Spring is rumored to have arrived here, but I’m not quite sure I believe yet. I, for one, am still reaching for a sweater every morning and still finding that wintertime dishes, such as this Oxtail Ragout, hit the spot at dinner time.
I grew to love oxtails while living until recently in South Africa, where they are considered homey comfort food and the perfect dinner remedy for a chilly evening. For readers unfamiliar with oxtails, just imagine your favorite short ribs dish, but with its unctuously beefy flavor intensified. Oxtails also make a superb base for home cooked beef stock for those of you who make it.
The following recipe for oxtail ragout was inspired by my mother’s wonderful approach to short ribs ragout, which, in turn, likely owes a passing (but respectful) nod to Julia Child’s classic recipe for Beef Bourguignon. My innovations, aside from using oxtails as the main attraction, include using a much lighter hand with added butter and oil, applying a simplified cooking technique, and including more vegetables in the dish to increase its healthy appeal. Whole mushrooms, pearl onions, carrots, parsnips, and baby potatoes play more than a minor role in this one-dish meal, which I hope you enjoy.
2 pounds meaty oxtails, cut at the joints and trimmed of excess fat
2 tablespoons flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 celery stalk
3-4 fresh parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 strips bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 can of cubed tomatoes, undrained
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Burgundy
1 1/4 cups beef broth (preferably home made)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
6 baby potatoes, peeled
5-6 carrots, peeled
2-3 parsnips, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound small, or “pearl,” white onions
1/2 pound whole mushrooms
Salt and pepper, to taste