If you haven’t had a chance to read Ad Hoc at Home by Chef Thomas Keller, it’s definitely worth a look. The recipes come from Ad Hoc, a Keller restaurant based on creating “family style” meals rather than the high brow fare found at Keller’s legendary French Laundry and Per Se. Ad Hoc at Home is excellent for the home cook, and we’ve enjoyed making several things from the book, including Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken, the chocolate chip cookies, and our favorite: Braised Oxtail and Mushroom Tartine. This dish is savory and good, and although the cooking time is a bit long, it’s very easy to prepare. We’ve made this a few times, and although I’ve modified the recipe, it’s always turned out delicious.
To make this, you’ll need:
- Some Oxtails (roughly two large pieces per person eating)
- Salt and Pepper
- Oil (Keller says canola; I agree)
- Mushrooms (about a cup per person eating). The original recipe calls for oyster mushrooms, and they go with the meat excellently. I’ve also used shiitakes, and although they have a lighter, more delicate flavor, they’re also good. The baby portobellos available now would probably work just fine, or use plain old white mushrooms if that’s all you can find.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Beef stock. Make your own…well, ok, you don’t HAVE to make your own, but if you use the store bought kind, get a low salt version. You’re going to reduce this liquid a great deal, and you don’t want things to get too salty.
- 1-2 tablespoons minced shallots. Shallots are best, but the dish doesn’t suffer from substituting diced yellow onion.
- 1 teaspoon of chopped thyme. If you have to use dried, only use half as much.
- Bread. Keller calls for rosemary ciabatta or “other thick flat bread;” I’ve used regular ciabatta as well as toasted sourdough. Pick a bread you like that has a enough strength to make an open faced sandwich.
- Some thinly sliced onion (optional, but totally worth it).
Heat some of the canola oil in a skillet. Salt and pepper the oxtails and brown them in the oil, about 5-7 minutes per side. You want to get a good brown color:
After browning, put the oxtails on a cooling rack and pour the used oil out of the pan. Put the oxtails back in and pour in some of your beef stock. Chef Keller says that enough to cover about half the oxtails is sufficient, but every time I’ve made this, I’ve had to add more liquid about half to three quarters of the way through – so make sure you have some stock in reserve. Cover your pan and put it into a 400 degree oven for 2 and half to 3 hours. Keep an eye on them, and if your liquid is getting dry, add a bit of your reserved stock. Once they’re tender, take them out and put them on your cooling rack. Let them rest for half an hour. Save the liquid they cooked in, and help yourself to something nice from the fridge:
Once the tails have had a nice rest, remove the meat from the center bone. Be careful with this task, because oxtails have a good bit of surrounding fat and connective tissue, and you really don’t want that stuff in your final product. Put your meat in a bowl and set aside. It’s mushroom time.
Heat some canola in a skillet and brown your mushrooms. Add your shallots and cook until the shallots get soft – you don’t want to burn the shallots, so you may want to reduce your heat a bit at this point. Add your butter and cook until the mushroom liquid has cooked off and everything gets nice and coated with butter. Stir your meat back in, and add your reserved liquid. Reduce until the liquid has the consistency of a thick sauce. Toast your bread, and serve.
This is a version made with oyster mushrooms, served over sourdough toast. The mixture is pretty much good any way you like it, and a good way to make a cut of meat that most people around here often overlook. Happy cooking!