If I were asked the question, “what’s my favorite cooking method?,” I would always answer with a braise. I find that it’s the best way to prepare tough cuts of meat, maximize flavor and get a gorgeous sauce in one pot. Which is why I love oxtails. It’s a dish I was not raised on but it’s definitely something my unborn children will know a whole lot about.
If you’ve never had oxtails before they are exactly what they sound like, the tail of an ox. I’m sure back in the day it was only from the male bull but today any cow will do. It’s not like our palettes are trained to identify the difference between a male and female cow. Oxtails have historically been an inexpensive cut of meat but recently have found their way on the higher end of the price scale for beef. So much that there’s small campaigns about making oxtails cheap again.
You see, oxtails have always been one of those undesirable cuts of meat like turkey necks, pig tails, chicken feet and gizzards and used to be priced like one. Now, oxtails cost similar to rib-eye steak and brisket. If you like or want to try oxtails my advice is to make friends which your local butcher so you get the most bang for your buck.
On the other hand, I do understand oxtails aren’t for everybody. My mother cringes at the thought of eating oxtails, not because of where it comes from, but because she doesn’t eat red meat any more. My dad, who’s the more adventurous of the two, probably wouldn’t think twice about eating them but he would never buy them because oxtails aren’t in the grocery store sale ad. I, on the other hand, will buy them at top dollar because there so delicious.
My first time eating oxtails wasn’t that long ago but once I had them it reminded me of smothered turkey necks. I remember they had a depth of flavor, were very tender and were covered in a rich sauce. Sign me up for anything that fits that description and I’ll Uber my way right over.
Since that first day I’ve been hooked, making oxtails as many ways as possible including; Spanish-style with olives and red gravy, Caribbean-style with a Jamaican jerk sauce and even Yucatan-style that’s marinated with spicy guajillo chilies and topped with pickled onions. Today my inspiration for this dish leans more on my creole roots with a savory red gravy the incorporates staple ingredients like tomatoes, bell peppers onions and creole seasoning.
The secret to successful oxtails is time and patience; you have to let those connective tissues breakdown. That’s what braising does for you, it aids tough cuts in becoming tender. Oxtails are high in fat and contain bone marrow that adds wonderful flavor and body to your sauce. Just skim the fat that you see floating and you’ll have a natural sauce that’s full of flavor minus a greasy mouth feel.
If this is your first time attempting to cook oxtails, breath and just think of it like making a pot roast. It’s the exact same steps and you already know the rewards of a well-cooked roast, tender with gravy that’s made perfect with a side of rice, potatoes or grits. Once you make this recipe you’ll be making it again and again.