By Sylvie Rowand / Photography by Molly McDonald Peterson
Oxtail soup may well be my favorite hearty winter soup. Oxtail is an inexpensive cut that delivers an incredible amount of flavor. As it slowly cooks, the collagen dissolves and yields an unctuous liquid. I like to suck all the meaty bits off the bones—very peasant of me, I know. If you prefer a less rustic presentation, remove the oxtail from the soup and let it cool. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the bones, put the meat back in the pot, and heat up until warmed through. Similarly, you may put the whole spices and bay leaves in a tea ball or a cheesecloth bag to remove before serving.
SERVES 6 AS A MAIN DISH
3½ pound oxtail, sliced by the butcher
1 tablespoon olive oil or lard
3 medium onions or large leeks (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)
1 quart good quality chicken (or beef or vegetable) broth, or even water.
1 quart water
6 juniper berries (optional)
1 dry medium-hot chili pepper (optional)
3 bushy sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
3 bay leaves (optional)
6 fresh sage leaves, minced
3 garlic cloves, degermed and minced
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
1 smallish bunch parsley, stems chopped, leaves minced, and divided in 2.
Broil the oxtail on high about 5 minutes on each side until the meats browns and sizzles.
Meanwhile, sweat the onions or leeks in the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, making sure they don’t brown, only get limp—about 10-15 minutes. Stir often to prevent browning and sticking.
Add the oxtails and any accumulated juices and all other ingredients except half the parsley leaves. Pour about a cup of warm water in the oxtail pan, scraping to get as much of the browned bits up and dump in the pot. Bring to boil. Lower heat Oxtail Soup and simmer 3½ to 4 hours or until the meat is very tender and starts falling off the bones.
Ten minutes before the end, add the remaining chopped parsley.
Serve hot with some good bread as a soup. Or take the meat (and bones, don’t forget the bones!) out and serve on top of mashed potatoes, or mashed celeriac or with roasted veggies and just a little of the broth as gravy. The rich flavorful broth can be served separately or strained and slowly reduced for a demi-glace-like sauce.
Sylvie Rowand of Washington, Va., grows, forages, and preserves food; cooks for others and teaches the pleasures of growing your own food and eating seasonally through workshops and her blog, www.laughingduckgardens.com