Some kids get to lick the batter off the mixing spoon. I get to gnaw bits of meat and gelatinous, cartilage-y bits off oxtails.
After dim sum on Sunday we went to Fei Long for oxtail and snacks. I’d bought frozen chestnut ravioli from Paisano’s a few of weeks ago and have been wanting to cook them. The last time we had them we did a brown butter sauce but I wanted something a little heartier since it is basically still winter. Mario B. has a recipe that uses a wild rabbit ragu but oxtail is tastier, fattier, and way cheaper.
1 oxtail sliced into 1-inch rounds by your butcher
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
5 stalks celery, diced (if they’re extra fibrous, peel the outsides)
1 white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Smallish can of diced tomatoes
Vegetable oil (whatever you prefer, just not olive oil)
Dry red wine (we used Chianti)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat some oil over medium high heat. Meanwhile season your flour with salt and pepper, then dredge the oxtails in it. In a single layer and spaced apart, brown them on each side in the Dutch oven. Let them drain on a paper towel.
In the same pot, add the garlic and onions. Sweat them out then add the rest of the vegetables. Add a squeeze of tomato paste, about a tablespoon, and cook it off. Then add the thyme. To take the thyme off the stems, hold the top and with your other hand, grip the stem and with a sliding motion, pull it along to the bottom of the stem. Big chunks of thyme leaves will fall off – do this to a few sprigs right into the sauce. You can add about a cup of red wine at this point, to cook off the alcohol. Then add the diced tomatoes and some water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil then add the oxtails back in. They should be fully covered by the sauce/water mixture. [Note: I just guessed this whole thing – all I did was prep the vegetables, Ryan did the sauce. But I’ve made my own and watched him enough times to give you a basic idea of what he did.]
Cover and put the whole thing into the oven to braise for 3 hours. This is common sense but make sure that your pot is oven safe – you don’t want the handles and whatnot melting off in the oven. I just thought to throw that in there because I’ve seen some fucked up stupid shit on Buzzfeed. Don’t do that.
When the meat is falling off the bone/soft, take the pot out of the oven to cool off for about 20 minutes, then start pulling the meat off the bones. You can use forks I guess but you have two great kitchen utensils called hands that are already attached to your body. Plus you can gnaw on the bones to get the last bits of meat and sauce off. Meanwhile, put water for your pasta on. Make sure to salt it well when it starts boiling.
The tails will have the meat and some gelatinous bits – you just want the meat for the sauce. And most people won’t like those weird bits but they are delicous – almost like tendons. So if you are into that sort of thing, by all means.
Put all the meat back into the sauce and put it over low heat. Finish it off with a knob of butter.
When your pasta is cooked, add it to the sauce with a bit of the pasta water. If your’e using ravioli, make sure you are gentle with it so they don’t break. You should know how to serve it – put it on a plate. Grate some parmesan/pecorino/etc. on top if you’d like. This is also really delicious on semolina gnocchi, which is how Bar Corvo serves it, but you can use whatever pasta you’d like. I liked the chestnut ravioli because it was slightly sweet and a nice, creamy contrast to the savory ragu.
If you make a nice big batch you can:
Freeze the rest for later.
Do what we’re doing and eat it the later with different pasta (we are doing the semolina gnocchi)
Add more diced tomatoes and make Eggs in Purgatory with some crusty country bread for brunch.
In the same vein, dice some potatoes and fry them with leftovers to make an oxtail hash. Just add salad.
Slap it on a bun (can you find Hawaiian/Jamaican coconut bread where you are?) for a fancy sloppy Joe.
Roll out some puff pastry to make hand pies with (freeze them, then just bake them in the oven to eat later). You can add more vegetables if you want – squash, more carrots, mushrooms. Something that will soak up potential moisture that’s created by reheating.
These are ideas I just pulled out of the air in about 5 minutes. What’s great about this sauce is that it’s even better the next day because the flavors have had more time to high-five in the fridge overnight.
We’re gonna need more oxtail…