Oxtail is one of those meats that can be prepared sous-vide in a way that it could never be without sous-vide. By cooking it a whopping 4 days (96 hours, give or take) at 60C/140F, the meat becomes as tender as a ribeye steak, but with more flavor. The only problem is that is doesn’t fall off the bone, and a piece of oxtail with the bone is not really suitable to serve for a dinner party. So I decided to come up with a fancy and flavorful way to serve the oxtail meat cooked sous-vide: picked off the bone, served in the large cap of a portobello mushroom, and tossed with a red wine sauce made with stock from the oxtail itself. I served this on top of some stir-fried spinach to make it complete. This was very flavorful and I’ll definitely make it again.
For 4 servings
1 kg (2.2 lbs) oxtail
4 portobello mushrooms
500 grams (1.1 lbs) spinach, preferably coarse spinach (called ‘wild’ spinach in the Netherlands) rather than baby spinach, as that works better for stir frying
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 shallot, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bottle (375 ml) red wine
I started taking photos for this recipe when I had already cooked the oxtail sous-vide.
Season the pieces of oxtail on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Vacuum seal the pieces of oxtail separately and scald them in hot water for 20 to 30 seconds. The water needs to be at least 77C/170F; I used boiling water as you don’t require a thermometer to know it’s at the right temperature. This step is absolutely essential and is to prevent a foul smell. This won’t work if multiple pieces of oxtail are vacuum sealed together, as the heat won’t be able to reach in between.
Cook sous-vide for 4 days at 60C/140F. Anywhere between 90 and 100 hours will be fine. Afterwards, take the oxtail out of the bags and gather the juices. Check the smell of each bag before adding the juices together, in case any of them end up smelling badly anyway.
Pick the meat off the bones; this is easiest using your fingers. Remove any fat or cartilage or other nasty looking stuff, and reserve it together with the bones.
Roughly chop the ‘nice’ meat, cover, and refrigerate.
Combine the bones and other discards in a pressure cooker or stockpot with the onion, celery, and carrot.
Add the reserved juices from the bags.
Add just enough water to cover the bones and vegetables.
If using a pressure cooker, bring to pressure, reduce the heat, and pressure cook for 2 hours.
If using a stockpot, bring to a boil, reduced the heat, and simmer for 4 hours.
Sieve the stock and discard the solids. Reserve the stock.
Take the reserved oxtail meat out of the refrigerator. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the meat.
Stir fry until the meat is slightly browned, then set aside.
Do not clean the pan, as we want to include all of the flavor into the sauce. Add a tablespoon of olive oil if needed.
Add shallot, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf to the pan with the drippings from frying the oxtail meat.
Stir over medium heat until the shallot is start to color.
Add the red wine…
…and bring to a boil. Allow to reduce by half.
Add the reserved oxtail stock.
Bring to a boil again, lower the heat…
…and simmer until reduced by half.
Strain through a fine sieve to remove the solids.
Return the strained sauce to a wide pan, and continue to reduce it…
…until there is only about 250 ml (1 cup) left. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Brush the portobello mushrooms on all sides with olive oil.
Grill the portobello mushrooms under the broiler until they are nicely browned and cooked through, turning them as needed.
Season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides after grilling.
Meanwhile, vacuum seal the oxtail meat in a single layer…
…and reheat it sous-vide at 55C/131F for half an hour. (More time would be needed if it weren’t vacuum sealed in a single layer.)
Stir fry the spinach in olive oil (a wok is great for this)…
…until it is barely wilted. If you like you could also fry a garlic clove along with the spinach to add the scent of garlic. Discard the garlic as soon as it is golden brown (any darker and the flavor will turn bitter).
Mix some of the sauce with the spinach. It makes for better tasting spinach, because it takes the astringent edge off the spinach. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Bring the remaining sauce to a boil, then turn off the heat. Add the reheated oxtail meat…
…and stir to coat the meat with the sauce.
Serve the meat inside the mushroom caps on top of some spinach, on preheated plates.
We enjoyed this with a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Another good full-bodied Merlot-based red like a Pomerol would also be excellent. A Brunello would also be a good choice. In other words: big complex red.
Baby octopus alla diavola. This tender octopus in a spicy tomato sauce, packed with flavor, can be served as an appetizer or main course.