Dark days, Week 10

I’m cheating this week by showing you something I made for dinner last week.

Oxtails:  The majority of Americans just have never eaten them, despite their high overall beef consumption. As a newly-returned carnivore, I was shocked by how much meat cost, even the “cheap” cuts of meat!  Sixteen years of not having a “meat tax” on my budget…let’s just say life as a veg was cheaper.  S0 as a carnivore I’m predisposed to be cheap, or, rather, thrifty. Well.  This means I’m not afraid to try new-to-me cuts, and oxtails were a revelation.  So much flavor!

Of course by cheap I don’t mean cuts from cruelly treated feedlot animals.  Nope.  We buy our beef and pork by the quarter and half, respectively, from small farmers who pasture their animals, raising only a few per season.  By ordering these quantities, you can usually have your say about how you want the meat processed (lots of chops, say, or more ground) AND if you are adventurous, you can request the odd bits that the butcher usually just takes as his, er, cut of the cuts.  Like oxtail, which is simply the tail of a steer.  In my last beef order, I asked for it: and got all 3!  It seems nobody else wanted it so the farmer sent all the tails to my order, gratis.

So maybe Americans don’t eat it much (hey: more for me at the butcher), but leave it to thrifty folks like the French (indeed) and Koreans (among others, of course) to really know how to use oxtail.  Pot-au-feu is a double dish:  a beef broth, then a meat dish; pho, likewise, often utilizes oxtail to give it its strength.  Many French recipes do suggest oxtail be used for two meals.  Gotta like THAT kind of meat thrift.

Singularly unattractive photo


  • Gnocchi in Oxtail Ragu: Russet potatoes, winter white flour in the gnocchi.  Roasted cut-up oxtail, braised in red wine then stewed in our tomato sauce with our celery, onion, garlic, and herbs.  Recipe very loosely based on this one.
  • Mokum Carrots, julienned and pan-roasted in brown butter and thyme
  • Greenhouse salad
  • And the rest of that red wine, a Meritage.


15 responses to “Dark days, Week 10

  1. Actually, I have a thing for oxtails (i’d love a recipe). Best version I ever had- rabo de toro, from Tapas 24 in Barcelona.

  2. It sounds like a delicious meal to me. When I was a kid and my parents raised a few cows every year, one of my favorite cuts of meat was the tongue. Sounds gross, but I remember really liking it. I’m pretty sure I have never tried tail though.

  3. Ha! I made a pot of oxtails today. We get ours delivered from the dairy, their grassfed beef heard. Strang, though. They don’t cut the tails completely through and leave this really big piece completely uncut near the butt end. Some strange Amish butcher they have, I think.

    • Ed, how bizarre: especially the cutting thing: goodness, that same darned thing happened with mine! I mean it’s a HUGE chunk, right at the butt, was it with yours? I mean not that I am complaining, it’s just that I used the same butcher but a different farmer. How fun: I can smell your kitchen from here; can you smell my red pepper chili there in DC?

  4. mmmm oxtails..just made some soup last week. We can get them fresh at H-Mart. Must try that ragu, though….

  5. I make them at home on occasion but I really have to skim the fat after cooking.There was a BBQ place in West LA now gone that made the best Oxtails and rice in a brown gravy.I still dream about them.

  6. My grandmother used to rave about oxtail soup. and made it for us once. I cheat and mix beef stock and tomato sauce together and add a couple spoons full of sherry at the end, but it’s nothing like the real thing, which is truly wonderful.

    Oxtails at the grocery store are not a deal- they are one of the more expensive cuts. Maybe because the meat cutters behind the bell don’t want them to sell so they can bring them home? Also why you never see a hanger steak on offer at a grocery store?

    This summer we should be getting our first beef quarter. Since I’m going for the hind quarter where most of the steaks and roasts are, I’ll make sure to ask for the tail. Good idea.

  7. Love oxtails. We just had them for dinner last night and actually the night before…we really like them. Such cozy winter food.

  8. Oh, Paula, our local (expensive) butcher is a hanger steak missionary. He pushes them.

    I just saw oxtails and thought, “Hmmmm.” If we ever buy a half or quarter cow, I’ll ask.

  9. I love oxtails! I first had them when trying a recipe fro chinese-style braised oxtails and they were a revelation – succulent and savory. Unfortunately they are not at all an inexpensive cut of meat, while I can get them easily at the meat counter in my local natural grocery (they sell only locally raised Oregon Natural beef*), oxtail is more expensive than stew beef or burger meat. I don’t eat a lot of beef, but sometimes when I want a real treat, I splurge. I’d prefer oxtails to steak personally.


  10. Can I just say how surprised I am that all of you are oxtail fans, and have–shocking–eaten it really recently? Is there something in the air or what?

    Esperanza, yeah, there’s a link to the ragu in the menu above; sorry I forgot to mention it. In general, I put the chunks in a brownie pan and I char them at 400 or so until they’re browned all around, then I throw about a cup and a half of red wine in and continue to turn them. The wine gets reduced then I move the contents to a covered casserole (like a Le Creuset dutch oven-y thing) with lots of diced veggies and spices in it; I add some water and stew for about 2 hours or so either in the oven or on the stovetop. Then I can serve the meat with a nice sauce.

    Mike, I dunno, tongue’s not bad: I had it in a sandwich when I was in England once. You just need to peel it (Eew!). Ed, below, has lots of tongue recipes on his site. But it was really tasty; we ate it 3 times, and remember our family hates leftovers!!

    Ed, that’s just too funny that you were making it this week too. It is mighty delicious, so much more flavorful than a simple beef stew, I think.

    Karen, again, too funny it was on your menu recently as well. You know, I am not much of a fan of tomatoes and beef (I kind of hit the wall in the winter with Not Another Can Of Tomatoes Or I Will Die) but this was really pretty special: I blame the wine, frankly.

    Ah John the fat’s the best part! Of course I say this after I stepped on the scale for the first time since before Thanksgiving and was shocked at what winter’s inactivity has done to me…but maybe I will just blame the baking. Not the fat 🙂 Barbecue places, though, yummmm

    Paula, well, proves how often I shop at meat counters in the grocery stores: I had no idea that oxtail was expensive or hanger steaks scarce. I think you will really like getting a quarter. Sometimes they give you the option to get a “mixed quarter,” which is of course a mix of half the side of beef. That’s usually what we get. I will tell you though: it is a mind-bender, bringing all that meat home and then wondering what you’re going to do with it all. Grassfed stuff can be pretty lean, and there are always tough bits. I end up doing a lot of marinating beforehand, a lot of poking with a fork to try to tenderize it. I don’t mind chewing forever but my daughter I swear…let’s just say it’s like she’s chewing gum sometimes. BUT: I do swear the chuck steak is the most flavorful, toughness be damned.

    Carlie, again, how funny with the great oxtail blog convergence here! Yes I am quite glad your boys gobble them up: they’re mighty tasty.

    Stefani, well, get a half and split with your sis. Or even a quarter. I don’t think I could afford to buy it at a store. It’s funny: I have a meat budget where I throw the errant $50 or so into it so I can get my chickens butchered and save up for the halves and quarters. Odd way of doing something but it seems to work.

    Alison, see, you’re judicious in your meat eating. We are too (or rather I am: left to his own devices I bet all my husband would eat is meat and salad, no bread, no noodles) and I agree with you: splurging is sometimes a fun thing to do, especially if it’s a treat. Still shocked by the expense of oxtails and I still think it’s those kooky butchers keeping the good bits to themselves. And like I told Paula, I swear a chuck steak well marinated is so much more flavorful than some puny hunk of prime. Bah.

  11. I love oxtail, and I particularly relish sucking on the bones: love the bigger end of the tail where there is actually marrow…SO good… all the gelatine in the tail really makes for a very unctuous broth…

  12. Pingback: what I’ve been up to « Aquilegia formosa

  13. Pingback: Dark Days Challenge 2009-2010 - Week 10 - West and Midwest « (not so) Urban Hennery

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