Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Oxtail Stew with Turnips


The turnip gets the eloquent recognition it deserves in one of my favorite Christmas movies, Last Holiday (with Queen Latifah). Gerard Depardieu, playing a famous chef, delivers this great line:
“The poor baby turnips. Nobody likes them, you know? Of course, life is easy if you are a truffle or a shiitake mushroom. But the turnip is to be loved because she’s a self-made woman of vegetables. All the others you can only destroy with cooking. But the turnip, she gets better. So, you see, it’s not how you start but how you finish.”
So true. I love it!

We've been buying grassfed beef in bulk from Joan Bybee, of MesteƱo Draw Ranch, and last time she gave us an oxtail along with some other soup bones. Like other tough cuts, it's great after a long stewing. There are many recipes for oxtail stew, but I thought I'd try it with red wine, loosely adapted from several recipes I found online. It's a great make-ahead dish, because the rich flavors meld better after a night in the fridge. It's also the perfect vehicle for turnips!

2 pounds oxtails (or any other stew meat and soup bones)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 large carrots, cut into about 1-inch pieces
1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
1 lb. turnips, cut into about 1-inch pieces
2 cups dry red wine (I used a Malbec)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 bay leaf
1 t. thyme or marjoram
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
Water

Heat oven to 400F, and roast oxtails until browned, about 30 minutes. Heat oil in a large pot over medium flame. Add onions and carrots, and cook until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and cook until they deepen in color and smell sweet, just a few minutes. Add oxtails and all remaining ingredients with just enough water to cover. Put the lid on and let it simmer over very low heat until meat is nearly falling off the bone, about 2 to 3 hours. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more honey or vinegar if desired. There will be a lot of fat from the oxtails, so skim off as much as you can, or refrigerate overnight and remove the fat once it's solidified. Serve hot with roasted potatoes, spaetzle, or crusty bread. Serves 4-6.
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