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Braised Oxtails with Olives

Oxtails, which nowadays come from steer and not oxen, are usually sold sliced crosswise into 2-inch portions. Like short ribs, they are experiencing a rediscovery of sorts, as more people come to appreciate them as a traditional comfort food. Long, slow cooking mellows the meat and releases the gelatin from the bones, making an extraordinarily savory stew. Since the meat tends to be fatty, make this dish a day ahead so you can skim the chilled fat off the top before reheating and serving.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 lb. oxtails, trimmed and cut into 2-inch
     pieces by the butcher
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into strips 1/4
     inch wide
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups beef stock or prepared broth
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Pat the oxtails dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches to avoid crowding, add the meat and brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes per batch. Transfer the oxtails to a bowl and set aside.

Add the onion, carrots and bacon to the drippings in the pot and sauté over medium heat until the onions are softened and the bacon is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Return the oxtails, along with any accumulated juices, to the pot. Add the stock, wine, tomatoes and their juices, bay leaf, thyme, anchovy paste, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the oxtails are very tender and the meat pulls away from the bone easily, about 3 hours, using a slotted spoon or skimmer to occasionally skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

Add the olives and vinegar and cook for 1 minute to allow the flavors to blend. Discard the bay leaf. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Skim any fat off the top. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight, skim the fat off the top and reheat before serving the next day. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Soup & Stew, by Diane Rossen Worthington (Simon & Schuster, 2004).