil and place in a handful of the oxtails. Be mindful not to overcrowd the pot. This would bring down the temperature of the cooking surface and not allow us to caramelize the meat and develop a sexy and delicious crust. Allow the oxtails to sear at least 3-5 minutes per side. Cook in batches until all your oxtails are generously seared and reserve all the oxtail fat that renders out.
As the oxtails earn their flavorful seared crystals, place the garlic, onion, celery and carrot into a blender. Puree the vegetable mixture with the help of a bit of water and olive oil. Once pureed, season it with salt and pepper.
Turn the heat down to medium and remove the pot from the stove for a couple seconds to have it cool. Add butter, olive oil, and vegetable puree and have it cook for a couple of minutes. Move all the vegetable puree to one side of the pot and add the tomato paste to the exposed pot. Have it caramelize and toast a bit before mixing it into the vegetable blend. Add the rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and honey.
Pour in the entire bottle of red wine. Stir everything around and have it come up to a boil. Once boiling, remove the pot off the heat. Throw back in the rested and seared oxtails. Add the water if there is not enough wine in the pot. We want the braising liquid to go up about half way up the oxtail. There’s no harm in having it fully submerged in the braising liquid, but it will lose its structural integrity when trying to serve to friends. Season the entire braise with salt and pepper. Cover the pot with tin foil and pop it in the oven for 3 to 3.5 hours. No peeping!
Remove the pot from the oven and have it cool. Spoon out 1-2 cups worth of the braising liquid into a small sauce pan. Turn the heat up to high and have the sauce reduce for 5 minutes. Afterward, remove it from the heat and stir in cold butter.
Serve the braised oxtail on top of a bed of parmesan couscous and pour on top a spoonful of the reduced, buttery (and shiny) braising liquid. Don’t forget to sprinkle on top a helping of parsley, for its color. This is pure meaty gold. Your friends will be convinced of this too! Enjoy!