Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mister Batali's oxtail ragú

Show of hands. How many of you have ever awoken on a brilliant Sunday morning in the deep of Autumn, obsessed not with love or leisure but with oxtails?


This urge of mine arose completely out of the blue, mind you. I had gone to bed harboring no plans whatever of cooking oxtails the next day. The subject had not come up in conversation, and there wasn't a single oxtail in the freezer crying out to be had at.

Thing is, I listen to the voices inside my head. Always. By 9 a.m. I had spoken to every butcher within 30 miles who was at work on Sunday and well before noontime the oxtails and I were back at the house, safe and sound.

I know. I worry about me too sometimes.

An oxtail ragú recipe in Mario Batali's "The Babbo Cookbook" is pretty simple and so I went with that. This is about 5 pounds of oxtails, liberally seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Dredge the oxtails in all-purpose flour.

In a Dutch oven sear the meat on both sides in very hot olive oil until golden brown. This will need to be done in a couple of batches, as five pounds won't fit all at once, not even in my most gigantic (13-quart) Le Creuset.

Remove the meat and set aside. Add two sliced onions and saute until softened but not browned.

Add 4 cups of red wine (I used an inexpensive aglianico), one cup of a simple tomato sauce, 2 cups chicken stock, and fresh thyme. Let this come to a boil, then add the meat, cover and place in an oven preheated to 375 F.  (Note on the tomato sauce: I always have some around. If you don't, and aren't in the mood to make some, I'd suggest adding a couple garlic cloves, some herbs and one or two diced carrots when sauteing the onions and then adding canned crushed tomatoes at this stage. I'm sure that'll work out just fine.)

In about 90 minutes check and see if the meat is nicely softened. If it isn't just let it cook a little longer. This batch was done in 2 hours, at which point I removed the oxtails from the sauce, allowed them to cool, then picked the meat off the bones.

All that's left to do now is add the meat back to the sauce and reheat.

That first night I served the ragú over potato gnocchi, which you already saw above. But a couple days later I went with a fresh cavatelli.

The ragú was even better after a couple days. But these things usually are, which is why I'll normally cook something like this at least a day in advance.

Unless, of course, the voices inside my head command otherwise.

Oxtail Ragú
From Mario Batali's "The Babbo Cookbook"

5 lbs oxtail, cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Flour, for dredging
2 medium onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
4 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups basic tomato sauce
2 tbs. fresh thyme leaves
Pecorino romano, for grating

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Trim the excess fat from the oxtails and season liberally with salt and pepper.
In a 6- to 8-quart, heavy bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until it is just smoking. Quickly dredge the oxtails in flour and sear them on all sides until browned, turning with long-handled tongs. Remove the browned oxtail to a plate and set aside.
Add the onions to the same pan and cook them until slightly browned. Add the wine, stock, tomato sauce and thyme, and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the oxtails to the pot, submerging them in the liquid, and return the pot to a boil. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.
Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the oxtails with long-handled tongs. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred into small pieces with a fork.  Discard the bones.
With a small ladle, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce. Return the shredded meat to the pot.  Place over medium high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and allow the sauce to reduce to a very thick ragú. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve over the pasta of your choice, topped with grated Pecorino.


Melissa Moore said...

Argh! Why do you do this to me on Sunday mornings? My life would have been easier if this urge had hit you yesterday. Now I've got to go find some oxtails.

Fred said...

You had me at potato gnocchi.

Anonymous said...

Oh,my papa it sounds so good, our only child ate at one of Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich restaurants, she said it was so so good..took some food home...I would love to be able to cook like you do it is just me and my hubbs, but I could cook at the shelter where I volunteer and I know the people would go crazy, now I am thinking that is what I am gonna do, get a good butcher to get the oxtails, cook them in batches and then the place will have lots to munch on, they are already tired as you know what of turkey..I make a mean gnocchi and I do know how to make I hope I am spelling it correctly cavatelli? They should go well with that oxtail ragu is what I call it, only need some bread to sop it up with over the pasta, oh, you make me so hungry you devil you, just kidding, how I am learning to cook so much better since reading mister meatball!!! Happy Holidays to you!

S. said...

I'll raise my hand to the oxtail love... and I'll raise my glass to that lovely dish.

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

Oxtail, huh? So, how are oxtails different from cowtails?

Mister Meatball said...

I look like an animal scientist to you?

jerseypaulie said...

Mario is one of the "famous TV chefs" that I really like. His ingredients and preparations are authentic and the resulting dishes are usually very tasty without being over-seasoned or Americanized. I have made oxtail soup before and the time it took to get the meat off the tails didn't seem worth it. My problem was the tails I got were all the small cross sections. Looking at the raw ones you used, means I have to talk to my butcher. Probably this morning, thanks to your unbelievable power of suggestion.

Mister Meatball said...

Go git 'em, Paulie!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Now THAT is a thing of beauty.

Melissa Moore said...

Okay. So after I figured out it was Saturday and not Sunday, I was finally able to track down oxtails, even though it was a 3 hour round trip drive. I must say, it was totally worth it! Thanks for the recipe.

Mister Meatball said...

Wow, that was fast. Very glad you liked.

Anonymous said...

Never have had oxtails but this looks good. I love gnocchi too. Must try at some point in life although if it is *that* good maybe I shouldn't. Hate those powerful food cravings. lol