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Recipe: Oxtail Stew – Subdue Winter

Successfully paired with Vin du Lac 2010 “LEHM” Gewurztraminer.

A blast of cold last week brought snow, hail and some very dangerous road conditions. For a day. The snow and ice left, but the cold wind remained. The return of winter weather primed my appetite for something hot and filling. Which explains why I impulsively bought a bag of oxtail. Oxtail?

Oxtail is, well, it is the tail of a cattle cut into short pieces. Oxtail is a bony, gelatin-rich meat, usually slow-cooked as a stew. I have warm, fuzzy memories of my mother making oxtail stew when I was a little boy. But I had never made oxtail stew. I had no treasured family recipe, and I was not sure of the ingredients I would need. Beef stock obviously. But what else? And how long would it take to make? These are questions I would answer for myself last weekend.

Oxtail stew day two - in one of my wheel thrown bowls.
I'll save you some work by providing the recipe I found, used and modified. There is a proper process for making a successful oxtail stew. The key ingredient, besides the oxtail, is time. It took me an entire day to prepare this stew. The kicker with oxtail stew is that it is not ready to eat until the next day. Trust me, the delicious result is well worth the effort my friends. I sampled the stew on the first day - it was thin, sweet and disappointing. The ingredients had not merged. However, on day two, it was a wondrous melding of flavor and texture – this stew rocked on day two. Of course wine is also involved.

The following recipe requires two cups of red wine. Use a good quality red wine, something you would enjoy drinking while cooking. One of the surprises with this stew, was the wine pairing. To my delight, I found a white wine which paired wonderfully with this rich, savory stew.


Marbled in fat, with iron-rich marrow, traditionally, oxtail was a cheaper cut of meat, essentially the tail and vertebrae of a steer. Once the poor man's food, available for pennies a pound, it is not so today. I paid $10 for 2 lbs of oxtail. Contact your butcher for availability.

* one of the reasons I selected this recipe is that it is gluten free.

Ingredients for base:

2 lbs oxtails with separated joints
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 large organic leek, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 cups beef stock (gluten free)*
2 cups of red wine (I used 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend)
3 whole cloves garlic
One bay leaf
Dash of Italian seasoning (thyme, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, basil, sage)

Vegetables for roasting:

 2 carrots, cut into 1-inch segments, large pieces also cut lengthwise
 4 red potatoes, cut into 1-inch segments, large pieces also cut lengthwise
 2 turnips, cut into 1-inch pieces
 Olive oil
 Salt and pepper

Process Day One

1. Pat dry oxtails with paper towels. Sprinkle oxtails all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium to medium high heat in a large pan. Working in batches, and not crowding the pan, sear the oxtails in the hot pan on all sides until golden brown. Use tongs to remove oxtails to a plate, setting aside.

2. Add to the pan the chopped leek, carrot, and celery. Cook for a few minutes until leeks are translucent. Add the oxtails back to the pan. Add the whole garlic cloves, the beef stock and wine. Add bay leaf, Italian seasoning, and half a teaspoon of salt. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low. *Cover and cook for 3 hours, until meat is fork tender.

*I elected to use a slow cooker for the 3 hour cooking. If you do this, be careful transferring the hot oxtails and liquid from the pan to the crock pot.

3. One hour before the meat is done, heat oven to 350°F. Toss the carrots, potatoes, and turnips in olive oil in a roasting pan. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Roast these vegetables for 1 hour, or until lightly browned and cooked through. Set aside to cool and then place in the refrigerator. You will combine the roasted vegetables with the stew on the next day.

4. After 3 hours of slow cooking, the meat should be tender, remove the stew from heat. Since you are making ahead, at this point you can just put the stew in the refrigerator (let it come to room temperature first), with the oxtails still in it, and let it chill over night.

Process Day Two

5. The next day, scrape off the fat from the surface of the stew, it will be easy to remove the solidified fat. Then reheat the liquid with the oxtail on low heat for 15 minutes. Use tongs to remove the re-heated oxtails to a plate, setting aside. If you want, you can remove the meat from the bone and then set aside on a plate.

6. Pour the re-heated cooking liquid through a mesh strainer into a large bowl - use a rubber spatula to press against the vegetable solids caught in the strainer – you want every last drop of this delicious liquid. Discard the vegetable solids.

7. Return the strained liquid to the pan and simmer until reduced by half. Then add back in the oxtails or the de-boned meat, and the roasted vegetables to the pan. Heat on low heat for half an hour for the flavors to meld.

Serve and enjoy!

Red Wine Pairing: 14 Hands 2010 Hot to Trot Red Blend.
14 Hands 2010 Hot to Trot - in the glass and in the stew.
Pairing red wine with beef stew is completely expected. Pairing this stew with the 14 Hands Hot to Trot makes sense because it was used in making this stew. The 14 Hands Hot to Trot is a fruit forward wine, medium body, gentle tannin and easy to drink. A very suitable choice.

Release Info:
Blend: Predominantly Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon with hints of Mourvedre and other select red varieties
Appellation: Columbia Valley
ABV: 13.5%
Retail price: $12.00

White Wine Pairing: 2010 Vin du Lac “LEHM” Gewurztraminer.
2010 "LEHM" Gewurztraminer.
I was very surprised that my favorite pairing with this Oxtail Stew, was the 2010 Vin du Lac “LEHM” Gewurztraminer. This 100% Lake Chelan Valley Gewurztraminer with its subtle flavors and gentle sweetness, was a perfect match to the savoriness of the stew. Sweet and savory, cool and hot, refined and rustic, this is one of my favorite pairing successes. Break some rules, try something different. Winemaker Larry Lehmbecker has another enchanting wine for you to enjoy.

Release Info:
100% Gewurztraminer
RS 0.9%
ABV 13.3%
Bottled July 2011, Released September 2011
Sample provided by the winery.
Retail price: $19.99 

I hope you take the time to make this stew. It subdued the winter blues, satisfied the desire for warmth and comfort, and renewed my connection to home cooked meals prepared for family. Hopefully, my son will recall fondly how his father used to make a soul satisfying oxtail soup. Now we have a recipe to pass along.


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