Monday, December 1, 2014

Braised Oxtail Stew with Red Wine

Rich, succulent and meltingly tender, Braised Oxtail must be one of the ultimate comfort foods. The magic of braising is that it relies on heat, time, and moisture to successfully break down the tough connective tissue and collagens in meat, transforming the dense, well-marbled texture of oxtail until its fall-off-the-bone tender, while creating a velvety, deeply flavoured sauce along the way. From the perfect pot roast to the fragrant complexity of a classic coq au vin, there's really no food more satisfying than a well-braised dish. Slowly braising the oxtail to succulent perfection in a combination of red wine, beef broth, flour, a bouquet of aromatic herbs and chopped vegetables gives the meat a deep, dark mahogany colour and fabulous flavour, that makes this one of my favourite dishes on a cold winter day. Rich in gelatin, the bone marrow adds a sticky, glossy texture that's impossible to beat. Served over a mound of Leek & Scallion Mashed Potatoes with a puddle of satiny sauce and a bottle of full bodied red wine, this dish is a winner.

Braised Oxtail Stew with Red Wine
Serves 4
Recipe adapted from The Silver Palate

5lb oxtails, cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups beef broth
1 cup Burgundy wine
1 cup tomato juice
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot, cut 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup chopped parsley, for garnish

Creamy Mashed Potatoes:
4 lb yukon gold or baking potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups whole milk or light cream
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped chives

Dry and dredge the oxtails with flour until thoroughly coated, shaking off the excess. Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven, and add to the pot one by one. Don’t overcrowd the pot, or you won’t get good colouring on the meat – do it in batches if necessary. Brown the oxtail on all sides, turning with tongs, until the meat has a nice colour. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. 

Add the beef broth, wine, tomato juice and paste and whisk to combine. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then add the onions, celery and carrot, mixing well. Return the oxtails to the pot and immerse them well in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the oxtails are very tender and just about falling away from the bone. 

Meanwhile, begin to prepare the mashed potatoes. In a large pot, bring the potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well. Mash the potatoes well with a potato masher, or ricer, until smooth and free of chunks. Add the cream and butter, and season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped chives and mix well. Cover and keep warm until the oxtails are ready to be served.

Once the oxtails are cooked, discard the bay leaves and remove the oxtail with a slotted spoon and place on a warm plate. Using a hand immersion blender, purée the braising liquid until smooth, then return the oxtails to the pot, cover and rewarm over low heat.

To serve, arrange 3-4 oxtail around the side of each dinner bowl and spoon some sauce over top, with a dollop of mashed potatoes in the middle. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.