I’m going to go out on a limb and say that everyone (minus the vegetarians, vegans, and my friend Jenna who doesn’t eat beef) like short ribs. After all, they’re tender, hearty, and just all around delicious. I like them. I really do. But...
Short ribs are the Wally Cleaver of the Low-and-slows. Short ribs wear Letterman’s jackets, get named Prom King, and single handedly save the big game.
Oxtails are James Dean. Oxtails ride motorcycles, wear awesome leather jackets. They’re bad ass and they know it. They don’t care if you like them. They’re the boy your mom warned you about.
I love oxtails. I will pick them over short ribs. Every. Single. Time.
They have texture and richness and gelatiney goodness that short ribs can only hope to have. Which is why not everyone likes them. Or it could be the name. I bet in a blind taste test oxtails would win hands down. Especially when given the Lucques’ short rib treatment. Marinated, braised, then put in a hot oven to get a crispy burnished finish oxtails are an easy show stopper of a dish. As per Susan Goin’s instructions, I served these with swiss chard, mashed potatoes, roasted pearl onions, and horseradish cream. Lots of horseradish cream.
So while I highly recommend this recipe with oxtails, it also works with short ribs, or a combination of both which is what I did for Christmas dinner so everyone was guaranteed to be happy.
And please, give oxtails a chance. If you’re lucky they’ll take you under the bleachers and give you a reputation.
Braised Oxtail with Horseradish Cream (printable)
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
If the idea of oxtails makes you squeamish, just substitute short ribs. A few years ago, oxtails were kind of hard to find, but I can find them at my local grocery store now. If you’re having trouble finding them, I recommend trying Costco or Asian markets.
Like all braised food, these will taste better (and removing fat will be easier) if made the day before and refrigerated.
Lastly, I double the original recipe so I browned the meat in a large skillet then transferred it to a deep roasting pan to braise. For the single recipe (below), I would brown the meat in the same pan I am braising in.
5-6 pounds oxtails or short ribs
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme plus 4 whole sprigs
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/3 cup diced celery
2 fresh bay leaves (or 1 dried)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups hearty red wine
1 1/2 cups port
6 cups beef stock
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
Season the short ribs with 1 tablespoon thyme and cracked pepper. Cover and refrigerate over night.
Remove meat from fridge and liberally season with salt on all sides 30 minutes before cooking.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Heat a large skillet (or dutch oven) over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add olive oil. Wait two minutes, or until the oil is shimmering and moving quickly. Place oxtails in the pan, and sear on all sides until well browned. Do not crowd them as this will cause the meat to steam and turn gray. It will take at least 15 minutes to brown. You may have to do this in batches. (Doubling the recipe, this step took me over an hour). When the oxtails are thoroughly browned, move them to a deep roasting dish (or a large plate to rest).
Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon being sure to scrape up all the browned, yummy bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook the vegetables until they just begin to caramelize. Add the balsamic, wine and port. Raise heat to high, and boil until liquid is reduced by half.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Arrange oxtails in the roasting pan so they are standing at attention. Poor the vegetable and wine mix over the oxtails. Scrape any vegetables that are on top of the meat back into the liquid. The liquid should almost cover the oxtails. Tuck the 4 sprigs of parley in between the oxtails. Cover with a piece of parchment paper that is just big enough to cover the meat. Braise in the oven for 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and the bones are ready to fall out of the meat if you look at it wrong.
(If you are making these the day before, this is the time to let them cool then put in the fridge. The next day the fat will have solidified on the top. Remove the fat, and place in a 325°F oven until warmed through. Then continue)
Let the ribs rest for 10 minutes in the juice. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Turn up the oven to 400°F. When the oven is at temp, remove the baking sheet and place the oxtails on it so the meat is in contact with baking sheet. Return to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned.
Strain the braising liquid into a saucepan, pressing on the vegetable to get all the juices out. Skim off the fat (unless you cooked the meat the day before). If the broth seems thin, reduce it over high heat until it has thickened to your desired consistency.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove oxtails from oven, and serve with plenty of braising liquid and horseradish cream (recipe below).
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (I like Atomic brand)
3/4 cup créme fraîche
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine horseradish and créme fraîche in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper for balance.