Gourmandistan is a big supporter of grass-fed beef, so much we sometimes wave at the cows grazing the fields of nearby Foxhollow Farm, knowing we’ll likely see some of them on our dinner plates one day. All that ruminating and roaming keeps “our” cows in shape—something we’ve learned to adjust for in cooking dishes like this delicious Oxtail Ragout with Olives.
We debone the tails before serving, as it both makes the dish easier to enjoy and spares Michelle the sight of Steve trying to gnaw every last one bare. In Staff Meals from Chanterelle, David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips advise three hours of cooking time for this stew, which may have been fine for the feedlot beef probably fed to the restaurant workers back when the cookbook was published in 2000. Ours took five, but every extra hour was worth it. Kalamata olives give the dish heft and depth, and the extra cooking time reduces the liquids to a lovely ragout filled with shreds of tasty beef that goes wonderfully with grits (or polenta, if you prefer).
OXTAIL RAGOUT WITH OLIVES
(adapted from David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips’ Staff Meals from Chanterelle)
- 2-1/2 lbs. oxtails, in 2-3″ sections (this is about the amount of 1 cow’s tail)
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 slice smoked bacon, chopped into lardons
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2-1/2 c. beef stock
- 14-oz. can chopped tomatoes
- 1 c. red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- Pinch of dried thyme
- Pinch of dried oregano
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2/3 c. Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
- Dash of red wine vinegar
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Season oxtails with salt and pepper and bring to room temperature. Brown oxtails in batches in olive oil over high heat in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Remove to a plate.
Add bacon to pan and cook over low to medium heat for a few minutes. Then add onions. Stir occasionally until onions are soft. Add garlic. Cook for a few minutes, stirring to make sure garlic does not burn.
Return oxtails to pan. Add stock, tomatoes, wine, bay leaves, thyme, oregano and rosemary. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, until meat comes away from the bone. This will take at least 3 hours. (We ended up cooking our grass-fed cow tail for almost 5 hours.)
Discard the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs. Remove oxtails from sauce. When cooled, remove meat from bones and shred. Discard bones. Cover shredded meat and refrigerate. Refrigerate sauce separately.
The next day, skim fat that has formed on the top of the sauce and discard. Add meat back into sauce along with the olives and reheat. If too thick, add some more beef stock. Taste for seasoning. Add splash of vinegar.
Serve over seasoned polenta or grits. Garnish with chopped parsley.