The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Two-Day Oxtails with Turnip Mash

December 21st, 2010 · 3 Comments · Posted in Recipes

A great pleasure on a cold winter night

Richly unctuous, oxtails are a great satisfaction on a cold winter’s night. They must be cooked slowly, preferably in some sort of braise. We had some last night over mashed turnips drenched in a sauce from the pot juices infused with red wine. Such a simple dish, the meat delivered quite economically by our local dairy, yet these oxtails take our breath away without fail.

I can’t claim any ownershp of this recipe, although I adapted it a little. I got it from a book titled, simply, Bones, a great manual for you carnivores out there. The preparation spans two days, although you could get by with one. It’s recommended after cooking the meat that you strain the liquid from the pot and refrigerate it overnight so that the fat can easily be skimmed away. You could apply this process equally to almost any braised meat dish–nobody likes getting a mouthful of fat with their sauce.

Yet one thing has always put me off about this recipe: It calls for tomato paste in the cooking looking. I’ve always detested tomato paste for some reason and usually substitute diced tomatoes. But we didn’t have any diced tomatoes on hand, but we did have a can of tomato paste. Canned tomato paste may be even worse for the simple reason that you almost never use a whole can of it at any one time. I’d rather squeeze it out of a tube. So now we have a mostly-full can of tomato paste in the fridge waiting for me to imagine some other use for it. But in fact, the sauce turned out really swell with the paste in it. So maybe my revulsion of tomato paste is completely misplaced.

The oxtails we get from our dairy are a bit different from what you see  in the store. They literally send us an entire tail, which is divided into sections, except not sliced competely through. It comes out of the plastic packaging looking like a big version of a child’s toy, the kind with an elastic band running through the middle so you could stretch it out and it would snap back. I use a Chinese-style cleaver to cut finish the cutting job. Even then, the pieces closest to the rump end are twic the size you would expect to find in the grocery, but they cook up just fine.

The printed recipe calls for dredging 5 pounds of oxtail in seasoned flour, but I skip that part. The meat browns fine without the extra carbs. I season the meat aggressively with salt and better, then melt some bacon grease (you could use olive oil here) in the bottom of a Dutch oven over moderately high heat. Brown the meat on all sides in batches if necessary. Set the meat aside, lower the heat and add to the pot two carrots, peeled and cut into chunks, 2 celery sticks, cut into similar chunks, 1 large onion, cut into large dice, 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped. Stir the vegetables, adding a little more fat (or oil) to the pot if they seem too dry. Then stir in two cups dry red wine, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

At this point, the recipe calls from adding two cups of brown stock, but I already had some turkey stock in the fridge so I used that instead. Stir in 2 tablespoons tomato paste and add 2 bay leaves and a fistful of parsley stems. Add the browned meat back to the pot, bring to a boil, then place the pot, covered, in a 300-degree oven to cook for four hours. 

Remove the meat from the oven and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking juices through a sieve, reserving the liquid and discarding the vegetables. When the meat and liquid and cool enough to put in the refrigerator, place them in covered containers and refrigerate overnight. The next day, the fat will skim easily from the gelled cooking liquid. As dinner approaches, heat the liquid in your cook pot and add the meat. When it begins to boil, place the pot uncovered in a 300-degree oven for one hour. Meanwhile, peel, dice and steam 3 large turnips. When they are completely cooked through, mash them well with butter, cream and a generous pinch of salt.

The oxtails should be falling off the bone by now. Serve them over the mashed turnips with a generous ladle of sauce, which will have thickened nicely by this point even without the addition of flour. A spoonful of brussels sprouts on the side makes a nice looking plate.

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  • Todd

    “Bones”. I had that book in my wish list for ages, then finally took it out just a few weeks ago. I guess I’m going to have to go back and buy it now.

  • sylvie in Rappahannock

    I can’t believe you aren’t making your own tomato paste yet! which you could freeze in just the right amount: tablespoon-sized. I know… nothing else to do, right?

    It’s funny how we both love the extremities of the cow: tongue & tail.

  • Ed Bruske

    Sylvie, I don’t make my own tomato paste because I hate tomato paste. On the other hand, maybe I would like it better if I made my own.