One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, or so they say. I went to the Richfield farmers market on Saturday morning and noticed Ridgeroll Farms was selling oxtail. It was a whopping $4 per (huge) package. When I quickly snapped it up, the woman behind the table asked what on Earth I planned to do with oxtail. My answer was what *weren’t* we planning to do with it? Evidently, to many people, oxtail is just toss away meat. But I’ll let you in on a secret — oxtail is deliciously rich and incredibly easy to prepare. It’s also cheap. Call it “poor man’s pot roast,” perhaps.
When I came home with my tonnage of oxtail, K immediately ran to the Shefzilla cookbook, pointed to the Braised Oxtail with Pappardelle Pasta recipe and said, “This. This is what we’re going to do with it.” The recipe called for golden beets and beet greens. Both K and I hate beets so we decided those were out, but their elimination made this recipe even easier (if that’s possible).
Before he left for work in the morning, K browned the oxtails in a saute pan then threw them into the crock pot with 1/2 onion, a few cloves of garlic and some peppercorns. He covered it up with water and left everything simmering for the dogs and I to drool over all day. It was really difficult for me to get any work done with those savory, meaty smells wafting through the house (aka my office).
To make up for the lack of greenery, we sautéed some baby spinach. Then I made some fresh pappardelle pasta as the springy bed for the oxtail. Stewart Woodman (aka Shefzilla) has a recipe for fresh pasta in the book, but it’s far more complicated than it needs to be, in my opinion. I use this Mario Batali recipe and (as long as you knead and rest the dough as it calls for) the pasta comes out brilliantly each and every time. It’s flour, eggs and a splash of water (if you need it). And it’s ten thousand times better than boxed pasta (though, that will do for this recipe, if you’re in a big hurry and can’t spare 30 minutes, start to finish, to make fresh pasta).
K strained the cooking liquid from the oxtail and boiled it down to reduce it. While I kneaded and cut pasta, K picked the bones and gristly bits from the oxtail and we were left with a steaming mound of beautiful meat.
The cooking liquid/sauce was still quite thin so, while K added a little water-dissolved cornstarch to thicken it, I melted a bit of butter in a pan and added a sprinkle of water for Woodman’s “Buerre Fondue.” We dropped the fresh pasta into a pot of boiling water and, with the crash/bang of dinner’s almost ready activity, everything was ready to go on the plate with a squeeze of lemon and a generous sprinkle of Grana Padano cheese.
Perfection. This is the best meal we’ve made in a very long time. The oxtail was rich and juicy and tender and fatty in the best way. The pasta was light and fluffy. The greens and lemon juice added the slightest bit of fresh and tang, the velvety butter sauce melded with the unctuous oxtail gravy and was absorbed by the pasta. Every bite melted in our mouths. And to think, all this with “throw away” meat. The whole meal cost about $3-5 per person, TOTAL. Proof that real food can be made for real people on a real budget. And it’s really, really good too.
Alterations: We “crocked” the oxtail instead of braising it in the oven, we left out the beets and beet greens and just sautéed a little baby spinach, we added a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce and we used Mario’s simple fresh pasta recipe instead of the recipe in the Shefzilla book.
Soundtrack: To be honest, I have no idea. This meal was so good Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra could have been singing table side duets and I wouldn’t have noticed them.
Would we make this again: Yes. We’ll make it for ourselves, for guests, for parties, for family gatherings (though, we’ll just call it “pot roast” so nobody freaks out over “oxtail.”)