Even in the heat of summer, I still feel the call for dishes like braised oxtail. A rich and flavorful cut that has returned to prominence in recent years, oxtail requires a long cook time and frequent use in stews and braises. In the summer, there are two tools that you can use to enjoy this fantastic cut while not heating the house too much – a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. Even better, if you have one of the electronic pressure cookers that are all the rage these days, it will double as a slow cooker as well. This oxtail ragout will be served over a quick herbed couscous to make sure we don’t lose any of the delicious sauce.
This was a post I started before the blog went on its hibernation, but I came across it as I had oxtail this week and realized I should get back to writing more of these. So welcome back to actual recipe work and not just reviews or restaurant shout outs!
Aside from being fatty and tough, oxtail has a bone running through its center. Usually, there will be a bit of marrow in your oxtail bones adding to the flavor of oxtail dishes. The difficulty with oxtail is removing the meat from the bones – you can serves the oxtail on the bone, or you can take the time to strip the meat from the bones after cooking. It was an underappreciated cut for the longest time and was a cheap way to get fantastic flavor if you took the time to cook it … and then it was rediscovered and is now more readily available but also more expensive than it once was.
In pressure cookers and braises at home, I like to use dried herbs instead of fresh. Part of that is because I am busy and can’t commit the the time to always using or having fresh herbs. I also can’t seem to grow a window garden of herbs successfully. Dried herbs are not immortal, however, and should be used within a year of opening them. If you have not used them that quickly, best to just replace them with a “fresh” batch. If you are using fresh herbs, triple the amount in the recipe.
Braising Liquid Notes
I like to use chicken stock to braise oxtail to give it a bit of balance. I have found that using beef stock can make it overwhelmingly beefy so the chicken stock acts as a flavorful braising liquid without overpowering the end result. This time I used a homemade chicken stock which is why it looks a bit thicker than a box of stock from the store. Wine is often used in Oxtail braises to deepen the flavor and to help soften the meat while it cooks. If you want to use wine, replace 1-2 cups of the stock in the recipe with a medium body red wine, like pinot noir or a carmenere. I have also found ½ Cup to a Cup of bourbon is a good addition to the braise.
Braised Oxtail Ragout
- 2-3lbs Oxtail
- 1 Onion
- 2-3 Medium Carrots, chopped
- 2-3 Celery Stalks, chopped
- 3 Cloves garlic, smashed
- 2tsp Dried Thyme
- 2tsp Dried Oregano
- 1tsp Dried Marjoram
- 2-3 Dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 4 Cups Chicken stock or water
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Cup couscous
- 1 Cup chicken stock
- 1 TBSP Butter
- ¼ Cup chopped fresh parsley or other herbs
- ¼ Cup Feta
- Zest of ½ Lemon
Oxtail Pressure Cooker Steps
- Pat Oxtail dry and season liberally with salt and pepper
- While the oxtail comes to room temperature, heat your pressure cooker with olive oil until it is shimmering
- Add the Oxtail to the pressure cooker and brown on all sides, working in batches so you don’t crowd the pot.
- Remove the oxtail and add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the rendered fat, stirring constantly until the vegetables are softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes
- Return the oxtail to the pressure cooker
- Top with the Beef Stock or water and seal the pressure cooker
- Cook under high pressure for 45-60 minutes
- Let the pressure come down naturally with all of the liquid in the pressure cooker
- While the pressure is coming down, prepare the herbed couscous.
- Transfer several ladles of the cooking liquid to a small pot and begin reducing to thicken the sauce
- Reduce the oxtail braising liquid in half in a small saucepot over medium high heat, adding a pat of butter for glossiness and richness if desired.
- Toss the oxtail in the reduced sauce.
- Ladle the oxtail braise or ragout over the couscous and garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest
Slow Cooker Steps
- Pat Oxtail dry and season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Set your slow cooker to high and let the garlic cloves sit in the olive oil while it heats up
- Brown the oxtail over medium-high to high heat on all sides, working in batches as needed.
- Add the chopped vegetables to the slow cooker and arrange the oxtail on top of them
- Sprinkle the herbs over the oxtail and add the liquid until it is just covered
- Reduce the heat to low and let cook for 8-10 hours
- While preparing the herbed couscous, transfer several ladles of the cooking liquid to a small pot and begin reducing to thicken the sauce
- If removing the oxtail from the bone, toss with the reduced sauce and ladle over the herbed couscous.
- Garnish with lemon zest and chopped parsley
If you have some of this oxtail ragout left, you can turn it into an oxtail soup the next day by adding a cup or two of cooked beans or pulses and some extra liquid to thin it out. The concentrated flavor of the oxtail will hold up well to the extra broth and the beans or grains can make for a filling dish.