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Author Notes: 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.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 ounces Pancetta, chopped in small pieces
- 4 pounds meaty oxtails
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup red wine
- 3/4 cup Madeira
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika (Hungarian or Spanish, not smoked)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- beef or chicken stock (low salt, if canned) or water
- 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
- 36 1/2" baguette slices, cut on bias to make ovals
- olive oil
- 1/2 pound Mahon cheese (alternately, a young Manchego; Trader Joe’s ‘Basque Cheese’ works well too)
- 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.