It’s not something you whip up for your kid’s 3rd birthday party. And if you give your 5 year old a choice between say pizza or oxtails, chances are they’re not gonna scream, “Oxtails, please…pizza sucks!” That said, my kids love oxtail soup. I made it the other night and you’d think they hadn’t eaten a thing in days. They devoured it handily.
The truth is, this succulent little meal is perfect for a blustery October day. The meat gets so tender in the fatty broth and falls off the bone in little juicy clumps. The broth is dotted with slicks of fat, which might scream out to the cook for a good skimming with a ladle, but from a parents point of view, all that fat from pasture fed ox is like a booster for little developing brains. And frankly, as a devout meat lover, I would rather get my fat calories from a hardy soup than from a sugary cupcake any day of the week.
The girls are just squirrely about the meat. Edie pops those stringy pieces in her mouth and the juices run down her chin. She has her little fingers in the bowl again before I even realize it. Lucy loves "the juice" (which means broth in our house) and she gulps it down sloppily right from the bowl.
And since all the veg are dressed in this rich broth, they go down easy and more get eaten than anyone can count or measure (which is sooooo much better than the latest cookbook advice from Jessica Seinfeld/Neurotic Food Bandit, who purees her veg under the cloak of darkness and injects the stuff willy nilly into her kid's food whenever they're not looking. Ah! Thanks Jessica for going on Oprah and inspiring millions of women to trick their kids into eating better, which is so much easier than actually inspiring them to eat and cook great food...Okay, now I guess I have to officially and thoughtfully post about her book. Fair enough.)
Back to the soup - there are lots of ways to skin this cat, but my soup is pretty basic. If you want to make a stew instead of a soup, you can thicken the broth...and voila!...Stew. I use whatever veg is sitting around the old fridge. This is a snap.
(makes for 6 people)
2 cups flour
Salt and pepper to taste
6 pounds oxtail, cut into chunks (approximately 12 chunks)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic sliced and mashed (or just make your life easier and use the jarred chopped garlic)
1 large onion chopped into chunks
Beef broth (I make my own, but a good organic store-bought brand is fine)
4 stalks of celery, chopped into chunks
4 carrots peeled and chopped into chunks (or use the pre-cut variety to save your sanity)
5 potatoes peeled and chopped into large chunks
In a shallow bowl, add the flour. Season well with salt and pepper. Dredge the oxtails in the flour, shaking off any excess. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat, add the olive oil, heat it up and throw those guys in. Brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.
When all of the meat is browned, remove the meat from the pan and set aside on a plate. While the meat is browning, dice the carrots and celery into chunks – don’t fuss, "rustica" or nice large pieces is fine. Stash them in the fridge for later. Slice potatoes and plop them in some cold water and stash in the fridge. Chop the onions into wedges.
Add the garlic and onion to the pot and sweat the onions. About 7 minutes or until they are just starting to get soft and translucent. Add the browned meat back into the pot. Add enough broth to cover the meat and allow room for the veg, which you'll add later. Bring to a simmer and simmer over low heat for 2 ½ hours. Go have fun and play with the kids.
An hour before dinner:
Take the carrots, celery and the potatoes out of the fridge and drain the water out of the potatoes. Drop them all in the soup pot and simmer for another 45 minutes. If you need to add a little water or extra broth, go for it. Salt and pepper to taste.
At dinner time:
Take the pot off the heat. You can serve the meat bone-in or flake it off with a fork and lop all the yummy goodness right into the soup bowl and let the juicy strands mingle with the veg. It’ll be hot, so make the kid’s bowl 15 minutes ahead and throw it in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down. Mangia!