Recently I was at Whitefeather Meats (I don’t recall specifically why; sometimes we go there just to harass those poor people) when a tiny little Asian woman came in and picked up a huge box that was waiting for her. I’m a pretty
nosy curious person, and couldn’t resist asking what was in it.
It was full of tongues and tails.
“I didn’t know I could do that,” I whimpered pathetically to Bunny, the owner, after asking the woman if she had a restaurant (no; it was all for her personal use).
I guess the point of this is we forget that in other parts of the world, where animals aren’t raised in giant feedlots in massive numbers, parts of the cow (or any large animal, for that matter) like the tongue, tail and liver are considered delicacies, simply because there’s only one of them on each critter. We’re very fortunate that we live in a society where we can buy as many of these cuts as we might like in one fell swoop, especially when they are from pastured/grass fed animals.
And then we don’t.
I never get so many negative reactions to recipes as I do to those involving “variety meats.” Americans – Canadians, too – are pretty squeamish about anything that’s not muscle meat (and yes, we’ll ignore for the time being that both tongues and hearts are nothing but large muscles themselves). Which is really sad, because these are among the most flavorful, to say nothing of nutritious, parts of the animal.
Oxtail in this country is really the tail of beef – steers, to be exact, since even among farmers who raise their cattle on grass it is standard practice to castrate bulls destined for market. It’s a particularly boney cut of meat, and since bone is living tissue, oxtail is usually classified as offal. I won’t dispute that, but it’s not the same as eating liver – if no one told you you were eating the tail, you’d think you were eating a particularly delicious, silky, unctuous cut of muscle meat (assuming it’s been properly cooked). However, like most offal, oxtail is quite nutritious, being rich in minerals (glucosamine, chondroiten, magnesium, glycine, phosphorus), gelatin and collagen, which are important for the health of your bones, especially your joints.
At any rate, not only is this dish, which I served over roasted, pureed parsnips (I’ll have to post that recipe some day), very good for you it is also very, very tasty. And, prepared in the pressure cooker, relatively quick and easy. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can braise this in the oven at 350 F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The rest of the instructions remain the same.
- 3 tablespoons tallow or other fat suitable for high heat cooking, divided
- 3 pounds oxtails, joints cut into 2-inch lengths and trimmed of excess fat
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 cup hearty red wine
- 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the tallow over high heat in the pressure cooker, Sprinkle the oxtails liberally with salt and pepper, then brown in the fat, working in batches if necessary. Transfer the browned oxtails to a plate and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of tallow, if necessary. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.
- Return the browned oxtails to the cooker and stir in the celery, carrots, wine, beef stock, tomato paste, mustard, and bay leaf. Tie together the thyme and parsley with kitchen twine and add that to the oxtails, vegetables and liquid in the cooker.
- Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and increase the heat to high until the cooker reaches full pressure (15 psi). Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 55 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pressure to decrease naturally.
- Carefully unlock and remove the lid of the pressure cooker. Remove the tied herbs and bay leaf; skim any excess fat from the surface of the stew. Remove the oxtails and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork and return to the pressure cooker. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Serve over mashed potatoes or parsnips, and garnish with sliced green onion, if desired.
- Nutrition (per serving): 421 calories, 15.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 347.7mg sodium, 1243.5mg potassium, 8.9g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, 3.5g sugar, 51.9g protein