Well, it’s been a while, since duck feet (see May 5th, 2014 post), I think, but I finally was able to find another organ/body part to write about. (I’m really running low on options for this category—sheep’s head/eyeballs and “Rocky Mountain Oysters” might be among the few remaining ones that I haven’t tried.) But, happily my local Shop Rite came through again, in the organ section of their meat aisle.
Oxtail is pretty much popular everywhere—it’s eaten throughout Europe, South America, Asia, West Africa, and clearly parts of the
U.S. It used to refer to literal ox tails, or then
castrated males (steers), but now, it’s generally used to refer to the tails of
any cattle. And while some people render
it “ox tails,” the most common spelling seems to be as one word.
Alas, the oxtail was not canned, dried, or precooked, so I had to do some real cooking for the first time in probably a year or so. Also, most of the recipes I saw online were for oxtail soups or stews, and I’m not big on either of these food types. Fortunately my parents’ old Fannie Farmer cookbook had a non-soup/stew recipe, so I went with this. I’ll include the basic recipe below. This cookbook is quite historic, too—the first edition came out in 1896, and the one I used, the 11th edition, was still 50 years old!
Wash and drain oxtails.
Roll in flour.
Melt butter or other cooking fat in skillet/pan.
Put oxtails in skillet/pan and brown them.
Add enough water to fill most of skillet/pan.
Add tomatoes, mushrooms, salt and pepper, and garlic.
Cover and cook on low hear for 3-4 hours, until meat is tender.
Ms. Farmer included soup stock, bay leaf, and onions in the slow-cooking phase, but since I didn’t have/want these I didn’t. Also I used grape tomatoes, as I had some left over, instead of the tomatoes. You can slow cook this in the oven, too, but I was more comfortable using the stovetop.
Incidentally, Fannie Farmer was a real person, an expert chef/writer, who lived from 1857-1915. Another cooking icon, Betty Crocker, is a just a brand name, and wasn’t a real woman. Also, I understand that “Fannie” is British slang for a private female body part, meaning that people probably snicker at Ms. Farmer’s name in the
The oxtail’s appearance was a little deceiving. From the outside, it looked like it had a round bone in the center, with meat all around it. But, as I soon discovered, you can’t easily cut the meat off. The tail, after all, is a vertebrae, and thus has a vertebrae’s standard shape, complete with several projections right under the surface. The only way to remove the meat from the bone (short of using a saw, I guess) is after cooking, and even then I had to use my teeth at some points. In addition, the oxtail was surprisingly expensive. I got about a pound for around $7. I noticed that the tripe and liver were much better values, being about $2-3 for much bigger cuts.
The end result was positive, though. There was a fair amount of fat, but this seemed to add to the meat’s juiciness and flavor, like marbled flesh. The oxtail was tender and tasty. The mushrooms and tomatoes seemed to complement the meat well. Really, my only complaint was that the portion was kind of small—with the bone taking up much of the package’s weight I probably got only a half pound of actual meat (and some of this had to be gnawed off the bone, as I mentioned before). Others who tried it agreed with my opinion. Therefore, I would definitely recommend oxtail’s taste and flavor, but given its high price (at least in
South New Jersey), as well as my aversion to cooking,
it’s probably not something I will eat regularly.