Humble oxtails provide a tasty, gelatinous broth that can be served with the boned meat or with whole rounds of oxtails—guests will have to pick them up, since getting at the meat with a fork is nearly impossible. This soup requires no effort other than tracking down the oxtails, but it does take about 5 hours to cook. For an ultimate version, use beef broth or brown chicken broth. You can also use the rich broth and meat to make a terrine (following).
– 5 pounds oxtails, cut into rounds.
– 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
– 2 tablespoons butter.
– 1 onion, coarsely chopped.
– 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped.
– 1 cup dry sherry or Madeira.
– 4 quarts brown chicken broth or beef broth, or 2 quarts each broth and water, or as needed.
– Bouquet garni.
Step 1:Season the oxtails with salt and pepper. In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat. Working in batches so they brown well and don’t steam, add the oxtails and brown well on all sides. This will take about 8 minutes for each batch. Take the oxtails out of the pot, and pour out the burnt oil. Let the pot cool for a minute or two.
Step 2:Return the pot to medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, or until the onion softens and is shiny. Add the sherry and cook until reduced by half. Returnthe oxtails to the pot and add enough broth just to cover them. Nestle the bouquet garni in the center of the pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover partially and simmer, skimming off the fat and froth every 20 minutes or so, for 5 hours.
Step 3:As the liquid sinks below the level of the oxtails, add more to cover by about 1 inch. Check to see if the oxtails are done by taking out one of the larger pieces and pulling at the meat with your fingers. It should come away with absolutely no resistance. If it clings, simmer for another hour and test again.
Step 4:At this point, you can season the soup with salt and pepper and serve everyone a few rounds of oxtail with the broth. Alternatively, carefully lift out the oxtails, strain the vegetables out of the soup, and then return the oxtails to the soup. Or, for the most refined version, you can lift out the oxtails, strain the vegetables out of the soup, and then pull the meat off the bones in shreds and return the meat to the soup. If you end up with less than 3 quarts, add broth or water to make up the difference. Season with salt and pepper as needed.