Roman Oxtail Stew “Butcher-Style”

July 5, 2012

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Travelling through Italy, I realised how many traditional dishes are made from organ meat. The Italians even have a name for these parts, quinto quarto, or the “fifth quarter”, because in the old days the butcher would divide the meat into four quarters to sell, while keeping the offal or “fifth quarter” for themselves. One of the most common quinto quarto dishes in Rome is coda alla vaccinara, an oxtail stew braised with vegetables, wine and herbs.

Oxtail is also a popular cut for soup in Asian cuisines - the Chinese, Koreans and Indonesians all have their own version of oxtail soup, which is probably why this cut of meat is widely available in Singapore. So I decided to cook a large batch of oxtail stew and serve it two ways. Firstly, on its own with fresh bread to mop up the delicious sauce. Then removing the meat from the bones, then cooking it down into a ragu to serve with some pappardelle pasta the next day.

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Coda alla Vaccinara

1kg oxtail, cut into four pieces
100g pancetta or streaky bacon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 celery stick, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Half cup dry white wine
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole cloves
Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 celery sticks, cut into four pieces
Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
Salt & pepper

What to do

Boil water in large pot, add oxtails and simmer for 10mins. Remove oxtails, season with salt & pepper, and set aside. Continue to simmer broth until reduced to 2 cups.

Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high, and sear parboiled oxtails until brown on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

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Lower heat, add pancetta and cook until fat has rendered. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, pepper flakes, and cook for about 10mins until vegetables soften.

Return meat to pot, stir in wine and tomato paste. Simmer for 5mins until most of the wine has evaporated. Add oxtail broth, bay leaf, cloves and half the parsley.

Lower heat to a simmer, cover with lid, and cook for at least 2 hours until tender.

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Add large pieces of celery, pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon, and season with salt & pepper. Simmer uncovered for another 30mins.

Remove from heat, transfer oxtails to plate, and garnish with remaining parsley sprinkled on top. Serve with plenty of sauce and crusty bread on the side.