Oxtail Osso Buco
I love braised meat, and Osso Buco is one of my favorite dishes. Rich and elegant, it's the perfect example of what magic can occur with a tough piece of meat, in a pot, over a few hours. It came as no surprise at how well oxtail worked in this classic Osso Buco recipe. The long, slow cooking in a richly fortified stock is a give-and-take; the oxtails lend as much to the resulting sauce as they take from it. This is adapted from a comprehensive, but straightforward version, from Time-Life's Foods of the World series from the 60s. A true classic never goes out of style!
4 tb butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 ts finely chopped garlic
2 pounds oxtails, rinsed and drained
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup dry while wine
3/4 cup beef or chicken stock
1/2 ts dried basil
1/2 ts dried thyme
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes (drained), chopped
3 sprigs parsley or celery leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tb grated lemon peel
1 ts finely chopped garlic
3 tb finely chopped parsley
Choose a heavy shallow casserole or Dutch oven that has a tight cover and is just large enough to snugly hold the pieces of oxtail standing up in 1 layer. Melt the butter in the casserole over moderate heat and when the foam subsides, add the chopped onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionaly, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are lightly colored. Remove the casserole from the heat.
Season the pieces of oxtail with salt and pepper, then roll them in flour and shake off the excess. In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil until a haze forms over it. Brown the oxtail pieces in the oil over moderately high heat, 4 or 5 pieces at a time, adding more oil as needed. Transfer the browned pieces to the casserole and stand them side by side on top of the vegetables.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Now discard almost all the fat from the skillet, leaving just a film on the bottom. Pour in the wine and boil it briskly over high heat until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Scrape in any browned bits clinging to the pan. Stir in the beef stock, basil, thyme, tomatoes, parsley or celery leaves and bring to a boil, then pour it all over the oxtails. The liquid should come halfway up the side of the oxtails; if it does not, add more stock. Bring the casserole to a boil on top of the stove.
Cover and bake in the lower third of the oven, basting occasionally and regulating the oven heat to keep the casserole simmering gently. If the liquid level becomes low, add hot water. Cook until the oxtails are tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
To serve, arrange the oxtail pieces on a heated platter and spoon the sauce and vegetables from the casserole around them. Sprinkle the top with the gremolata - a piquant garnish made by mixing the grated lemon rind, chopped garlic and parsley together. Buttered pasta is a perfect accompaniment.
Serves about 4.