Painted with a sweet and spicy glaze, and braised in a dark cauldron of flavor, my Whole Braised Oxtail with Pepper Jelly Glaze will fire up your taste buds with fork-tender beefiness.
Meat close to the bone is my all-time favorite, and I’ve written much about them all—pork neckbones, smoked turkey necks, ham hocks and even lamb necks. There’s something about sucking the meat off bones that is rustic, back-to-basics roots food to me. I love it so.
Make no bones about it; oxtail is simply the tail end of a cow. Once skinned and cleaned, it is an awe-inspiring sight, and when properly cooked, can command the highest prices in 5-star restaurants. Chinese chefs know the art of oxtail, and I’ve tasted many amazing dishes utilizing the cut. And now, mainstream American chefs have discovered oxtail with equally creative interpretations.
I’ve done lots of dishes using oxtail, but until now, I’ve sourced only the pre-cut and portioned tail segments. They’re delicious in soups, stocks, and stews. In fact, I have a very tasty Oxtail Stew recipe in my cookbook Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana.
Before you think this Whole Braised Oxtail with Pepper Jelly Glaze recipe is a money saver, please understand that oxtail is not a cheap, throwaway cut of beef. On the contrary, you’ll see it in the meat case of your local supermarket commanding the same price per pound as short ribs or chuck roast; it’s just that good. As you think about a cow’s tail, there is a thick end that tapers down to nearly nothing. When I buy oxtail already cut up, I look for the larger end pieces with a 4 to 5-inch diameter, but this recipe uses the whole oxtail, so you’ll get it all from big to small.
Finding the whole oxtail will take some effort, but in this recipe, it is well worth it in both the flavors and the dramatic presentation. I have a slaughterhouse—Eunice Superette—just an hour away from my home in Lafayette that preps these cuts for me. So, I would urge you to call around to your local butchers, and they should be able to point you in the tail-end direction. If you have a Latin grocery (Asian, too) with a meat market, you can most always find oxtail there.
Oxtail is mostly muscle meat; after all, just think about what a tail does all day long. The tail is made up of connective tissue and has lots of flavor, but it takes a long 4-hour braise to break down the connective tissue and render this cut to fall-off-the-bone tender beef. Also, we are oven-braising the meat versus a stovetop braise. Think about it: On the stovetop, we have a bottom heat source only; in the oven, heat is penetrating the meat from all sides cooking evenly and more efficiently. There are lots of bold flavors in this recipe that stand up deliciously to oxtail. The braising liquid is a heady brew of beef stock, red wine, Worcestershire, dark soy and Louisiana sugarcane molasses that cooks up into the perfect sauce accompaniment. And the spike of flavor from my glaze is the wake-up call this dish needs.
As I come to the tail end of this story, I urge you to give this Whole Braised Oxtail with Pepper Jelly Glaze a try. It’s adventurous cooking at its best.
- 1 (2.5-pound) whole oxtail, cleaned
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 4 tablespoons pepper jelly, divided
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 large spring onions with green stems attached
- ½ cup sliced red onion
- 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 medium mini sweet peppers
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugarcane molasses
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Kosher salt
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- 2 mini sweet peppers, sliced into thin rounds, for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 300ºF.
- Cut the whole oxtail in half. Sprinkle all sides with Cajun seasoning and brush with 2 tablespoons of pepper jelly. Sprinkle with black pepper.
- In a Dutch oven with heavy lid, add the oxtail. Add the onions, parsley, carrots, bay leaves, sweet pepper and garlic. Pour over the wine, stock, Worcestershire, soy sauce and molasses to cover the oxtail halfway; if needed, add additional water. Cover and place in the oven. Cook until the meat is tender and pulls from the bones (about 4 hours}, basting and turning the meat every hour. Along the way, make sure there is plenty of liquid remaining; if not, add more water.
- Remove the pot from the oven and uncover. Check for fork-tender meat, and if not, cook longer as needed. Place the oxtail on a serving platter along with the carrots from the pot. Keep warm.
- Remove the vegetables from the braising liquid and skim any fat from the surface of the liquid. Return to the stovetop over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Make a slurry with cornstarch and cold water and add a couple of tablespoons to the braising liquid. As it boils, it will thicken and once it is of sauce consistency (to coat the back of a spoon), turn off the heat. Add the butter and stir into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Brush the oxtail with more of the pepper jelly and spoon over some of the sauce. Garnish with parsley and peppers. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes with more sauce on the side.