When I buy oxtail at the grocery store I typically get two very different responses. More than once, the butcher or the bagger (usually male) got wide-eyed and said “Do you like ox-tail?” And when I assured him that I very much do, and that I am indeed buying it for human consumption and not just to feed my dog, he tells me how his mother or grandmother made oxtail soup and proceeds to invite himself over for dinner. On the other hand, the cashier and the woman behind me in line (with her white bread, soda, crackers, cheezy puffs, etc.) will squeal in disgust and act as though I was planning to bite the head off a puppy or something. Odd, considering how oxtail used to be a traditional southern food, and even odder that ham hocks are still embraced with open arms by most southern ladies. But oxtail is still very popular around the world, and many places have their own recipes, such as:
Korean (Gori gomtang) - usually includes ginger
Italy’s Coda alla vaccinara - with white wine and aromatics
Filipino Kare Kare - ground peanuts are an essential ingredient
Jamaica’s version - hot peppers make it spicier
African style oxtail - typically includes beans
Spanish (Rabo De Toro) – with paprika, sherry and/or brandy, and sometime chocolate!
Most recipes using oxtail are for soups and stews because this cut of meat needs to cook for a long time in order to break down the connective tissue. But don’t let that scare you away, because once it does break down, this is some of the most tender and flavorful beef money can buy. Oxtail may be hard to find in some areas because the butchers are rumored to keep it all for themselves.
And while it still isn’t a common dish, it seems to be gaining popularity here due to the changing demographics because it’s now available in most of our local grocery stores. So even though I prefer to buy oxtail from a grass fed source like U.S Wellness Meats, I’ll snag a few packs when the local grocer wasn’t able to get the supply/demand formula quite right:
The last time I made oxtail soup, it was a little too heavy for me and I wanted to lighten up this version. So in my usual manner of reading a dozen or so recipes and taking stock of what I have on hand, I came up with the recipe below, and in order to help my fellow Southerners better appreciate this fine cut of meat, I now present:
4-5 pounds oxtail
2 tablespoons beef tallow
3 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small head cabbage, chopped and sliced into thin inch long strips
1 cup or so of sweet, hot or mixed peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped
8 cups beef broth, homemade is best
1 quart tomato sauce (or chopped tomatoes if you prefer)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice (not very Southern, but worth straying!)
2 Tablespoons vinegar (I used coconut vinegar but most any vinegar would be fine)
Salt and pepper as desired
Large heavy pot with lid, like a Dutch or French oven
Tongs are useful, but not necessary
Heat the pot over medium heat.
Liberally season the meat with salt and pepper.
Add tallow to the pot:
I rendered in January! Still perfectly delicious.
And brown the meat on all sides, transforming it from this:
After the last batch of meat is browned, add the sliced onions to the beef drippings and saute for 7 to 10 minutes.
I bet little cave kids used these as toys. It kind of reminds me of Snorkledorf
When you’re ready to eat, just reheat and serve. Here’s the soup…a big bowl of boring brown, but seriously delicious brown.
Do you remember Snorkledorf?