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Coda alla Vaccinara (Roman Braised Oxtail)

November 2, 2010

I’ll get right to the point.  This dish is a keeper–heartwarming, rich and flavorful.  The beef melts in your mouth; the sauce is thick, bright from tomatoes, hearty from the celery and carrots and possesses a depth of flavor from the addition of white wine.  You can have this with pasta or rice, but the simplest way to enjoy it is with thick slices of country bread.   You won’t want a drop of the stew to go to waste.

The kicker?  I used oxtail for this dish. Yes, offal.  Yes, unappealing to some, though I would venture to say that no matter your ethnic background, you’ve got some oxtail-eating relatives in your family tree.  I do.  It’s not uncommon.  In fact I grew up eating oxtail in a peanut-based stew (kare-kare).

Offal is a reject body part–at least in Western mainstream cooking.  The term is associated with the less desirable popular brains, intestines, liver, gizzards–just to name a few.  Because I’ve eaten the aforementioned before (except for brains), I feel somewhat qualified to say that oxtail almost doesn’t belong in this classification.  Apart from the fact that this offal comes from the tail of cattle, oxtail is not weird at all…right?

Oxtail has a high bone-to-meat ratio and it’s also cartilaginous.  But this is what makes it ideal for braises or stews.  Slow cooking imparts a lot of flavor to the final product.  And you’re not eating anything odd at all–it’s meat–just from the a tail.  Besides, we’re of the Andrew Zimmern generation–nothing is too weird anymore.  This is a different food culture; we’re going back to basics.  Offal equals good eats.

Coda alla Vaccinara is a traditional Roman dish.  The vaccinari were the cattle butchers who turned an unwanted part of the cattle into a humble but delicious stew.  There are many variations–some include cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon.  I used a very simple recipe from Marcella Hazan which showcased the rich flavor of braised oxtail and the sweetness of the vegetables.  It tasted wonderful on the first night and even better on the second.  Allowing the stew to cool before eating it also will give you a chance to skim the fat that rises to the surface to make this a more fat-friendly dish.  I didn’t even bother for I couldn’t stand to lose any of the flavor.

So channel your inner Roman (or Andrew Zimmern) and give offal a chance.  Oxtail won’t disappoint you.

Coda alla Vaccinara (Roman Braised Oxtail)

From:  Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2/3 cup diced onions (I used half an onion)
  • 2/3 cup diced carrots (I used a whole carrot)
  • 2 1/2 pounds oxtail (severed at each joint)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup diced plum tomatoes (I used a whole 14 oz can)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups chopped celery

For the Soffritto:  In a sauté pan or enameled dutch oven, sauté the garlic, onion, parsley, carrots in olive oil over medium heat.  This will take about 1o minutes; stir frequently to prevent any burning.

To braise:  Move the soffritto to the sides of the pan, increase heat to medium high and add the oxtail pieces.  Brown the oxtail on all sides; this will take about 5-7 minutes.

Add the wine and simmer for a minute.  Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water.  The oxtail should be half-immersed in the liquid at this point.  Season with salt and pepper (I also added no-salt seasoning for more flavor).  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours.

Note:  At this point, I wasn’t sure that my meat would be tender enough.  I feared that the pan I used was too big.  I transferred to a smaller pan at the 1 1/2 hour mark (so the meat would be almost fully immersed in liquid) and added the celery.  I simmered for another 45 minutes.  By this time, the meat was fall-apart tender.  Serve with your carb of choice and enjoy!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 8:13 PM

    Oh my! I believe you that this is a keeper… deliciously rich stew!! And I love oxtail!

  2. November 2, 2010 8:15 PM

    Anything braised is on my list of wonderfulness! I have not yet had oxtail, but open to trying it. Charles would ADORE this dish. He is all about the braised meat and comfort food – just may have to make this. Have a great week and fun at the Foodbuzz fest. I will miss seeing all of you guys – next year for sure!

    • November 2, 2010 8:36 PM

      Lisa, this dish is so easy!

      We’ll miss you at Foodbuzz Fest but we’ll do another bay area blogger get-together soon. 🙂

  3. November 2, 2010 8:28 PM

    Omg see, I could never make these complex dishes so when we will organize a Bay Area dinner you will totally have to make me this one!

    • November 2, 2010 8:35 PM

      What?! Sara, I was planning for you to be my go-to Italian expert. Don’t say that! 🙂 I bet I can learn so much from you. We definitely have to do the dinner, though. 🙂

  4. November 2, 2010 8:39 PM

    I totally agree…oxtail does not belong in that category! This looks amazing. I’ve been wanting to make oxtail for a while now…and now you’ve just inspired me to make it asap!

  5. November 2, 2010 8:52 PM

    Yummmm, that looks amazing.

  6. November 3, 2010 5:41 AM

    Thank you for reminding me of this dish! It is perfect for the cooler weather!

    • November 4, 2010 8:47 AM

      Thank you so much for dropping by. I hope I did your family’s recipe justice. It will surely be making a regular appearance in my kitchen from now on. 🙂

  7. November 3, 2010 7:12 AM

    Oxtail is one of my favorite “off-cuts” of meat Delish!

    I bet this would work great with goat as well, since its a tougher, more heavily connective tissue meat.

    thank you for sharing

  8. November 3, 2010 9:32 AM

    Thank you for giving me something new to make with oxtail besides kare-kare. 😉

  9. November 3, 2010 3:47 PM

    Wow! This looks so warm and comforting. The perfect meal to enjoy on a day like today (cold and dreary). The carrots add such a nice touch of color too! I’ve never tried oxtail before…but there is a first time for everything!

  10. November 3, 2010 5:37 PM

    Great job on the oxtail stew. I would like to try this recipe because I love all the seasonings and it does look wonderful and rich tasting:)

  11. November 3, 2010 8:48 PM

    I haven’t had oxtails in SO LONG! I’m saving this for sure.

  12. November 3, 2010 10:09 PM

    Mmm, I’d love to try this in my slow cooker but not sure it would turn out the same. I’ve had oxtail soup before (I think it’s popular in Hawaiian cuisine too, but not sure) but this stew looks rich and flavorful – my kind of stew!

    • November 4, 2010 8:50 AM

      Judy, I contemplated making this in my slow cooker, too. I think it would work with some minor adjustments to the amount of liquid. The next time I make this, I’ll try the slow cooker and report back. 🙂

  13. November 4, 2010 12:15 AM

    I love oxtail! I usually make a clear soup, but will definitely try this.

    • November 4, 2010 8:48 AM

      Ben, I made a clear soup with oxtail only once and it was very flavorful. I vowed to do it again.

  14. November 4, 2010 6:42 AM

    OMG!! This is one of my favorite dishes…very popular in Buenos Aires!! Now I imagine it with a French baguette…Who’s dieting?? Not me !!!

  15. November 4, 2010 4:43 PM

    It’s funny — this is the third oxtail recipe I’ve seen today! I wouldn’t normally think of cooking with it, but your pictures are fantastic! It’s actually very tempting.

  16. November 5, 2010 12:23 AM

    I’ve never had oxtail stew before but I’m channeling my inner Roman and am definitely willing to try it. Looks amazing and I am so ready for rustic comfort food – if only the weather would cooperate! Have fun at FBFest, sorry I’m going to miss meeting you.

  17. November 5, 2010 7:06 PM

    I think oxtail stew is quite special! I adore how the meat just falls off the bones after braising and how gelatinous the stock gets after a long simmer. This version looks so comforting and delicious.

  18. November 8, 2010 12:32 AM

    Nice meeting you at the Foodbuzz Festival! Will be following your blog now!

  19. trissalicious permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:30 AM

    I bought too much oxtail to make my dish – am lucky enough to have another batch in the freezer – this recipe would be perfect for it!

  20. November 8, 2010 10:37 PM

    It’s been a longgg time since I’ve had oxtail soup / stew and you just made me crave for it intensely… this looks AMAZING!!

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