My daughter and I recently had a wonderful tapas feast at Morcilla in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh that vividly conjured memories of our tapas-eating spree in Spain a couple of years ago. Their ‘Oxtail Montadito’ (like a Spanish crostini) was so addictively delicious, we devoured three orders. It inspired my version, which uses Madeira for a little sweetness, pancetta for saltiness, and paprika for an earthy Spanish accent.
Like most braises, this freezes well and can also be served as a main course over mashed potatoes, polenta, rice or noodles. If oxtails aren't available, beef short ribs, shanks or even meaty neck bones can be used instead.
Pancetta, chopped in small pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
stalk celery, finely diced
carrot, finely diced
cloves garlic, minced
sweet paprika (Hungarian or Spanish, not smoked)
beef or chicken stock (low salt, if canned) or water
1/2" baguette slices, cut on bias to make ovals
Mahon cheese (alternately, a young Manchego; Trader Joe’s ‘Basque Cheese’ works well too)
In This Recipe
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Lightly salt and pepper the oxtails on both sides. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add Pancetta and cook until browned, just shy of crisp. Remove and set aside, leaving rendered fat in the pan.
Brown the oxtails well on all sides, 10-15 minutes. (Do in batches if they don’t all fit in the pan without crowding.) Remove to a plate.
Saute the onion, stirring a few times, 10-15 minutes or until they start to turn golden. Add celery and carrots and cook another 5-10 minutes. When they begin to soften, add the garlic, cook for another minute, then stir in the tomato paste and paprika and cook for a minute more.
Pour in the wine and Madeira and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Add the cooked pancetta, thyme, bay leaves, a half teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper (adjust salt if stock is salty.) Put back the oxtails back, and stock or water if necessary, so they’re ¾ covered.
Put the pot in oven for 3-4 hours, turning the oxtails in the sauce a few times. Add a little stock or water if it dries out too much.
When oxtails are very tender, remove from the sauce and pull the meat from the bones, discarding them. (While doing this, you can reduce the sauce over a medium-high flame to thicken, if necessary.) Shred and return the meat to the sauce, stir in the Sherry vinegar and simmer a few minutes.
Keeps well (actually improves) after a day or so in the fridge. When chilled, the fat will harden on the surface and is easily removed. ***
For the Montaditos:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Arrange baguette slices a foil lined baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Spread about 2 T of the meat on each piece and cover with slices of cheese. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve hot.
***This recipe will probably yield more of the braised oxtail than needed for 8 people, depending on what else you're serving and so on. But it freezes well - great to have on hand for future tapas feasts.