One of the advantages of buying beef by the “side” (half a beef cow) is that you can get cuts that would be difficult to find (or afford) in a retail grocery store. The cow’s tail, or “oxtail”, is one of those parts that are typically missing from the store’s meat case.
When I bought a quarter of beef last August from Second Wind Farm (Paul Chudek, Everson), Lynden Meats did the cutting and wrapping. I asked them to include the tail. They prepared it by cutting between the vertebra joints in the tail, but leaving them partially attached. This allows the preparation of recipes which call for the whole tail in one piece, but also makes it very easy to prepare the tail for recipes calling for the joints to be separated.
Oxtail is a flavorful cut. Not only is the meat well marbled with fat, but you also get the rich flavor and nutrition of the bone marrow. Oxtail is usually cooked “low and slow”–low temperature and long cooking time–to extract as much flavor as possible.
This recipe begins by creating an oxtail broth, which could be used as the basis of hearty soups. I went on, though, to add some roasted vegetables to make a robust stew. It simply doesn’t get more flavorful than this!
Note: Also see the recipe for homemade Brown Beef Stock.
- For broth:
- 1-1/2 lbs oxtail, with joints separated (Second Wind Farm, Everson)
- Tiny pinch of dried habanero pepper (friend's garden, Lummi Island)
- 1 Tbsp butter (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- 1 medium onion, chopped (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- 1 celery stalk, chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
- 1 large carrot, chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled (Half Acre Farm, Ferndale)
- 2 cups beef stock (homemade with soup bones from Second Wind Farm, Everson)
- 1 cup of red wine (I used a red from Legoe Bay Winery, Lummi Island)
- ½ tsp thyme, dried (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- ½ tsp basil, dried (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- ½ tsp salt
- For stew:
- 2 carrots, chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
- 2 potatoes, chopped (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- 1 sauce tomato, chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
- tiny pinch of dried habanero pepper (friend's garden, Lummi Island)
- Rinse oxtail joints and dry with paper towels. Season oxtail well with salt and habanero pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter on medium to medium high heat in a 6-quart oven-proof Dutch oven. Sear the oxtail pieces on all sides until golden brown. Work in batches, if necessary. Set oxtails aside on a plate.
- Add the chopped onion, celery, and carrot to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until onions are translucent. Add the oxtails back to the pan, along with the whole garlic cloves, the stock and wine. Add thyme, basil, and salt. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 3 hours, until meat is fork tender.
- One hour before the meat is done, start oven preheating at 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, toss carrots, potatoes, and zucchini in melted butter. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Roast vegetables for 1 hour, or until lightly browned and cooked through.
- When meat is tender, remove oxtails from the cooking liquid. Skim the excess fat off the top with a spoon. Pour the remaining liquid through a mesh strainer into a bowl, using a rubber spatula to press the liquid out of the vegetables. Discard everything but the liquid broth.
- Return the liquid and the chopped tomato to the pan, and simmer until reduced by half. Then add the oxtails and the roasted vegetables. Simmer on low heat for half an hour for the flavors to meld.
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad and Chestnut, Bellingham
Community Food Co-operative, Westerly and Cordata, Bellingham
Friends’ garden, Lummi Island
Full Bloom Farm, Centerview and Tuttle, Lummi Island
Half Acre Farm u-pick at Boxx Berry Farm, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale
Second Wind Farm, Everson
Terra Organica, Flora and Cornwall, Bellingham