Thursday, June 3, 2010
Soup season is kind of over, so why in the world am I posting this hearty, flavorful soup that would be perfect on a blustery November night? Because I had a package of oxtail, that's why! Personally, I'm a fan of soup no matter what the season, but soup recipes do become scarce in my kitchen once summer hits and the focus turns to grilling and the readily available fresh produce that the season brings. Tonight turned out dark and rainy anyhow, so this soup sort of "fit" the feel of the night as we gathered 'round our cozy kitchen table and watched the rain hit the windows.
We all really enjoyed this. We ended up nicknaming it "Pot Roast Soup" because it tastes like really good pot roast...in the form of a soup. Even my picky child had two cups of the broth (She requested that I strain the veggies out for her). Calling it Pot Roast Soup was a good angle. My family still has no idea how this soup started...with an end. The tail end of a steer, that is. I know that my husband will read this tomorrow morning and be slightly grossed out. The leftovers may even sit in his work fridge, never to be eaten for lunch, after seeing this. Sorry, honey.
I figure that many of my readers will be unlikely to make this given the cut of meat utilized in the soup. So I'm going full speed ahead and showing you the details. No holds barred. Here is my "oxtail". I'm not sure why they call it an oxtail when in fact it comes from a steer, not an ox. Maybe beef tail, steer tail, or even cow tail, just doesn't have the same ring to it? Yep. You can totally tell that this used to be a tail. Tell, tail, tale... homophones, anyone? Now, let me tell the tale of this tail....
The butcher had already partially segmented the tail, so I just finished the job and cut it into chunks for browning. Growing up on a farm, we occasionally ate parts of the animal that others might consider unappetizing. It wasn't unusual for my mom to make tongue (still not my favorite), or to find beef heart in a serving of beef and noodles. Fried chicken hearts and gizzards were a treat. I've tried liver and onions a handful of times. It smells so good, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot get over the texture of liver. It really grosses me out! Once I even let my grandma talk me into fried pig brains. Um, that was a mistake. My point is, I am not squeamish and I'll try anything once. Oxtail didn't really seem like that great a risk to me. If you're on the fence on this one, it's a risk well taken. The meat is tender and flavorful and makes one heck of a soup! Waste not, want not, my friends. : )
To make this soup, I began by heating oil in a stock pot, then I tossed in the oxtail and browned it evenly on all sides. Once the meat was browned, I removed it to a plate, then...
added a diced onion to the oil. My oldest daughter insisted on being in charge of the veggies, so she stirred and cooked the onions until tender (under my careful supervision, of course). Next, we added in the carrots and celery and sauteed them for a few minutes. Finally, I added the garlic. According to the author of this recipe, which I found on Tasty Kitchen, you can use shallots instead. We sauteed the garlic, just until fragrant.
You're supposed to make a cheesecloth packet with peppercorns and a bay leaf. I didn't have any cheese cloth. I dug out this cheap, white cotton fabric from my tub of sewing supplies in the basement. I used to use this fabric to test run patterns, then I could alter the "dummy" dresses to fit perfectly before cutting into the expensive fabrics. These days, I don't have much time for sewing, so now it's "cheese cloth". I washed it first, because it seemed like the right thing to do, then added in the peppercorns and bay leaf before tying it into a neat lil' package with cooking string.
Add the "pepper pouch" and some Italian blend spices to the veggies.
Next, I added the browned oxtail and 32 oz. of beef broth back into the pot. Bring it to a boil.
You're supposed to keep the soup at a "low rumbling simmer" for 2-3 hours so that the meat gets "fall off the bone tender". I needed to go out, so I transferred mine to the crock pot and set it on the next-to-lowest setting and went about running errands while it cooked.
Later in the day, when the beef was ready, I took my leeks out of the fridge. I've never cooked with leeks before, so I was grateful for the specific instructions provided in the recipe: "Cut off the root ends and the green parts of the stalks. You want the 2 or so inches of white stuff. (If you’re enterprising, the green tops are great to freeze for later use in a vegetable stock.) Julienne the white portion and then really rinse them. They love to hide mud and sand in their layers, so don’t be shy. That’s why I wait until they are chopped to bother rinsing, by the way."
Following the instructions, I julienned the leeks.
Before tackling the leeks, I removed all of the oxtail from the crock pot, and set it in a pan to cool. By the time I finished cutting up the leeks, the meat was cool enough to pick from the bone without burning my fingers.
The oxtail yielded and nice bit of tender, flavorful meat.
Add the meat and leeks back to the crock pot, then cover and cook on high for another 30-45 minutes until the leeks are tender. Remove the "pepper packet" and put the covered crock pot in the fridge overnight. Note: Before I put mine in the fridge, I added more broth. The soup wasn't very "soupy" and I knew that it would be easier to skim the fat that had risen to the top during the cooling process off of broth rather than the off of the beef and veggies.
When I was ready to make dinner tonight, I pulled the soup from the fridge. I knew from the recipe that I'd find an "impressive layer of fat" on top. I skimmed it off and then heated the crock pot up on HIGH until the soup was boiling. You could also transfer this to a saucepan on your stovetop for quicker heating.
This made for a quick dinner, since I had made it ahead. I'd definitely make this again...it was delicious! We ate it with grilled cheese, but it's hearty enough to stand on it's own.
Oxtail Soup by Anne on Tasty Kitchen
(original recipe found here) adapted by Krista's Kitchen
2-3 pounds Oxtails
1 whole Small Or Medium Onion
3 stalks Celery
3 whole Carrots
2 cloves Garlic Or Shallot, Whichever You Prefer
1/2-1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning Blend
32 ounces + 16 oz. beef broth
15 whole Peppercorns
1 whole Bay Leaf
1 bunch Leeks
1. Season the oxtails with salt and pepper.
2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add the oxtails using tongs. Make sure not to crowd them. They’ll spit like crazy, so be careful. Brown on each side, and when they develop a nice fried crust, remove to a plate and repeat until all the meat has been browned.
3. While the meat is browning, chop the veggies. For the onion, slice in half lengthwise, then cut the stalk end off. Peel the inedible brown layers back towards the root end and use that as a handle. Make little vertical slices and then chop crosswise. Chop up the celery, carrots, and garlic/shallot however you prefer.
5. Once the meat is all out of the pot, add the onions and cook until fragrant and clear. This will not take long so I recommend hovering and stirring quickly.
6. Add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
7. Add the garlic/shallots next, and again, cook briefly, until fragrant, mostly to eradicate the “raw” taste. Make a little cheesecloth package with the bay leaf and the peppercorns. Add Italian seasoning and peppercorn package.
8. Add the oxtails back in at this point, and don’t forget the tasty juices that have accumulated on the plate, too.
9. Pour in the broth.
10. Let the soup come to a boil. Transfer to a crockpot and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. At this point, we wait. This soup takes a super-long time, because oxtails are not exactly fork-tender right out the gate.
11. Once they are all gooey and fork tender and reminiscent of pot roast, remove the oxtails. Pick the meat, discard the bones, shred the meat and return it to the soup.
12. Now it’s time to add the leeks. Cut off the root ends and the green parts of the stalks. You want the 2 or so inches of white stuff. (If you’re enterprising, the green tops are great to freeze for later use in a vegetable stock.) Julienne the white portion and then really rinse them. They love to hide mud and sand in their layers, so don’t be shy. That’s why I wait until they are chopped to bother rinsing, by the way. Then add them to the soup and let the soup simmer for another 30 minutes or until the leeks are tender. Add more broth (16 oz or more until the broth hovers above the other ingredients.)
13. Remove the pot to the fridge overnight so you can skim the impressive layer of fat that develops.
14. Reheat and serve.
I will conclude this post with a funny story. My husband walked by as I was typing this. "Blogging?" He asked. "Yep." I answered. He continued, "What about?" Without thinking, I replied, "Oxtail Soup." He looked puzzled. "What is that? When did you make it?" I smiled. "Tonight. You had two bowls. Remember?" He looked alarmed for a minute then just dropped his head and shook it. "You tricked me. Well, I won't be eating any more of that." I explained that I had just typed that he would probably leave it in the fridge at work after he read this post. I added, "I guess the leftovers won't make it to your office after all." He just smiled. "No. I'll still take it to work. I'll just offer it to other people and then tell them after." I guess he's paying it forward?