If you are a regular reader of our blog, perhaps you remember this post on my husband’s near-death by gluttony as he ate his way through a giant Asturian meal – fabada. While I had to listen to his groans and watch the thick beads of sweat roll down the side of his head as he attempted to finish his meal, I quietly sat with a giant smile on my face as I tucked into one of the best meals I ate in Spain – Asturian Bulls Tail (Rabo de Toro). It must have been cooked for a long time because the meat melted in my mouth. The sauce was rich and flavorful and the itty-bitty fried potatoes added the perfect texture balance and soaked up the sauce while still remaining crunchy. While the husband suffered in glee, I concentrated on figuring out how I was going to make the meal I was eating at home.
A Picture of My Meal in Madrid
There is a difference between rabo de buey (oxtail) and rabo de toro (bull’s tail). I’m sure I do not have to spell it out for you, but I will – one is the tail of an ox, the other is the tail of the bull. They are both beef (bovine), but the main difference is the size of each animal (oxen are usually bigger and stronger because they are used for work purposes) and the fact that a bull is always male.
In Spain it is not rare to eat bull’s tail. It is almost like a perfect pairing of cultural events and food. In the bull-fighting ring, the toreros (or matadores) begin the first of the three stages of the corrida de toros (or running of the bulls). When it is all over, and if the matador has done his job well, they will choose to spare the life of the bull if it has fought nobly or the bull will be killed. You can understand why this very old tradition is controversial. Up the street from the ring you’ll find many restaurants serving various parts of the bull, connecting the Spanish sporting culture with its food culture.
Our Recreated Meal Made in Brooklyn
Since we could not find bull’s tail in our local grocer, we settled for oxtail. As you can imagine, oxtail has been eaten for ages. Back in the day, there was a time when no bit of the animal went to waste (I feel like we’re starting to come back to that way of cooking here in America). Did you know that oxtail is offal? I didn’t, until my husband let me know. I think this is possibly because there’s so much meat on the bone. When I think of offal I usually think of bits of the animal that are either inside or parts like ears, feet and neckbones that do not contain much meat. I am happy to report that oxtail is delicious and meaty with bones that have so much flavor, they make an excellent stock. Because oxen are stronger and more muscular, slow cooking is best to tenderize the meat.
Without a recipe, I recreated the dish I ate at Casa Portal in Madrid from memory. Without getting too big of an ego here, I have to say, I nailed the shit out of this dish. It was one of my most favorite home-cooked meals of the last six months. It did take some time to cook, but the prep is very easy. It’s all about getting it into the pan and letting the flame do the work. The sauce was a bit thicker than the one I ate in Madrid, but I kind of liked it that way. With the spring and summer months ahead, this is one of the last winter-like meals I will prepare for awhile. I really advise you to give oxtail a try, you will not be disappointed.
ASTURIAN OXTAIL WITH SMALL FRIED POTATOES (serves 2 to 4)
Ingredients for Part 1 (Braising the Oxtail):
- 4 lbs oxtail (about 6 pieces)
- 1 onion, cut in thick slices
- 2 carrots, cut in thick slices
- 1 stalk celery, cut in thick slices
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 2 sprigs of parsley, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper
Ingredients for Part 2 (Making the Sauce):
- 1 1/2 inch round of pancetta, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (ask your deli man to just slice a big hunk for you) or 6 rashes of bacon, chopped
- 1 cup oxtail stock (made from part 1)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 1 1/2 tsp pimenton (paprika)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- Optional: 1 tablespoon flour (sieved into sauce) or cornstarch (mixed with some water and then stirred into sauce)
For the Potatoes:
- 3 large baking potatoes
- vegetable oil for frying
What to do:
- Saute the outside of the oxtail in some olive oil in a deep casserole dish. After they are a bit browned on the edges, barely cover them with water.
Add all the rest of your ingredients and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for three to four hours.
- After three hours, remove your oxtail carefully and place on a platter. Strain your oxtail stock so the liquid and the vegetables are separated. Remove the bay leaf. Skim some of the fat off the stock.
- In the same deep casserole, saute your pancetta/bacon on medium in some olive oil. After about a minute, add your onion and garlic. When they have softened add your paprika and stir.
- Add your wine and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.
- After scraping up the bits, add your oxtail stock and beef stock along with the oxtail and the vegetables that cooked in the stock in part 1. Stir.
- Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for another hour.
- Twenty minutes before finishing the oxtail, heat up vegetable oil. Peel your potatoes and slice into 1/2 inch slices, lengthwise. Then, cut each of those slices lengthwise another 1/2 inch so you have what looks like a french fry. Cut all your potatoes into thin french fries then take the fries and slice them each into little 1/2 squares. When ready to fry, it will take between 4 to 6 minutes to fry until golden brown. You will remove from the oil and allow to drain on a paper towel. Salt while still hot.
- Now, back to the oxtail. After the hour is over, remove your oxtail again to the platter. Using a stick blender or regular blender, puree your sauce. Put back into casserole to keep warm. Taste for seasoning adding salt if necessary. If you would like it thicker, add the optional flour or the cornstarch.
- When your fries are done, you are ready to plate! Place the oxtail, one or two per person, depending on how meaty each is, and pour the sauce around it. Add your salted square fries and you’re ready to dine. Buon Appetit!
28 thoughts on “Asturian Oxtail (Rabo de Buey Asturiano) – Remaking A Delicious Spanish Meal”
so oxtail is in my list of things to make
but i just made osso buco
and it’s starting to get much warmer here
and i just bought clams and cran and fish today
so i’ve got seafood on the brain…
but i am bookmarking this because it sounds like a great recipe
Ya know, this is the 1st recipe I’ve come across citing the use of the bull after a fight.
The dish looks rich, worthy of downing a few bottles of wine and then smoking a a Montecristo #2, OLE!
Now this is certainly new as it can be for me. Shall bookmark it as well. 🙂
Oh my goodness, I LOVE oxtail! It certainly does look like it will melt in the mouth, I can almost taste it. I bet your are please that yours actually looks much better than the one you had in Spain! You made me laugh too, ‘one is the tail of an ox and one is that tail of a bull…’
Well I never! You learn something new every day – I had no idea that oxtail counted as offal! Here I am saying that I can’t stand offal but I go to bits with joy whenever my mother makes her sweet soy braised oxtail stew! This dish sounds delightful, and definitely one for me to try 🙂
Hey, everyone. Again, great comments! Claudia: I hear ya, there’s sometimes only so many long, braised meats one can make until summer-like weather makes you feel that it’s time to bust out the grill and the seafood. I better be reading about your osso buco soon! Can I also note your hiku-way of writing comments? classy, baby, classy.
To Boner King (AKA peter): HA! You’re right on with the bottle of wine thing. I think we each had one that night! No cigars, though.
Pixie: See, first you’re making liver, next it’ll be other types of offal! you’ll love it, but wait till the weather is cold again.
helen: as much as we try to not insult readers, in my search for history on oxtail I found one question asked, “what animal does oxtail come from?”… I almost fell off my chair. so it had to be mentioned, but i also didn’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence.
Ellie: I love your comment!! It’s still so great to learn new things. I had the same reaction when I found out about the offal thing. Thanks so much for actually reading the article with the recipe! YUM, I have to check to see if your mom’s recipe is on your blog (i’m sure it is)… sounds so yummy.
Looks good. I keep seeing oxtail at the Farmer’s markets but could only think of making oxtail soup. So next market, i’ll get some. Cheers
What can I say. You have made one of my favorites.I have to try your version with the Spanish twist.
oxtail is something I never ate and never tried. for some reason the name of it scares me a bit:)) but looks delicious. lucky you to eat real Spanish food in Madrid:)
I love oxtail and I agree with Helen, yours do look so much better. Oxtail is a luxury in SA, very expensive.
Whoa, your Brooklyn version looks way better than the restaurant version! We’ve not yet tried this yet, it’s a new one for us. Thanks for another informative food lesson.
BTW- God, your pizza looks fabulous! We haven’t seen anything that good since we ate in Rome! Thin crust for me please!!
i love your version much much much more! hehehe
and the potatoes….this version is absolutely my favorite! woohoo…and i want them soaked in sauce until they got all mushy hohoho
I have an uncle who relishes telling (and re-telling) the story of a night of gluttony with oxtail. It happened about 20 years ago, and we still laugh every time he tells it. His even included another body part of the ox (that I won’t mention on a “G” rated blog, but I’m sure you can guess what that is!). I didn’t know people actually ate that but apparently they do. My uncle only ate it only once. Your version looks much more appetizing.
Thanks to all who mentioned ours looks better than the one at the restaurant. HA! Love that… well, I attempted to ‘style’ mine for about 2 minutes before photographing. I’m sure the restaurant just sent it out, maybe wiping the plate down.
Rita: I did the same thing – letting the potatoes soak in the sauce. otherwise, what’s the point, right?
Susan: that’s a hilarious story. It is very rich..i wish i knew how the oxtail and it’s ‘other part’ were prepared! I also thank you for calling this a “G” rated blog. I’d say we’re PG-13 at best. I don’t hold back from throwing out some f-bombs here and there.
you beat me to it. I was going to do a post on oxtail but since I’ll be cooking that for the Emeril taping next week, I decided to hold off.
We call it rabo encendido… Girl, it’s my favorite beef! well this and lamb.
And then, next time you cook rabo, try it in the pressure cooker! It’ll cut down your cooking time in half and really absorb the flavors. Have you bought one yet?
What up, Bren! Stranger!! You’re too busy to read food blogs now… I get it! We do have a slow cooker and a pressure cooker. The slow cooker is really only used during work days. I kind of like checking in on what I’m cooking. I always want to taste… add… stir. Even if it’s a long-simmering dish. If I have the time, I’d rather do it on the stove than in the slow cooker. But, that’s not to say that the slow cooker isn’t one of the best inventions out there!! Thanks for reading up!! We missed you!
Ah, my Polish family have cooked their own oxtail soups/stews for generations. There are usually some tomatoes in the process and, being Polish, some shredded cabbage added at the last 15-20 minutes, along with other differences…yet it shows how astonishingly widespread an “offal” ingredient like oxtail can be. A few years ago, I bought some at a supermarket in Atlanta to make my version, and the southern African-American checkout lady told me about her family recipe and was drooling over them (“We sell those here?!!! I know what I’m making this weekend!”)
This brings back some savory memories! Bravo!
You made such a wonderful job here!!!!! Sorry, I meant to visit some days ago… but… this and that… I just couldn’t. I’m getting subscribed to your feed and hopefully I’ll be able to follow you closer 😀
Just one thing: another difference between Ox and Bull is that the Ox has been castrated and the Bull keeps his “attributes” !!! There’s dishes cooked with the “attributes” as you may have guessed!!!! He, he, such a pleasure reading your posts!
I stumbled across your blog while googling for an oxtail stew recipe. I decided to try out your recipe. (I didn’t exactly follow it religiously though. Removed the garlic & added mustard. & I definitely added MORE wine.)
The outcome was amazing. Thank you so much. My boyfriend ABSOLUTELY loved it. (I loved it too!) In fact, we’re having it for dinner tomorrow! (They say leftover stew tastes better.)
Thanks once again.
Elena – we’re delighted that you made this! and even better that it turned out well. You’re so right, stew always tastes better the next day. But why the garlic removal? don’t you like it? we adore garlic so find it hard to believe not everyone likes it in every recipe, and are firmly of the opinion that nearly all dishes can be improved by the addition of plenty of garlic! anyway, hope you’ll return and try some more of our recipes!
Wow! Prompt reply! Well, garlic kinda makes my boyfriend bloated, so I don’t cook with garlic. (Not a SINGLE clove in the house!)
You can bet I’ll try more of your recipes! Awesome photography by the way. I tried to take a picture of the stew, but insufficient lighting = not very appealing photograph.
Will definitely be back. Bookmarked your blog! =)
I am making this dish right now for my family for Valentine’s day. I have 2-year old twins who LOVE oxtail. I am Filipino, and from time to time I make the kids and hubby a dish called kare kare. It’s an oxtail stew with a peanut butter base… so rich, so delish! I’m beyond excited to try this Spanish version – the house smells fantastic! Three hours to go before we indulge 🙂
Hi, rochelle! please let us know what you think! thank you for giving it a try! HAPPY V-DAY.
It turned out perfectly! The meat was so flavourful and tender. The potatoes were the perfect match with the sauce. And don’t even get me started on the sauce – YUM! I used a cab-sauv, since that’s all I had, and it went really well with the meat. I also used hot pancetta, which gave it the perfect hint of spice, but was still mild enough for the kids. After blending, it was the perfect consistency, so I didn’t have to thicken it further. Thank you so much for this new favourite meal. The directions were very easy to follow. The kids loved it too! I’m excited to try more of your recipes!