French Onion Oxtail Stew

This is one of those rare dishes that I liked a WHOLE bunch, but Beloved was kind of lukewarm about… although the fact he’s been fighting off a low-grade stomach virus for the last few days may have something to do with that.

But whether or not he cared that much for it, I am here to tell you that ohmygawd, this is really, really, really good.  It is rich.  It is decadent.  It is intensely flavorful and simply delicious.

Yes, it takes time – you start by browning the oxtails on the stove, then transfer them to a slow cooker, then slowly caramelize the onions (which took about 2 hours in my case) before transferring the contents of the slow cooker to the pan with the caramelized onions and cooking it all a little bit more.  But it is completely worth it.

At least, I think so.

Since the recipe is based on French onion soup, there’s a lot of onions in it – 6 large ones, which gives you about 12 to 14 cups of sliced onions, so use your mandoline if you have one.  A wide, heavy pan is best for caramelizing them; they’ll cook down quite a bit, but you’ll need the space in the beginning as well as the end, when you add the oxtail and liquid from the slow cooker to it.

By the time the dish is complete, it should be more the consistency of a stew than a soup – I guess if you really want soup, you can add more beef stock.  Made as written, though, this is just wonderful over potatoes or cauliflower mashed with chives and Gruyere cheese.

Yum, yum, YUM.

Note:  If you use olive oil instead of butter, the recipe, as written, is dairy-free.

French Onion Oxtail Stew. Rich and decadent, this play on French onion soup and oxtail stew is just perfect on a cold, dreary evening.

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French Onion Oxtail Stew
Serves: 6
  • 1 oxtail, separated at the joints
  • 2 tablespoons tallow or other cooking fat
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 sprigs thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 6 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 6 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  1. In a heavy pan or skillet, heat the tallow over high heat. Season the oxtail liberally with salt and pepper; place in the hot fat and cook until the meat is well-browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic; continue cooking for another minute or so or until the garlic turns golden and fragrant.
  2. Transfer the oxtail (and garlic) to a slow cooker. Add the wine, stock and thyme. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Before the oxtail is ready, melt the butter in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized – they will be a deep golden color. (This step could take as little as 40 minutes or as long as 2 hours.)
  4. Once the oxtail is done, remove it from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork. Skim the fat from the liquid in the slow cooker, if desired, and transfer the contents along with the meat from the oxtail to the pan with the onions.
  5. Cook the stew over medium heat for about half an hour. Remove the thyme stems and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over Gruyere-mashed potatoes or cauliflower.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 437 calories, 27.5g total fat, 78.6mg cholesterol, 529.1mg sodium, 951.1mg potassium, 19.2g carbohydrates, 2.7g fiber, 7.7g sugar, 22.3g protein

8 thoughts on “French Onion Oxtail Stew”

  1. Oh no …. now I’ll have to spend an hour digging through my mom’s recipes to find her version so I can compare the differences. What do you mean I have ADD??
    : )

  2. This looks and sounds very good. Several years ago I made a Cuban-style oxtail soup, but the flavour was too heavy for my taste, if that makes sense. This has me interested in trying again, though. Thanks for posting!

    1. Hi, Alice! I did a little quick research (read: I consulted the Google) and found this list of substitutes for red wine.

      “Non-alcoholic wine, beef or chicken broth or stock, diluted red wine vinegar, red grape juice diluted with red wine vinegar or rice vinegar, tomato juice, liquid from canned mushrooms, plain water.”

      Out of these, I’d probably use the tomato juice, with a splash of red wine vinegar.

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