Soup. Are you sick of soup yet? Not me!
Before I made this, I’d never had oxtail soup. I KNOW! It’s such a winter classic, so traditional. Maybe that’s why I’d never had it! Be that as it may, when I saw some queues de boeuf in the supermarket, I snatched them right up. When I got home, I wasn’t sure anymore why.
There they were, though, so I decided to go ahead and make oxtail soup. The problem was that I didn’t know how to begin. So I searched all my favorite blogs. Nothing. I googled and found this and this. The problem was that I didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like. From the googled recipes I began to put together an idea of what I should be doing. For another point of view, I turned to James Beard. In my copy of The New James Beard (1981!), there are recipes for not only oxtail soup but also oxtail gratin and oxtail bouillon. Clearly this is something that was much loved in the past. Or maybe it still is, but just not in MY past...
Finally the time for reading was over. It was time to start cooking. Below is the recipe I ended up with -- partly a combination of the common properties of all the recipes I found and partly a function of what I had on hand. It was still snowing outside, and I wasn’t going out. (I’m from the South, remember? I don’t drive in this.)
The recipes all said to cook this 3 or 3 1/2 hours, until the beef was tender and falling off the bone. It took mine almost 5 hours, and by then it was too late for dinner. So I left it to cool in the stockpot overnight and we ate it the next day for lunch. I think if you have a slow cooker this might be just the thing to do in that.
Yeah, Kate, but how did it taste? Well. They say that the muscles that the animal uses the most have the most flavor--the legs and haunches. I think this beast must have practiced standing on his tail. This was veryvery good. It brought back memories of some of the best pot roasts I had as a child--meat meltingly soft, falling in threads; vegetables adding their color and flavor. But it was the broth that made this special. James Beard spoke of it as unctuous. Because that word makes me think of a gigolo, I don’t think I’d use it. I don’t know a better one, though. This broth had a body to it that was remarkable. That, added to the flavor of the beef and the vegetables makes this something I’ll make again.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
500 g / about 1 pound oxtail pieces
Flour to dust meat
Salt and pepper
1 bell pepper
3 medium carrots
3 stalks celery
- Heat the oil in a soup pot.
- Put about t heaping soup spoons flour in a dish and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Roll the oxtail pieces in the flour and brown in the oil over high heat. You’re not really cooking them, only searing them. Remove from pot and set aside
- Slice the onion in half, peel it, and slice it thinly. Add to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onion starts to brown.
- Chop the pepper, the celery and the onion roughly and add them to the pot along with the oxtail pieces.
- Add enough water to cover, bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for until the meat is tender and falling off the bones, skimming the scum that rises to the top. Most recipes say this will take 3 to 3 1/2 hours. It took mine 5 hours. Add water as necessary to keep the meat covered.
- When the meat is tender, take the pieces out of the soup and let them cool till you can handle them. Strip the meat off the bones, shred it and put it back in the soup. Stir and serve!
Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t
- We served this with cornbread. I think it would also be good with boiled potatoes or some good crusty bread and butter.
- It really needed a little more salt.
- All the recipes I checked said to skim the scum that rises to the top of the soup. I skimmed all the scum I could (say THAT five times fast)--there wasn’t very much. I think it’s easier if there’s plenty of water in the pot.