Originally published May 29, 1984
Oxtails, belying their name, are not the tails of oxen at all, but of beef cattle. Often not even on display, at most butchers, they are one of the most neglected cuts of America’s most popular meat. now is a perfect time for those unaware of the merits of oxtails to become acquainted with the hearty flavor of oxtail soups or stews.
According to tradition, the culinary discovery of oxtails came through economic necessity when an impoverished Frenchman brought home a number of tails from the local tannery. And though the verity of that tail is open to dispute, the meal unquestionably remains truly economical and flavorful.
Oxtails are usually cut into joints and one can count on about one pound per person. They require long, slow, moist cooking - braising or stewing are usually favored - to achieve tenderness, and their gelatinous quality produces an unusually rich and flavorful broth. The dishes that follow will help to demonstrate just how adaptable oxtails are in combination with other ingredients and provide a welcome change of fare.