Braised Oxtail Ragu
If spring is meant for cleaning your house and airing it out, fall is meant – at least to me – for cleaning out the outside meat freezer to make room for the half hog, lamb, grass fed beef, and bison I get each fall from local farmers, ranchers and our very own stock show. In the process I found the bison oxtails last year’s stock show auction that I had requested, feeling guilty that nobody was making use of the whole animal.Truth be told, I’ve never cooked oxtail, and other than hearing of oxtail soup, had no idea what to do with them. A simple internet search led me to an Italian style braised oxtail recipe which inspired me to create a ragu using the braised meat. I know enough about the cut to know it’s one of those cheap cuts (lesser cuts), and as such, requires some TLC. Start with browning it then adding vegetables (carrots, onion, celery, canned or frozen tomatoes) to the pot……along with some braising liquid. I generally opt for a combo of red wine and beef stock for the most flavor.Here’s where the magic of braising comes in – what looks completely unappetizing and inedible when first browned, somehow turns into melt in your mouth delicious when it cooks long enough. Long enough is the key phrase here – it takes hours for the connective tissue to melt away and release the meat. Pick it off the bones, discarding any gristle, fat and bones.Let the liquid stand a minute and spoon off excess fat from the top, then puree with a stick blender or in a traditional blender.Finally, fold in the shredded meat for a wonderfully meaty ragu sauce that you can serve over any cooked pasta of your choice. This reminds be quite a bit of wild boar ragu you’ll find in Tuscany, so a wide pappardelle noodle sounds just right to me!