Oxtail is one of those funny meats that you flip past in cookbooks. To be honest, I didn’t even know what oxtail looked like before I decided to make this wonderful soup for the first time. It occurred to me that most supermarkets might not even carry it, so I actually called around. I got lucky, and my local Draeger’s Market (located in Menlo Park, CA) just had a delivery the previous day. The entire tail comes packaged precut and frozen. That eliminated my fear of having to cut the oxtail… whew. But it did mean that it had to thaw overnight. Here are the glorious pieces:
Thanks to cookbooks from wonderful chefs like Alton Brown, I was able to discover more confidence for simple recipes with interesting ingredients, like the oxtail above. The Olde Oxtail Onion Soup & Gruyere Toast were inspired by his latest book, and I am thrilled to share the recipe below. One caveat is that your husband, or closest male relative, is going to absolutely fall in love with this undeniably manly soup, and you might be making it more often than you think. Luckily it’s beyond easy!
- 4 pounds of yellow onions
- 2 tbsp of kosher salt
- 2 tbsp of dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp of baking soda
- 1 tbsp of butter or oil (for searing oxtail)
- 1 whole oxtail (it’s about 3-3.5 lb, comes frozen, precut)
- 2 cups red wine
- 6 thyme sprigs (or feel free to use Bouquet Garni)
- 6 cups of beef broth (if want a stew-like consistency) OR 8 cups of beef broth (if you want a more runny/soupy consistency, adjust salt accordingly)
- ¼ tsp of black pepper
- 8 oz gruyere cheese
- 1 sour baguette or bread of your choice
- Preheat oven to 300
- Halve & peel onions. The best way to prepare them is to use a mandolin (you can also manually cut them, but the texture of the soup will be different).
- Toss onions with dark brown sugar, 1 tbsp salt and baking soda. Once coated, place in a colander to drain as much onion juice as possible over then next 15 minutes. Use your fist to periodically squeeze excess water out.
- Place a large Dutch oven (at least 5 qt or larger) on the stove over high heat for 5 minutes. You’re welcome to use oil, but I really like to use butter for the sear. Allow the butter to heat up until it sizzles.
- Sprinkle remaining 2 tsp of salt over the oxtail and sear until browned (they don’t have to be cooked through). Set the tails aside when done, but don’t wipe your pot.
- Give the onions one last squeeze to get the water out as much as possible and throw the onions in the Dutch oven – saute for about 10 min, or until the onions turn brown.
- Add the wine, and cook for about 5 min.
- Place oxtails and thyme on top of onions (I like to tie the thyme with some twine so they don’t float apart).
- Pour in the broth so that the oxtails are pretty much covered with liquid. Slap on the lid and place in the center of the oven to simmer for 3-4 hours.
- When oxtails are easy to pull apart, fish them out of the Dutch oven and place in a bowl to cool. Pull off the meat coarsely off and discard the bones. Throw the meat back in and reheat/season as necessary.
- Voila! Wasn’t’ that easy? Just cut your baguette diagonally to get long bread slices, grate some Gruyere, and toast it in a toaster oven or panini press. Stick them in the soup and enjoy!