My boss had a side of slaughtered beef in her freezer. Knowing that her family would only eat certain parts of the animal, I was the beneficiary of the offal stuff they didn't want. My bag of goodies was filled with offal things along with bits and parcels from the entire side of beef from head to tail. Literally. Oxtails. Tail.
A couple of days ago, on a wonderfully dreary day, I pulled the gifted oxtails out of the freezer to thaw for a long slow braise. It was the perfect day for languid cooking.
When I usually purchase oxtails from the market, they are beautifully packaged, perfectly symetrical, and equally sized. When I unwrapped my gifted not-for-sale package of oxtails, I was surprized to find one long tail. Oxtail. Singular. The whole tail. The tail started from the large meaty end attached to the hind quarters of the animal and finished with the teeny tiny end used to swat flies. Interesting.
Have your butcher cut the tail into equal portions at the joints.
My butcher wasn't having a glass of wine with me in my kitchen.
Ok, so I destroyed my favorite cleaver years ago trimming a tree in the back yard, so that wasn't an option. I sharpened my Whustof knives to slice the tail. Didn't happen. Eventually, I used a heavy duty serrated knife to gently slice the tail into practical serving pieces. I left the the tiny fly swatter intact as a flavor enhancer.
Braising is very forgiving. Anything cooked long enough to render tenderness cannot go wrong.
Usually, I go the bourguignon route when brasining oxtails. Last night, I wanted to try something a bit different. I took the tails on an asian journey with a riff on orange beef. Instead of a quick crisp stir-fry version of orange beef, I used the same flavor profiles for a long methodical slow braise.
Using what I had on hand in the pantry and refrigerator, it was more of a method than a recipe.