Oxtail was once considered by many Americans as “gutter” meat, meat for the poor, even though it’s one of the most flavorful and texturally complex beef cuts. I remember purchasing it for $.99/lb, using it to make a slightly gelatinous and deeply flavored stew w/rice and vegetables that would last me for like five days, two meals per day. Fine dining chefs, aided by growing popularity of Food Network, began reintroducing oxtail to diners 10-15 years ago and now, it’s one of the pricier cuts of beef ($5/lb, much of it bone and fat). Argh.
So it costs too much to serve at Alive Juice Bar. A two pound Costco package of oxtail costs $10, and the amount of meat on them would satisfy two, maybe three customers. So we decided to add beef cheek meat at $2.69/lb. because its texture is most similar to that of oxtail meat — a combo of gelatinous, fatty, and lean meat that is extraordinarily tender when cooked at low temperature for like 50 hours. So our oxtail soup is made with oxtail and beef cheek.
To cook, we braise both at 160 degrees for 50 hours, or in the case of the oxtail, whenever meat is fall off bone tender. Remove oxtail meat, esp. the fat. Use oxtail bones and juices to make stock, which we cooked at a low boil for 24 hours. Then cool stock in fridge until fat solidifies. Skim fat off and put stock through a strainer to clean the stock. We then add assorted braised veggies and oxtail and beef cheek meat once stock has been brought back to a low boil. Keep on warm — 160 degrees — and serve. We add lots of veggies, typically carrots, potatoes, and celery. It’s meant to be a satisfying soup for meat eaters who don’t get enough veggies. The broth makes the veggies taste meaty.