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Oxtail

April 10, 2007

Seeing some beautiful oxtail in the counter of the butcher, about the first time I was seeing decent tail forever (please…), just got me excited to make some. I had read Becks & Posh’s account with Heston Blumenthal’s oxtail recipe that completely convinced me not to make his, but the results being that good leaned me towards his ingredients at least. Blumenthal doesn’t go easy on the expenditures, his recipe cost B&P’s a 100$, something I was not willing to spend. So I decided to go easy on the wine, using my usual cooking wine: wine in a box. It ain’t the greatest wine but once reduced to hell, what difference will it make really (a big one would say Blumenthal, none would say my wallet). Also, the time factor of the recipe is a bit much, not cooking time.

  • 1 oxtail, jointed
  • 1 bottle of red
  • 2/3 cup of port
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 3 carrots, minced
  • ½ pound of bacon, minced
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 allspice whole
  • 1 star anis
  • the zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

With that said, I decided to take normal braising technique, similar ingredients and long cooking time to achieve the results. Heat up on high a dutch oven on the stove. Pre-heat the oven to 250 °C. Season well your oxtail, throw in a tablespoon of neutral oil (grapeseed or canola) and a tablespoon of butter. Add the oxtail and brown well on all sides. Reserve on a plate for a little while. Add the bacon to the dutch oven and brown well. Reserve. Throw in the onions and the carrots (I did not have leaks and celery but the recipe called for it and it would probably be beneficial to add it right here) and brown. Once the vegetables browned, add the bacon and oxtail back to the dutch oven and cover with the bottle of wine. Add the bay leaves, thyme, cloves, anis, zest of the lime to the oven and bring the liquid to a low simmer. Throw in the oven and wait for a 3 hours. After 3 hours, add the port to the dutch oven. From that point on, verify the amount of liquid every hour or so and add a bit, ¼ -1/2 cup or so, of water if you level goes lower than the mid height of your oxtail pieces. Cook for at least 4 more hours.

After the cooking is done, remove the oxtail pieces from the liquid and strain the liquid. Put the liquid in a sauce pan and bring to heavy boil. There should be enough fat in there for the liquid to emulsion, reduce by a third or a half depending on how much you have left, but have enough sauce for your oxtail (I know this is a bit approximative but you have to “feel” this one out.) Adjust seasoning (it should need a significant amount of salt.) Plate the oxtail, pour the sauce over it and mince some basil and throw it over it with a sprinkle of sea salt (or sel the Guérande). Enjoy! I served with some quick and dirty steamed vegetables, bok chois in this case, with a bit of butter on them.

Tunes: This meal is so sweet and tasty, I would think something similar would be appropriate. For the the cooking, I would go with something a little funky like Prince’s 1999, one of his great album that combine, funk, rock and dance seamlessly while keeping things catchy throughout. For the enjoyment of the oxtail, I would recommend something a little more bittersweet like Michael Gira’s Angels of Light, with Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home. This album is what won me to Angels of Light, after a few years of denying that the leader of Swans could be so different, but it all made sense with this one. Further along the way I came around on the other Angels of Light material but this one breached the gap.

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