Ask Chef Phyllis:
If my grandmother didn’t make Cuban pork for New Year’s Day, she probably made oxtail stew. Both leave plenty for leftovers and are festive enough for any holiday. My experience is too lacking for me to recall what was in this stew except for red wine and tomatoes. But my grandmother’s stew (which she said was from her home region of Jerez) had lots of flavor and was quite spicy. Can you help?
—Monica Gonzalez Garcia, San Diego, CA.
Old family traditions are sometimes lost, but the internet makes finding a basic recipe for oxtail stew pretty easy. My research revealed that oxtail stew was and still is very common in Jerez. However, most of the recipes I found online seemed to lack some of the spiciness you desire. That is, until I found the following recipe for oxtail stew that features warm, authentic spices and a little Spanish sherry. This is a perfect meal for New Year’s Day and all the other short winter days that follow.
Cuban Oxtail Stew
—This recipe was inspired from an oxtail stew recipe I found in the December 1999 issue of Bon Appetit and another published in La Grande Cucina Internazionale Cookbook. Combined with a generous serving of my own creative variations, I believe the final result is a true keeper.
Chef’s tip: I found that the sherry called for here gave this sauce an amazing rich and nutty flavor. To me, this is probably the missing Jerez touch. Buen provecho!
4 lbs. or more oxtails (ask the butcher slice through the bone into 2-inch pieces)
1–2 teaspoons salt
1–2 teaspoons black pepper
½ cup olive oil
½ cup sherry wine (from Spain, if possible)
2 cups diced yellow onions
1 cup diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
1 cup finely diced green peppers
1 cup finely diced red peppers
1–2 Serrano peppers, finely diced (optional)
1 cup diced potatoes
2 (14.5 oz.) cans fire roasted tomatoes
2 oz. (about ¼ cup) tomato paste
1 (750 ml) bottle Rioja or other full-bodied red wine
1½ cups homemade beef stock
1 teaspoon each ground oregano, cumin, coriander, and hot paprika
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) red chili flakes, crushed
Special equipment: large Dutch oven with lid
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Pat oxtail pieces with paper towels and rub all over with salt and pepper.
- Heat olive oil to smoking in a large Dutch oven. Add oxtail pieces. Lower heat to medium and brown oxtails well on all sides, about 15–20 minutes. Take your time and don’t crowd the pot. Add sherry and scrape up the browned bits. Remove oxtails to a platter and cover to keep warm.
- Stir in onions, carrots, celery, green and red peppers, Serrano peppers, and potatoes until well combined. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10–15 minutes, or until the vegetables soften and start to caramelize.
- Add oxtails and any juices back to Dutch oven. Add fire roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and beef stock. Add the ground spices and red chili flakes (to taste). Mix well.
- Place in oven, covered, for 4 hours, or until oxtails are nearly falling off the bone and sauce is medium thick. Adjust seasonings to taste. If you wish, ladle the stew right from the Dutch oven into deep, wide soup bowls alongside some rustic bread to dip into the fabulous wine sauce.
Image from iStock/NickleIckle.