I’m not a religious person per se, but I’d be a “man of the cloth” if Costco were a church! Sure the cloth would be form fitting, inappropriately revealing and decorated with sequins, but still…I’d preach the hell out of that bulk buying value added Kirkland scripture like I was channeling the holy spirit himself!
I’ve been a fan of Costco for as long as I can remember. My father used to take us on the weekends to the one down Mission Gorge Rd. in Santee (suburb of San Diego). We always parked far away, because “I don’t want anyone to open their doors and ding my new car,” he used to say as we stumbled out of his 1990 Silver Ford Thunderbird and trekked across the sea of asphalt to the open gates near the entrance.
After the divorce our house was pretty much a bachelor pad: patio furniture in the living room, shag carpet throughout, a pool table on the covered back porch, and a single tube TV we were always huddled around. Our Costco trips were for toilet paper, laundry detergent, cases of caffeine-free Diet Coke (which we always had in the house), toothpaste, bars of Dial Soap, and whatever frozen microwavable meals we could find because my Dad didn’t know how to cook.
Having just finished our Saturday morning sports competitive team sports, my brothers and I would run through the Costco warehouse in our soccer cleats and grass-stained jerseys trying to get as many samples as we could from the ladies in hairnets. Dad called that “working for lunch.”
So it should be no surprise that I want to sample everything when I’m at Costco now. Unfortunately that’s not possible. So I knew I’d have to buy the oxtails if I was every going to try them. Jonathan rolled his eyes and thought we should just buy some from the local butcher, because “we don’t need eight pounds of oxtails if you don’t even know how or what you’re going to do with them,” he said. What Jonathan considers a problem, I often see as a challenge. So I grabbed the double packet of oxtails from the fridge and decided I was going to cook half of them that week. This is what I came up with.
- ½ tblsp coconut oil (you can use olive oil if you’d prefer)
- 2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped into one-inch pieces
- 2 celery stalks roughly chopped into one-inch pieces
- ½ medium white onion roughly chopped into one-inch pieces
- 1 leek cleaned and roughly chopped into one-inch pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
- 1 cup dried black or white figs
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp quatre espices spice blend
- 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
- 2 cups of beef broth
- 2 cups of a heavy red wine (like merlot of cabernet sauvignon)
- ¼ cup Bulleit Bourbon (any brand will do)
- 10 oz of pearl onions
- Parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325° F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
In a pot on medium-high heat your coconut oil. Pat the oxtails dry and liberally salt and pepper them on all sides. Once the oil is smoking add the oxtails to the pot, searing them for a few minutes on all sides.
Once browned all around, remove the oxtails from the pot and set aside.
Remove some of the fat in the base of the pot leaving about 1 tblsp in the pot. Add the vegetables (carrots, celery, onions, and leeks) to the oil and sauté them. Add the red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and some more salt and pepper.
After the veggies have browned a little add the garlic, figs, and quatre espices spice blend. Stir and cook the mixture for another minute just to toast some of the spices (but you don’t want them to burn).
Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the bourbon, scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Once all the bits have been scraped up, add the tomatoes to the pot and nestle the reserved oxtails into the mixture.
Pour the broth and red wine into the pot maxing sure the oxtails are completely submerged in liquid and toss the fresh thyme sprigs in as well. Stir the pot gently, cover it with the lid, and place in the preheated oven.
Bake the oxtails for 3 to 3.5 hours, stirring the pot and adding the pearl onions halfway through.
Once the meat is tender and falling off the tailbones it’s done. With tongs and a fork, remove the meat from the bones and keep it out of the pot. Place the pot and it’s contents back on the stove and reduce the liquid by nearly half for another 10 mins. Take it off the heat and add the meat back, stir, and serve.
I served this over a creamy polenta, which served as a blank canvas to showcase the oxtail meat, figs, and vegetables. I followed the instructions on the side of the package for the “cereal polenta” which was just cooked in boiling water with some salt. The Italian polenta recipes are a lot richer with Parmesan cheese, butter, and cream in some cases. Whichever version you make is up to you.