Oxtails... just the word always made me afraid to try them. I had no idea truthfully, whether they were really "tail" meat or not, nor whether they came from oxen. Today, oxtails have become a more "exotic" meat to use in various methods of cooking, but the slower they are cooked is really the best place to start.
I purchased my tails and put them in the fridge for a day, so I could really think about what I wanted to do. In the end, I scoped out some of the recipes from chefs I particularly enjoy replicating their dishes and came up with Emeril's Oxtail Stew. My variation is very close to his version, but I took a few minor liberties as usual.
First, plan on a lot of time to prepare this dish. The prep work is not that difficult, but the cook time is very lengthy to get the most tender, flavorful dish.
1 pkg. oxtails (I used about 1 1/2 lbs.)
1/2 c. flour
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. cracked pepper
1 1/2 T. herbs de provence
olive oil and canola oil blend (1 T.)
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 small sweet onion, chopped
2 med. carrots, sliced in chunky rounds
2 stalks celery, cut the same as the carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T. tomato paste
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. thyme
1/2 bottle (or more) good red wine -- I had Malbec
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
1 can beef stock
additional salt and pepper to taste
~ good French bread for dipping ~
First, place flour and first seasonings in a large ziplock bag and add the oxtails. Seal and shake around to coat. Set aside.
In a large dutch oven, heat oil and add the bacon. Cook until crispy and remove to a paper towel with slotted spoon. Turn up heat and add the oxtails to the bacon fat. Brown on all sides and remove to a plate. Cover.
Add the veggies and cook until slightly tender. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Add the tomato paste and stir well. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat a little and let reduce by half.
Next, add the tomatoes and stock. Add remaining spices and check for seasoning. Return the oxtails and bacon to the pot. Make sure the meat is immersed. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat. Cover and let simmer on low for 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.
Remove lid and continue cooking another 30 minutes to thicken slightly. (I saved my flour from dusting the meat and mixed about 1/4 c with 1/4 c. cold water. I stirred this in to help it get to the thick consistency we like.) Serve with a good French bread for dipping. This is the MOST flavorful, rich tasting stew we've ever had! I will be making this on cold winter days in the near future again!