Growing up in Trinidad, we had large family gatherings at our house every weekend. Oxtail was always on the menu alongside other traditional Trinidadian dishes like callaloo, pigeon peas and rice, macaroni pie, fried plantains, and stewed cabbage. Whenever my mom would make it, the deep, rich aroma of slow-cooked meat braised with tomatoes, onions, and aromatics permeated the entire house. I followed her every step hungrily and with great anticipation. It’s a food memory I think of often, and one that I enjoy recreating.
Oxtail is cut from the tail of the steer, as the name implies. Each piece has a section of tailbone with a marrow center that gives it a deeply beefy taste—like short ribs, only richer. Similar to other tough cuts, like shank, oxtail needs to be cooked for a long time to be tender, but when it is, it falls off the bone. Also like other tough cuts, oxtail was traditionally cheap and regularly available, so it became a staple in economically depressed communities all throughout the Caribbean.
Though it hasn't quite made its way into the kitchen of every home cook, in the last couple of years, oxtail has gained some traction in the culinary world, with James Beard award–winning chefs like Ken Oringer, Nancy Silverton, and Mario Batali featuring it on their menus. While newfound popularity makes it more expensive and harder to come by, you can still find decently-priced oxtail at Costco or specialty ethnic food stores.
On my last trip home, I teamed up with my mom to recreate one of my all time favorite oxtail dishes, braised with butter beans and served over rice. Of course it was as good as I remember, but you’ll only believe me if you make it yourself.
- 3 pounds oxtail
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 cup beef or veal stock (I prefer organic low-sodium)
- 2 16-ounce cans butter beans, drained
- Cooked white rice
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Matouk's pepper sauce