This is a classy, rich, amazing dish. It’s an heirloom, for it was handed down to me from my Polish mom from her mom. But it is one of those, “they never used a recipe,” recipe. That means it was assumed you had seen how it was made before, tasted it, knew what you were doing and, certainly, made it slightly differently each time. (And you serve it on top of mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.)
This “unwritten” recipe for Oxtail Stew is really just the “bones” of the dish, the basic instruction. The cook uses it as a start, then simply tastes and adjusts as he goes along. So feel free to take this instruction, and note of some of my italic adjustments I made today when preparing this stew; then make your own. ~But know, the next time you, or I, make it, it will be different!
Anyway, I introduced this Stew to my hubby when we were dating, and swear, that introduction led to the 20 years of marital bliss we celebrate today!
2 lbs. oxtails, cut in 1½” lengths
flour for dredging1 med. onion, sliced
1 can condensed beef broth
¼ tsp. pepper (Add more to taste) (Adjust by add additional seasoning, such as celery salt, and a Bouquet garni of bay leaf, black peppercorn, thyme and parsley ~to taste)
2 c. hot water 1 (1 lb.) can tomatoes, diced (including juice)
1½ tsp. salt (may omit salt and use beef bouillon cubes instead, which add flavor and salt)
4 potatoes, peeled and halved (mom omitted the potatoes, grandma probably used potatoes, roughly diced)
8 sm. onions, (probably a med. onion, minced, or, maybe, try pearl onions)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced (May add red wine, a madeira or sherry to the stew, but just enough to pop the flavor, not take it over.)
Directions: Roll meat in flour. Melt butter in a stockpot and brown, turning to sear all sides of the meat.
Add onion, water, tomatoes, broth and seasoning to meat in the stockpot. Simmer until the meat is just tender. (Do not bring to a rolling boil. It will take hours of simmering and “just tender” means the meat falls from the bone.)
Separate any meat remaining on the bones and cartilage, then return the meat to the stew. (The initial onion and tomato also stay in the stew, as they continue to break down as the stew cooks and add to the complexity of the dish.) Skim grease that rises to the top. (Reserve this fat, for if the stew becomes too thin, or like soup instead of stew, or if it looses too much flavor, you can make an adjustment. Today, I adjusted by making a roux with the fat and flour and added it back to the stew.)
Then add the potatoes (may omit, as mom does), small onions and carrots, cover and simmer 30-45 min. until done.
Serve over wide (egg) noodles or mashed potatoes.