Oxtail Ragout

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.

Oxtail Ragout

Oxtail Ragout

Serves: 6
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

19 thoughts on “Oxtail Ragout”

  1. You certainly are the adventurous sort, aren’t you? You even make tails sound good! Though I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to make this one no matter how yummy you make it look and sound… 😉

    1. Honestly, Stacy, you won’t know the difference. I was surprised to learn it’s designated as offal. It just tastes like high quality beef roast, but more tender (when done properly).

      I’m ready for a tongue recipe. It’s one of my minor life goals to get more people to eat tongue. It’s another one of those where you wouldn’t know the difference if I sliced it thinly and put it on a cheesesteak, except it would be better.

  2. Your posts have encouraged me to branch out more. Liver is now a weekly meal, and we’ve had heart once. I’ve been eying the oxtails, and now I know exactly what to make them with when I buy them the next time I see them at the store. While not grassfed, I know that our store’s offal is locally sourced, so I don’t mind buying it. It also often goes on sale because there isn’t a high demand for it.

  3. I had oxtails for dinner once at the defac (cafeteria) in basic training for the army. It was amazing. It quickly became one of my favorite cuts of meat. So rich and savory. Better than chuck roast. And in my opinion…better than ribeye.

  4. Oh High WASPs love a good oxtail soup!

    As do the Mexican and Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. Oxtail I can do, and am happy for more recipes. The tongue and heart bit, yup, squeamish. Sorry:).

  5. Now THIS is right up my alley. And I just ordered some oxtail from my grass-fed beef supplier in the panhandle. I’m going to TRY this soon, Jan, as my next order of meet will be delivered Saturday! 🙂

  6. At first I thought you were saying that cow testicles were a boney cut of meat! lol

    I LOVE oxtail! This was a great recipe, but what a lovely cut of meat. And I agree that this really isn’t offal and that if you didn’t tell anyone they wouldn’t know the difference once it falls off the bone, though I think it’s pretty on the bone.

  7. I put a few pieces of oxtail in with beef bones when I make stock. I’m convinced they *make* the stock.

  8. Royal Caribbean (the cruise line) serves an oxtail broth as one of their ‘dining hall’ appetizers. O.M.G. — let me repeat that: OOOOO! MY G!!!! The most fantastic broth ever. And I’ve been meaning to get some “ox” tail and make my own…. But with this recipe, maybe I’ll do both! Make it an all-“ox” dinner!

  9. I saw a link to this on a paleo blog and followed it. Then later that night I noticed oxtails at my local store. Or, I guess, only one, or a portion of one, but I bought it anyway thinking I could just use it for soup. But your post inspired me to try it at all and that is a good thing.

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