Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tomato-Braised Oxtail Pasta

Oxtail is one of my favorite cuts of beef. It's still called oxtail, though it no longer refers specifically to the tail of an ox, but all cattle. When you slow cook it, in soup or by braising, the meat becomes extremely tender (and flavorful, being so bony), with delicious melty gelatin.

Braised Ox Tail Pasta

If you've never had oxtail, give it a try. If you've only had it in soup, try braising it. Typically I braise oxtail Chinese style, with soy sauce as the base. But it's equally delicious using a more Mediterranean method, such as the one I'm sharing here.

When you purchase oxtail at the grocery store, it'll usually come pre-cut into several chunks, in roughly 2-pound packages. Select packages that have meatier chunks, with fewer small-boned pieces. The muscle should look as all good beef cuts look -- a nice red, not pink or dark or spotted. If you're in an Asian grocery store, the oxtail will sometimes be available whole; have the butcher cut one tail into pieces for you.

Braised Ox Tail Pasta

This is a good dish to prepare ahead of time, because the flavors only improve with time, and keeping it in the fridge overnight makes fat removal easier.

Tomato-Braised Oxtail Pasta (a variation on Pioneer Woman's Short Ribs in Tomato Sauce recipe)

  • 2 lbs ox tail, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 14oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Generously season the oxtail pieces with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the oxtail, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Toss the garlic and onions into the pot. Cook, stirring, for two minutes, then add tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, wine, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Combine.
  4. Carefully place the oxtail back into the pot, covering the pieces with as much of the sauce as possible. Cover the pot and place it onto the middle rack in the oven. Cook for about 4 hours, at which time the meat should be very tender and will separate from the bone at the slightest provocation.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  5. If you're ready to serve, use a spoon to remove as much of the accumulated oil as possible (one of those fat separators might also work). Or you can remove the oxtail from the pot, place them in a separate container, and refrigerate. Do the same with the pot of sauce, though you can keep the sauce in the same pot. After a few hours, the fat will be hardened and easily removed. Then reheat the sauce with the saved oxtail in it.
  6. Serve over your favorite long pasta, with chopped fresh parsley to garnish if you desire, and parmesan cheese.

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