If you love beef — if you love it truly — you will know that the best bits are not those fancy, expensive cuts of fillet or rib-eye. Keep them for amateurs and kids or oligarchs who want to impress each other in restaurants.
Things become a bit more toothsome when a bone is involved, preferably T-shaped, but it’s the slow-cooked cuts where it gets really interesting — brisket, feather blade, shin. These hard-working muscles demand a bit of effort but reward it in richness and flavour. Among these cuts, oxtail is king — and now is the time to cook it.
It is, of course, available all year round but it’s only now, when the wind is icy and we get home soaked, that we really want to cook it.
Turkey season begins with Thanksgiving in late November, peaks on Christmas Day and ends abruptly with the last turkey sandwich/curry/pie/shawarma (try it!). It has nothing to do with the lifecycle of these birds — they’re in season because we’ve decided they are for cultural reasons.
Likewise, the months of January and February are peak oxtail season for us. It’s in the bones, you see. The oxtail pieces want nothing more than a long, hot bath so the strands of meat can become meltingly soft and the bones can turn the cooking liquid into a rich, slick and filling broth, which is the best tonic we’ve come across to take the sting out of these biting months.
Here, Espelette salt and roasted bell peppers bring a touch of extra warmth to the broth and thin strands of pasta complete it. Boiled winter greens will go nicely on the side. Or a bowl of sharply dressed salad — even though, strictly speaking, it’s not quite salad season yet.
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