Oxtails get a bad rap sometimes. Some people find the concept gross (these tend to be the same heathens who get squeamish about sublime things such as cheeks, necks, trotters, livers, hearts, snouts, ears, etc). Others find them difficult to cook, or have no idea how to go about it as they don’t have much meat. We are here to help.
Oxtails are a tricky thing to work with. True, they don’t have much meat. But they have a ton of flavour, and cooking them long and slow makes them great for a ragu that you can serve over pasta (or noodles, or rice). They are really simple to prepare, but you really need to let them cook for a long time so they surrender all the flavour of the bones and the meat is easy to pick off with your fingers or a fork. When they reach that point, you may be surprised how much meat they can offer. The meat is also quite rich, so it makes for a filling meal.
- Oxtails, 2kg
- Red wine, 1 bottle
- Shallots, 2, diced
- Garlic, 4-5 cloves, diced
- Bacon, 2-3 thick slices, cut into lardons
- Cherry tomatoes, 2 cans
- Carrot, chopped
- Bay leaves, 4 whole
- Crushed hot pepper, to taste
- Olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons
Start by dicing up the onions, garlic, carrots and bacon.
Then add the bacon and a tablespoon of olive oil into a crockpot, and turn up the heat.
While the oil it is heating, coat the oxtails with flour – this will help thicken the sauce later on. When the oil is hot, start browning the oxtails (just a few at a time). Top up the oil if you need to as you go. When finished, set the browned oxtails aside.
Add the garlic, carrots and shallots to the crockpot alongside the crispy bacon and oil from the browning, and give the mixture a stir as the veggies brown (this will happen quickly as your crockpot should be quite hot).
Then add in the 2 cans of tomatoes, and use a fork to pop them against the inside wall of the crockpot. Fill one of the empty cans with wine and pour that in as well. Add in a dose of crushed hot pepper and a pinch of salt, and let the mixture come to a boil. Then cut the heat to low and add the bay leaves and browned tails. The liquid should just about fully cover the oxtails. If not, add more wine (you can also use some stock). Cover the crockpot.
From here, you can either transfer the crockpot to the oven at around 100c, or leave it on the stove on low heat (enough for a simmer). And then the waiting begins. Expect this to take a solid 4-5 hours of cooking time here (perhaps more). Stir the mixture every 45 mins or so, and add in more wine each time (aim to use the remainder of the bottle over the remaining cooking time). After you get to around 4 hours, use some tongs to pick up one of the chunkier tails, and see if you can easily pull the meat off with a fork (be careful of hot splatter!). If you can’t, cover it again and let it cook some more.
When you can easily peel the meat off, your ragu is just about finished.
Go through the tails and remove as much meat as you can, and disard the remaining bones (feel free to gnaw on whatever remains – it’s good for you). Give it a taste and add seasonings if required, and serve over pasta!