Foods | Cooking
Hints & Tips
This recipe and photos are courtesy of Cynthia Detterick-Pineda of Andrews, TX. More of Cynthia's
People are incredibly
resourceful when they have to be. When in need or in desperate times, they have
taken what others did not want and made good use of it. Over the centuries,
poverty, war, drought, and times of starvation have helped people learn how to
take what they have, no matter how little, and make something of it that will
help pull them through those hard times. Native Americans have been
known for how they could use the entire animal for food, clothing, and even
weapons. There have been stories told of people lost in the mountains and
without food, yet they learned how to survive on whatever foods were there for
them, such as berries and small game. But even when they had to
relay on the “leftovers” of others for a food source, they usually found a way
to make it more than just edible, but wonderfully delicious.
During the wars which gained
Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma as United State's Territories, the common people of Mexico
(which then included these states) would give most all of the meat from their
livestock to the soldiers as a way to help the war effort. This often left them
with little to live off. You might think I am headed towards some recipe that
includes offal, but not quite yet.
I think the introduction to these foods, as
wonderful as they can be, should be a slow and gentle one. I don’t want to scare
anyone away by rushing in and describing how to cook creadillas. If you have looked over many of my recipes, you might have already seen one recipe that
is highly prized by many in the Southwest,
Menudo. While there are several variations on this recipe, the main ingredient doesn’t change, and that is
tripe. Knuckles and feet from calves and pigs may be thrown in the mix, and that makes it even stranger to many people who have not been introduced to these
types of foods. These foods cover not only the Southwest, but the entire South
in some form or another.
Chitterlings or Chitlins as some say it, are not far off from Menudo on my recipe scale, and it is easy to find the
close cousins of creadillas and sesos in the deep South.
I have no idea who the first
person was to think of eating that silly little tail that looks to have almost
no meat on it at all. I imagine the first attempts produced what you expect
from a part of the cow that swings there most of the day. Scrawny on most, the
tail has large sinewy muscles that can make it tough and stringy, leaving little
to be desired. While the oxtails you find in your meat market today are actually
from cattle, the originals were from oxen. There is little difference between
the two in taste and nutrition, so they continue to be called oxtails by most.
Making a good oxtail is all
in the cooking, and it does take some cooking. This is not a quick dish by any
means, and if it were it would not be nearly as good. I have eaten oxtails that
you literally had to let go of your fork and grab with your hands to try and
pull the meat off simply to eat. Oxtails in soups and stews do seem to be
more tender, but you don’t want to eat them in only these ways. I wanted something
I could serve as a main dish, something that could be highlighted against the
side dishes, and would surprise the people at my table. So I took some parts of
stew and soup recipes, and added a little here, took some away there, and came
up with this recipe that serves up more like a ragout than anything.
So to help introduce you to a
meat that is absolutely wonderful when made correctly, I want to share with you
my recipe for Oxtails. No one will even realize that they are eating what some
may consider “leftovers”. If you have never eaten
oxtails, I hope you will take a chance on these. They are most definitely worth
trying! And it just isn’t me who says that.
Oxtails in Caramelized Gravy Recipe:
Yields: 4 to 5 servings
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 4 hr
About 4 pounds of Oxtails (these come already sliced in most markets)
Coarse salt or
sea salt (enough to rub the meat thoroughly)
olive oil (vegetable oil can be used)
2 cups of beef broth or stock
1/4 cup commercial-grade
750 ml bottle of good Spanish
garlic, finely minced
1 spring of fresh
rosemary, finely-chopped (about 1 tablespoon), if using dry, decrease to 1 teaspoon and crush well
1 spring of fresh
thyme, finely-chopped (about 1 tablespoon), if using dry, decrease to 1 teaspoon and crush well
1 spring of fresh oregano, finely-chopped (about 1 tablespoon), if using dry, decrease to 1 teaspoon and crush well
1/2 teaspoon of dry tarragon, crushed (Fresh is preferable
- use about 2 teaspoons of fresh that has been finely chopped)
2 leeks, washed and sliced into 1/8 rounds from the white end up to the tough green part
*I use a
Malena Garnacha for this recipe. The Torres Malena Garnacha makes a good one, as
it is not expensive and is good enough to serve alongside the dish. Remember
when you are cooking with wines, if you won’t drink it, then you don‘t want to
eat it in your cooking either. Unless you just do not like to drink wine, the
wine you use should always be one that you would drink yourself or serve to
others. Taste matters!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Oxtails Trimmed of Fat
If you oxtail did not come sliced, remove it from the package and rinse it well. Place on a large cutting
board and slice crosswise into sections of about 2 inches each. Cut away the extra fat from
the oxtail. There is a significant amount of fat that can be removed.
Using either Sea Salt (my preference) or Kosher Salt, use a sufficient amount to rub into the meat on all
sides. Place this in a container and let it set at room temperature for about 2
hours, or if you have time and prefer place in the refrigerator overnight.
After the meat has set,
remove and rinse well. This must be rinsed very well to get the salt off the
meat (I made the mistake of not rinsing well enough the first time I made this,
and the results were nearly inedible).
Over medium high heat,
place oil into a large oven-proof pot which has a lid. NOTE: You can use a slow
cooker (crock pot) if desired, and cook this overnight with excellent results. When this just begins to smoke, quickly sauté the garlic until it has
a small amount of browning to the pieces.
Add your oxtail slices, and brown on all sides. You are just going
to sear the outer meat without cooking it at this time.
Add your beef broth, balsamic vinegar, and
enough red wine to cover the top of the meat by approximately 1 inch. Add
the Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Tarragon. Mix well.
Cover your pot and put into the oven
to cook for the next 3 to 4 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to fall
from the bone. Check your meat several times over the course of cooking to make
certain there is enough liquid, add more wine when needed. If using a slow
cooker, leave on low overnight.
When your meat is done, in either the oven or the slow cooker, add your sliced leeks by spreading over the
top. Cook for another 30 minutes in the oven, or increase your slow cooker to high heat for the remaining time.
The sauce should form a thick caramelized
sauce in the pot which can be served with the meal as gravy. The fat should be
skimmed off this sauce before serving.
Many people do not like the
bones in their Oxtails, so if you prefer you can remove these by pulling any
meat from them.
Makes 4 to 5 servings.