kosher salt, plus more as needed
freshly ground black pepper
gumbo file powder (optional)
ground coriander (optional)
beef oxtails (try to get all large pieces, if possible)
onions, halved and sliced
garlic cloves, halved
carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
dry red wine
bottle or can (about 12 ounces) Cheerwine soda
unsalted chicken stock, plus more as needed
dried bay leaves
sprigs of thyme
sprigs of rosemary
You don’t need to break the bank to feed a crowd. Though they’re not quite as inexpensive as they once were, thick cuts of oxtail go a long way. And they taste impossibly rich and indulgent when braised in red wine or a sweet Southern soda like Cheerwine, which contributes a delicious sticky sweetness. Can’t find Cheerwine? Use Dr Pepper or Cherry Coke. Or try a combo of both, which means you’ll get to drink half a can of each. This is also a great make-ahead meal. If you braise your oxtails the day before serving, cool everything at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. The fat will congeal and harden and it will be easy to lift off the top of the liquid.
- In a large bowl, stir together the salt, pepper, and the filé powder and coriander (if using). Pat the oxtails dry with paper towels, then toss them with the seasonings. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. About 30 minutes before cooking, take the oxtails out of the fridge to let them come to room temperature.
- Heat a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, then put in the oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, sear the oxtails until well browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
- Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery to the pot. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have browned at the edges and begun to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon to prevent burning, for 2 minutes, or until the paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pot. Pour in 1 cup of the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve all the tomato paste before adding the remaining 2 cups of the wine. Raise the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by about half, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the Cheerwine and cook until reduced by one-third, about 6 minutes.
- Return the oxtails to the pot, along with any accumulated juices, then add the stock, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. If necessary, add just enough extra stock or water to cover the oxtails. Season with a couple of pinches of salt, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer. Cook the oxtails, partially covered, until the meat is super tender, about 3 hours, checking occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking or burning.
- Transfer the oxtails to a plate or tray. Skim off the fat from the braising liquid and remove and discard the herbs.
- In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch with just enough warm water to create a slurry (a thinnish paste). Drizzle the slurry into the simmering liquid and stir to combine. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes, then return the oxtails to the pot, basting to coat the meat. Serve the oxtails with ample sauce.
- SLOW COOKER ALERT: Brown the oxtails in a skillet, then finish off the rest of the recipe in a slow cooker instead of a pot.