Oxtail–or tail of beef–is one of the most deeply flavorful of all meats, so I was thrilled to see it offered for delivery by our local dairy. Famous in oxtail soup, this is a cut you want to braise for a long time. Unctuous and soothing, oxtail matches perfectly with the root vegetables being harvested this time of year. You don’t need to work on them much: they all cook nicely together in a pot in the oven.
Usually oxtail comes in thick slices, often in the frozen section of the meat aisle. I was surprised to find that our oxtail from the dairy had not been sliced. Well, parts of the tail–the long skinny part–had been partially sliced. But the fattest, meatiest section was still in one piece. A strange looking beast it was. So I just cooked it whole and picked the meat off the bones when it was done.
Start this stew at least a day ahead. It will only get better with time. But after the initial braising, leaving the pot in the refrigerator overnight will make skimming the fat away much easier.
Start by coating the bottom of a heavy pot or Dutch oven with 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil over moderately high heat. Meanwhile, season the pieces of oxtail (2 or 3 pounds) aggressively with salt and pepper. When the oil reaches the smoking point, brown the meat on all sides, in batches if necessary. Transfer the meat to a plate and reserve.
Discard the oil from the pot, then add two celery stalks and a large, peeled carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, as well as two garlic cloves, finely chopped. Pour in 2 cups beef stock and 1 cup red wine and bring to a boil, scraping any brown bits that might be on the bottom of the pot. Add one 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, 2 bay leaves and a small fistful of fresh parsley.
Add the oxtail back to the pot, cover and place in a 250-degree oven for 4 hours, or until the meat is quite tender but not falling off the bone. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and vegetables from the pot. Discard the bay leaves and parsley. Refrigerate the pot with the liquid overnight. The liquid should be quite gelatinous by morning. Use a spoon to skim away the fat that has settled on the top.
To finish the dish, place the pot with the stew liquid on the stove over moderate heat and reduce the liquid by half. Season with salt and pepper as needed and stir in 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (optional). Place the cooked oxtail and vegetables back in the pot and add 1 turnip, 1 large peeled parsnip and 1 large peeled carrot, each cut into batons. Bring everything to a boil, cover and cook 1 hour in a 250 degree oven.
Serve the oxtails in wide shallow bowls garnished with the root vegetables and glistening with sauce. If you are eating heavy starches, this would be delicious over a cheesy polenta.