Oxtail Ragout with Olives (and additional cooking time)

Oxtail stew

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 ChanterelleDavid 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).


  • Servings: about 4 as a sauce for polenta or grits
  • Print

(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.


  1. How many cows actually graze on grass nowadays? It’s so sad to think something so fundamental has been denied them. Gorgeous pic, lovely recipe. Nose to tail eating….literally!

  2. Most cows are still free to roam and feed on grass in Australia, though they are often fattened in feedlots in the top end for export. I love rich braised oxtail, a wonderful warming winter meal. Leftover meat makes a delicious ravioli filling.

  3. I have never cooked oxtail, but this looks and sounds delicious. I love the idea of waving to the cows you will be eating! Whenever I go to the park and see ducks, I usually say something like “yummy, duck”, instead of “oh look, how cute”. I never do that with our awful city pigeons though… no matter how delicious pigeons are!
    Apart from the traditional chicken and olive stew, olives and meat are a combination I have yet to try. Great post!

    • You are an enthusiastic omnivore! I have to say that I’ve never really liked pigeon that much (though Steve does). We’ve laughed for years about ordering it at a restaurant in France and the server warned: “Pink. Very Pink!”

  4. I recently got a copy of this book, and have been reading and bookmarking recipes! Saving the slow braises till winter in Australia, but this recipe has moved up the list. Love oxtail..

    • Let me know if you find something else in there that you like. It’s a book that I flip through often, but seldom cook from. It’s funny, too, that I just know I ate at Chanterelle back in the day, but I can’t remember a single thing about it.

  5. Looks great. There was a time when oxtail stew was amongst my favourite dishes. The version I remember best took 3 to 4 days cooking. Each day the oxtail would cook for a couple of hours, be left to cool and degreased the next morning before a further two hours cooking….and so on. It produced a really intense flavour. Nice memories produced by a delicious post.

  6. This dish looks like something that should grace my table tout suite. Cows in Australia most all dine on grass. When I moved here from the states I brought my steak knives and someone asked me what they were for. I’ve never had to use them.

  7. 1. I adore your photos – and I love drinking wine out of glasses just like yours. I feel so European…or something.
    2. I made something similar with green olives and local flank steak. I love the salty, brininess the olives give a slow-cooked dish.
    3. I think it’s really important to KNOW the cow you’re eating (or at least the guy who raised that cow).

    • That is so sweet! Don’t you just love those glasses? I’ve had mine for I bet 20 years. Those are the best sized ones, I think. I’ve broken a few of those over the years and think about replacing them, but then gasp at the prices they’re charging for them at Williams-Sonoma. (I bet I got a whole set for $25 or so. How’s that for an old lady comment??)

    • Thanks so much, Richard. I never had them growing up, but Steve did. At first (that is, decades ago), I thought he was crazy cooking cow tails. But I’ve long since become a convert.

  8. That looks delicious. I normally cook mine twice, on the bone for 10 hours or more over two days. At that point the meat surrenders and falls cleanly off the bone in a wonderful sauce.
    You might like this – boned whole oxtail stuffed with sausage meat – a friend of mine sent me the link this morning. I’m not a big fan of Michael Roux on TV, but this proves how good he is in the kitchen 😉

    • That’s so interesting you say that about the multiple days of cooking. Did you notice Roger’s comment above?

      And, oh my god, the dish in the video looks fantastic. The tails we get are a little scrawny, so I’m not sure I’d be able to do that. But I sure would love to have M. Roux do it for me!

      • Ha ha – yes I did notice but only after I’d posted. It must be a British thing to cook them for a long time on the bone – it definitely works well!
        Oddly I saw an Italian recipe on TV the day before where the tail pieces are blanched/poached first and then cooked for 3 hours. They looked good but not as good as the cooking for several days.
        I might have to try Michel Roux’s recipe, but perhaps stuffed with black pudding 😉

  9. rrwriter

    This is the kind of serious food only people unafraid of either genuine ingredients or cooking fundamentals will even try. It’s a beautiful recipe, and it makes me hungry.

    • A friend told us the other day about driving across the country and bawling as she passed all the feedlots in the middle part. I think I would probably do the same, so it’s just as well that I usually fly. 🙂

      • When I visit my parents, I don’t even want to know where their meat comes from. And any suggestion to support a local farmer or to try to better source their food falls on deaf ears. Maybe I should drive them by some feedlots 😉

        • I know, Daisy. I think my parents thought me insane for years when I ranted and raved. They seemed to believe that things were the same as when they were (farmers’) kids. They, like so many other people, just didn’t realize how disgusting things had become. But now that there are people where they live starting to do the right things again, I think they get it. So, there’s hope for the Bows!

  10. Hi, Steve and Michelle. What a perfect shot and lovely, flavorful recipe. I will have to checkout “Staff Meals from Chanterelle.” Happy cows (who are responsibly raised) result in a very tasty Oxtail Ragout with Olives. And, who doesn’t like olives? That is a rhetorical question, of course. Haha. Thank you for sharing! Best wishes, Shanna

  11. Theres still a lot of cows grazing in the fields here in NZ 🙂
    I love this recipe as well as that part, love the texture and when done right the falling meat of the bones is simply stunning

  12. Oxtail is such a beautiful and underutilized meat. One of my all time favourite’s, it makes an appearance on my graduation menu as a student chef this year.

    Love your stunning photos too. Makes me crave cooler days 😉

    • Thanks! But don’t crave winter—we’re in Polar Vortex II here! Oxtails are so delicious. I never had them growing up, despite spending my earliest years on a beef farm. Isn’t that strange? Thank goodness Steve wasn’t so deprived (even though he grew up in the city).

  13. ….??!!….is a great book, and now, such a snapshot of a particular culinary time. There’s a recipe in it for Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons that is iconic. We used to throw the ingredients in a slow cooker late at night when sharing a ski house with friends. Everyone would wake up the next morning–What IS that smell? This oxtail recipe looks great. I don’t know about you, but we’re deep into braising weather here. Serving it with polenta is a splendid suggestion. Ken

    • I’m about braised out! I told Steve if we keep up with the beef (he did buy a bunch of stuff on sale from the neighboring beef farm), the Beef Council may reach out and start sponsoring us. 😉 And I promise I’ll look back at that cookbook once again. Chicken with olives and preserved lemon sounds wonderful.

Leave a Reply to frugalfeeding Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: