Braised Oxtail with Balsamic Gastrique

In the past few weeks I’ve been pushing my own personal boundaries. I’m stepping out of the comfort zone, and I’ve set out to experience nose to tail eating. It seems natural for people perceive something in a particular way, and automatically find it unappealing based on just the idea of what it is alone. I’m not entirely exempt from this category of people, but I’m really trying. I’m on a mission to uncover the forgotten art of nose to tail eating, this means I’m searching for the weird bits and giving them a go. Over the years I’ve become really annoyed by what seams to be a common disrespect for animals and meat. Too many people today are so far from the land that they have taken for granted that an animals life was lost so that we may eat. Its just disrespectful to take an animals life and not make use of the whole thing. So even though I’m still fighting off the squeamish anxiety of trying new things, I’m determined to see what I can do, and eat what I can eat.

Recently I’ve really limited all meat that comes into the house, meat is the “splurge” in our budget. Meat in general is beginning to cost too much, good quality meat? Forget it. I buy a few good quality items and stretch it. When I made bacon I utilized every single piece of the pork belly, the skin was turned into dog treats, the fat was rendered for cooking and the bacon …was bacon. This meal is another perfect example of making use of the investment. Although the tidbits used to be cheap, now days the non-standard cuts are a novelty. When you think oxtail do you think expensive? I mean it is delicious, but do you think $6-7 a pound? I sure didn’t, I was not prepared for how much oxtail would cost. I’m sure to some $20 for 3lbs of meat is laughable, but a tail thats mostly bone? Holy Wow!

Budget in hand, I made due and stretched it. Instead of fancy-pants razor refills and nice-ish shampoo…I did without. (again) My hair dye’s faded and my legs are all nicked up, but I tell you its worth it. This was a great experience. Oxtail is probably the least “offensive” recipe I’ve tampered with in this meat-tastic adventure. In my head a lot of these random animal parts must taste entirely different. I did not grow up in a “gourmet” household, we ate pretty regular foods. For some reason or another I’ve just assumed the bits taste strange, in fact I’m finding that pigs feet taste like pork, and oxtail tastes like beef. Imagine that? The pig tastes like pig, the cow tastes like cow. I’ve razzed myself out, I’ve even panicked. Totally unfounded fears. I made a wonderful braised oxtail that was braised in a sweet and sour vinegar and beer mixture.  I served it with perfectly creamy mashed potatoes and a simple balsamic gastrique, this was a pot roast supper with the volume on high. Although my expectations were that this would be out of this world and entirely different it really did not taste much different than any other cut of beef. (It tasted a little “beefier” maybe, a very slightly mineral taste.)  The gristle and fat was saved for another use, the leftover meat was chopped up and mixed with raw diced onion and barbecue sauce. Move over sloppy Joe’s, barbecue sandwiches never tasted so great!

Braised Oxtail With Balsamic Gastrique
The oxtails were braised in a cider vinegar and beer combination. You can substitute beer for white wine. Once they are done braising its best to allow them to rest overnight.
2 tablespoons flavorless oil
salt and pepper
3-4 pounds oxtails (8 or 9 pieces)
2 onions sliced
2 tablespoons butter
8 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup beer
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In an oven proof heavy bottomed pan (I use a cast iron dutch oven) heat oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle oxtails with salt and pepper. Place into the pan and brown on all sides. This could take up to 20 minutes. Remove oxtails from pan. Melt butter and saute onions 4-6 minutes until they are softened. Add garlic, tomato paste, vinegar and beer. Stir to combine. Add oxtails back to the pot and add water or stock, just enough to cover. Place into preheated oven and cook 3-4 hours. It should be tender but not quite falling off the bone. Remove the lid for the last half hour to an hour to help reduce the sauce.
Refrigerate overnight, this helps improve the flavor. It also makes the meat easier to handle and the fat very easy to remove.
Remove from the fridge. The fat will settle on the top of your container. Scrape off the fat and discard it. Shred the beef off of the bone, separate the meat from the gristle, fat and bones. (I saved the fat, onions and gristle for another use) To reheat place the meat with some of the braising liquid into a 200-300 degree oven until warm. Approximately 1 hour.
Balsamic Gastrique-
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
*salt and lots of black pepper
Place vinegar and sugar into a pan over medium heat. Whisk together until reduced and thickened.

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