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.
Creole Oxtail Stew
- 2 guajillo dry chili’s
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon cumin ground
- 2 teaspoons dry oregano
- 2 teaspoons dry thyme
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 15 oz. diced tomatoes
- 8 oz. tomato sauce
- 8 oxtails fat trimmed
- 1 ½ tablespoons meat seasoning or seasoning salt
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 teaspoons black pepper ground
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups long grain rice rinsed
Toast guajillo for 30 seconds each side, remove and place in water for 20 minutes. Take the guajillo out of the water, don’t discard water, in a blender add guajillo, cumin, oregano, thyme, coriander, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce for 1 minute on high speed, you want a sauce texture.
Season oxtails with meat seasoning, place oxtail in a pot over medium high heat and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes. Remove and sit on a plate, add onions, bell pepper and celery season with ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, cook for 2 minutes, add garlic, bay leaf, remaining salt and pepper. Pour tomato sauce over and make sure it covers the oxtails if not add some chili water until it covers. Bring to a boil, cut heat off and bake in oven for 2:30 hours. Turn oxtails, after 1:15 minutes. Check oxtails they should be fork tender continue cooking if more time is needed. Once cooked serve over rice.
Wash rise until water runs clear. In a small pot over high heat bring water, butter, bay leaf and salt to a boil. Stir in rice with a fork, once water boils again, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 18 to 20 minutes. Once finish cooking stir with fork and cover for 5 minutes, remove bay leaf and serve.