Braised Oxtail for Two

In my mind there's a growing list of items overdue for a revival: sherry, men's hats, luxury passenger train service, several forgotten cuts of meat. Some of the items are a bit fanciful, admittedly. But among the more obtainable is the recipe I present to you here:

Oxtail, with its rich marrow and its cute little pieces, is ready for its comeback. It's not a joke when I suggest you serve your Valentine something that once hung on the backside of a cow. IT'S REAL.

I came across this oxtail—not on the back of a cow—but in the back of a freezer chest at Whole Foods and quickly laid plans to braise it in red wine. Oxtail is an ideal candidate for braising, and it's difficult to go wrong when searing the meat and bathing it in thick reduced Cabernet.

I relied on a recipe from the December 1997 issue of Gourmet as a guide here, but have made adjustments to increase the vegetable content. I couldn't ignore a suggestion from Melissa Clark at the New York Times, who seasons her oxtail with allspice a few hours before searing. Allspice in tandem with the wine yields a gravy that's the real star of this dish. Serve the meat and gravy over mashed potatoes, and feel pleased with yourself for avoiding a crowded restaurant this year.

Braised Oxtail
Adapted from Gourmet and the New York Times
Serves 2 generously

Ingredients

1 bottle Cabernet
2 lb oxtail pieces
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots
2 garlic cloves
2 carrots
1 leek (white part only)
1 small onion
2 celery ribs
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup beef broth
 

Method

In a large bowl, combine salt, pepper and allspice. Add oxtail to bowl and rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate a couple hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a heavy saucepan boil wine until reduced by about half (about 1 and 2/3 cups). Pat oxtails dry. Season oxtails with allspice, salt, and pepper. In a deep heavy ovenproof kettle just large enough to hold oxtails in one layer heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderately high heat until foam subsides and brown oxtails on all sides and transfer to bowl. Coarsely chop shallots, garlic, carrots, leeks, onion, and celery. Add vegetables to kettle and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened.

Arrange oxtails over vegetables and add reduced wine, thyme, and enough broth to just cover oxtails. Bring liquid to a boil and braise oxtails, covered, in middle of oven 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until meat is very tender but not falling off the bone. Transfer oxtails and carrots with a slotted spoon to a bowl and keep warm. Skim fat from the braising liquid and discard. Push braising liquid through a fine sieve into a large saucepan and discard solids. Boil liquid until thick, shiny, then whisk in remaining tablespoon butter.

Garnish oxtail with chopped parsley. Serve with gravy over mashed potatoes.