I finally scheduled the long awaited Oxtail Stew into our weekly meal plan for this week. But first, a little back story about eating oxtails in my family.
When I was growing up, Sunday dinners were like a right of passage. We pretty much always ate the same type of meal but no Sunday was ever the same.
While I was growing up the majority of my mom’s side of the family all lived within close proximity of each other. My grandparents (Poppa and Gam) were of Italian/Sicilian decent, and they were centrally located in relation to where the rest of the family lived. Every Sunday since my mom can remember Gam would cook Sunday dinner for the entire extended family. She would make homemade tomato sauce with some kind of pasta, some type of meat marinated in the homemade tomato sauce, Gam’s famous bread balls that came to be known as butt balls when Amanda couldn’t pronounce them and then a fresh salad, and all the salad fixings came straight out of Poppa’s garden.
Everyone who wasn’t busy would come over to enjoy each others company, catch up on what was new, gossip, share old stories, play card games, and just relax together with a nice home cooked meal. The kids would play together while the adults spent their time catching up. My cousins were all much older than I was and I remember them taking me off to Poppa’s bedroom and tickling me until I could’t breath! As we got older my cousins would bring their girlfriends, then their wives, then their kids over for Sunday dinner.
When I say it was a right of passage, I mean this was also the place where my family would introduce their friends or significant others to the entire family. This is where everyone came to share big announcements about jobs, engagements, pregnancies or awards. We’d come to Gam & Poppa’s for dinner after my baton competitions with trophies I had won and the stories that came along with them.
Poppa loved to buy outrageous food and watch us squirm while he ate them. I remember him eating things like squid & snails on Christmas (where just hours before he ate them we’d have snail races just for fun). On a regular Sunday Gam may have cooked oxtails, chicken gizzards, cow’s tongue, ham hock, or any other meat or organ you may have never tried in your life. But in mine, it came to be a regular Sunday to see one of these on the table.
When I was little I always wanted to bring my friends to dinner to have them try Gam’s amazing cooking & of course to mess with them because of what Poppa would eat. One of my best friends, Kathleen, still remembers everyone (even me) eating the tomato sauce covered oxtails and her just watching, never trying them, while we all devoured them. Not once did she ever try them in all the days she came over for dinner.
Now jump several years ahead to Super Bowl Sunday. The tradition of our entire family gathering every Sunday no longer able to happen due to how large our family has grown, Poppa & Gam passing on and so many different schedule conflicts. My immediate family continued the tradition at my parents house but on this particular Super Bowl Sunday we were sitting at our friends house watching the game and I got a text from Kathleen. Her husband Kevin was talking to their neighbors about how they eat oxtails regularly in their house and Kevin mentioned how he’d be interested in trying them. This just made Kathleen laugh and she thought of our Sunday dinners and just had to tell me.
This prompted a few texts and an interested call on my part to set up a dinner date at our house to cook for her, Kevin and their two little boys. So we picked a date, I found a good oxtail recipe to cook them for the first time and we all hung out, and she finally tried a little oxtail meat for the very first time!
- 3 pounds oxtails
- sea salt, to taste
- coarse ground black pepper, to taste
- bacon fat, or your preferred fat
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2-3 ribs celery, diced
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 4 cups beef stock
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 3 small turnips, peeled and cut into large pieces
- Melt bacon fat (or your choice of cooking fat) over medium-high heat in a large heavy pot (or you can use a Dutch oven).
- Season the oxtails with salt and pepper, add them to the pot and sear them on all sides (working in batches, if necessary). Remove each as it finishes and transfer them to a plate to set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the diced onion, carrots and celery. Cook stirring frequently until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes).
- Place the oxtails back in to the pot, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate, and add the stock, wine, thyme, bay leaf, garlic and a teaspoon of salt (halve the amount of salt if using canned stock).
- Cover and simmer for 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. (Note: Don't leave the pot to sit without checking on it every half hour or every hour to stir and make sure the liquid hasn't entirely evaporated and caused the meat to burn.) Uncover the pot for the last half hour (if the mixture is still "soupy" allow the liquid to reduce.)
- One hour before the oxtail is done, heat the oven to 350°F. Toss the carrots and turnips on a baking sheet with salt and your choice of fat (I used bacon fat). Roast them for 45 minutes to an hour or until lightly browned and cooked throughout.
- Remove the oxtails from the stew and cut the meat from the bones. Add the meat back to the stew, along with the roasted vegetables and serve.
- Enjoy! :)