Everyone knows that the best meat is next to the bone, and with an oxtail, all the meat is next to the bone. There’s not another part of the cow that concentrates as much flavor as the tail, and that is what makes oxtail so delicious. Sadly, I can’t really serve oxtail on the bone at any of my restaurants. It’s just too rustic. But it’s a great, inexpensive cut to make at home for guests who don’t mind using their hands. Don’t try to eat oxtail with a fork and knife, or you will miss all the good bits stuck in between the vertebrae. Pick it up as you would a little roasted bird and chew all around. Of course the meat has to be cooked so it slips right off the bones, or it won’t be tender enough. A long, slow braise, like this Asian-inspired one with sweet potatoes, pears, soy sauce, and ginger, is an ideal method.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 pounds oxtails, cut into 1½-to 2-inch thick slices, excess fat removed
- Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and finely grated
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 Spanish onions, peeled and diced
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- ¼ cup light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon red chili paste
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and finely diced
- 2 bunches (about 12 large) scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 275°F.
2. In a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over mediumhigh heat, warm the olive oil. Season the oxtails with salt and pepper and sear until golden brown on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the oxtails to a plate and spoon off all but 1 tablespoon fat.
3. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, gingerroot, and chili powder to the pot. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes (be careful not to burn the chili powder). Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes.
4. Raise the heat to medium. Deglaze the pot by adding the vermouth and soy sauce and scraping up any browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the hoisin sauce and red chili paste. Return the oxtails to the pot. Stir in 1 cup water, the sugar, and sesame seeds and bring to a simmer.
5. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and braise for 3 hours, adding the sweet potatoes and pears after 1½ hours and the scallions after 2½ hours.