Oxtail Marmalade

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oxtail marmalade with chives

This is, hands down, the most delicious thing I’ve made in a long time.

And the most expensive. And the most time consuming. And the most primally…viscerally…carnivorously satisfying.

No joke, I woke up in the middle of the night last night thinking about this stuff. Admittedly, I have problems. (Or at least very particular tastes.)

What is oxtail marmalade?

Think about the best beef stew you’ve ever had. For me, that’s beef bourguignon. Intensify the flavor like, a kabillion times. Balance the flavors perfectly with sugar and acid. Make it so thick and sticky that you can stand a spoon up in a bowl of it.

Then you’ll start to approach the goodness that is oxtail marmalade.

pot of oxtail marmalade with wooden spoonLet me back up.

I first saw the recipe for Blue Ribbon Brasserie’s oxtail marmalade a few weeks ago on Serious Eats. I knew I had to try it. It’s one of those things that I’d seen diners rave about on the interwebs from time to time. Now I know why. I haven’t been to the restaurant in New York, but I may need to make the trip.

Make that the pilgrimage. I think these guys (Eric & Bruce Bromberg) are my new heroes. This recipe is from their new cookbook, Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook.

blue ribbon cookbook

Consider. Hours of cooking? An ingredient list that includes a huge bottle of wine and two bottles of port? The prospect of transforming one of the toughest and nastiest parts of a beast into something so succulent that you can spread it on toast?

Totally my speed.

oxtail meat and bone

I spent all day on Sunday in the kitchen. By the time I was done, I’ll admit that was frazzled. (“Oh. My. God. I have to cut a pound-and-a-half of carrots into quarter-inch dice? And I bought BABY carrots?”).

Ask The Angry Chef. He chopped the shallots for me because I was too distraught to do it. (“I didn’t start early enough. I didn’t realize I’d need to run out and get another bottle of port. I’m hungry and it smells so good.” And so on…)

The dog spent the afternoon with me, milling about the kitchen, snout in the air. (Yep, he’s vibrating.)

happy keeshond

Oxtail marmalade is not a fast (or cheap) proposition

This recipe is definitely a labor of love.

All told, it took me about 6 hours to make. Granted, that’s not active cooking time (there’s a lot of simmering and reducing). In between, I made some ricotta, a coffee cake, and three dozen doughnuts.

But still.
steaming oxtails in pot

It also cost about $40, between the wine, the port, and the meat.

Which is kind of over the top—especially when you consider that I love this stuff so much that I may have to make more immediately when I run out. (I can see it now: We’ll be the only couple who ever went bankrupt from an oxtail marmalade habit run amok.)

Seriously, though. Make this once. Cut the recipe in half (or quarters) to save some dough on ingredients. It’s definitely worth the time and effort.

Use wine and port that you would drink

It doesn’t have to be super expensive, but definitely use wine and port that you wouldn’t mind drinking. Reducing them only concentrates their flavors, so it makes sense to fill the pot with stuff you like. I used Yellow Tail Shiraz and Dow’s port.

dow's vintage port

How to make oxtail marmalade

There’s a few basic parts to this recipe. In a nutshell, here’s what you’re doing:

  • Part 1: The Meat
    Simmer the oxtails in red wine, port, garlic, peppercorns, and fresh thyme for about 3 hours, until the meat is so tender you can mistake it for barbecued, shredded beef. Remove all the meat from the bones, dice it up, set it aside.
  • Part 2: The Sauce
    Strain the braising liquid, reduce it, then thicken it with a big hunk of beurre manie, a paste of equal parts butter and flour. Set that aside. This stuff is so good you’ll want to bathe in it. Try it and tell me I’m wrong.
  • Part 3: The Jammy Bits & Pieces
    Saute carrots and shallots in butter, then add red wine vinegar, more port, and both brown and white sugars and cook until the liquid evaporates. (The vinegar and sugar makes a sort of gastrique, which is a piquant reduction usually served with meats.)
  • Part 4: The Miracle of the Marmalade
    Combine the oxtail meat, braising liquid, and sauteed veggies together. This is where the magic happens. (Where you exclaim, with your mouth full, “Oh, this was totally worth it.”) Mix well. Inhale.

Read on for detailed instructions on each step.

Serve with roasted marrow bones & challah toast

The good folks at Blue Ribbon serve this marmalade with marrow bones and challah toast. Take a peek here for how to make roasted marrow bones. (Blue Ribbon simmers theirs.)

roasted marrow bones

And here for how to make challah:

challah bread

How to buy oxtails

Find oxtails at your local butcher or in the meat case at most major major grocery stores in the U.S. If you don’t see any out, definitely ask if they have any in back or in the freezer.

oxtail ends

Oxtails are literally just what they sound like: The tail of an ox. Or (more likely) a cow. They’re bony, but incredibly flavorful. Like all tough cuts, you have to coax it into tenderness with long, slow cooking.

tip of oxtail

Oxtail Marmalade

Adapted from Serious Eats and Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook

4 pounds oxtail, trimmed of fat
6 cups port wine
6 cups dry red wine
4 quarts veal or chicken stock
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1 Tbls. whole black peppercorns
8 Tbls. butter
3 Tbls. flour
4 cups carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
4 cups shallots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 lb.)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Yields 4-5 cups of marmalade (surely enough to last for a few days, probably not enough to bathe in)

Part 1: Cook the Oxtails

Grab your oxtails.

raw oxtails

Put them in the biggest, heavy-bottomed pot you have. I used my trusty 9-quart Le Creuset…and it wasn’t big enough. During the first hour it was on the stove, I had to keep topping it off with chicken broth as it simmered and reduced. It worked out just fine.

oxtails in pot

Pour in all the wine and 3 cups of the port.

wine and oxtails

oxtails in wine

Add all the stock.

chicken stock and wine

Toss in the peppercorns and the fresh thyme.

black peppercorns and pot

fresh thyme

Whack your head of garlic in half, like this, and throw both halves (wrapper and all) in the pot.

cut the garlic in half

braising liquid for oxtails

Give the pot a good stir.

stir the pot

Set the pot on the stove over medium-high heat until it starts to boil rapidly.

boiling pot on stove

bubbling surface

Reduce the heat a little, until the liquid holds a good simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 3 hours, your pot should look kind of gross and sludge-y, like this. The meat will be purple and positively poisonous looking. But that’s what you want.

braised oxtails

(At this point, you’ll likely be saying something like, “Good grief, that looks like total *#$%! I don’t want to eat that.” Keep going. Trust me.)

Pull the meat out of the pot with tongs and set aside on a plate to cool.

cooked oxtails

(What’d I tell ya: Icky. Gross. Purple.)

wine soaked oxtails

oxtail meat and bone

The broth should thin and a deep mahogany in color. Set it aside. You’re going to reduce it. (See below…you can totally start making the sauce while you’re waiting for the meat to be cool enough to handle.)

braising liquid on spoon

When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull it off the bones with your hands (or a couple of forks). Discard the fat, bone, and any strange gristley stuff.

pull the meat off the bones

After 3 hours of cooking, these little beasties will be really tender, so the meat should shred right off.

shredded oxtail meat

shredded oxtail meat and bones

shredded beef

Chop that meat up into small pieces.

chopping shredded beef

Toss it all into a bowl. Cover it and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the marmalade.

bowl of shredded oxtail meat

Part 2: Make the Sauce

Strain the braising liquid and discard the solids. Put the liquid in a large saucepan on the stove over high heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and hold it at a simmer. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it’s reduced to about 3 cups.

reduce the braising liquid

I have no idea 3 cups looks like in a pan. I measured my sauce after 1 1/2 hours, and it was just about 3 cups. If yours starts to look thick earlier than that, definitely measure it. It’ll be thick, opaque, and a dark, rich brown.

reduced braising liquid

Put 3 Tablespoons of butter and 3 Tablespoons of flour in a small bowl.

butter and flour in a bowl

Mash them together into a paste. (In French cooking, this is called a beurre manie, which literally means “kneaded butter.” You do this to keep the flour from forming lumps in your sauce. It’s an awesome way to thicken gravy.)

beurre manie

Whisk the butter/flour mixture into the reduced braising liquid over medium-high heat until it melts completely.

thicken with beurre manie

Cook like this for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

whisk in the beurre manie

Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside until you’re ready to assemble the marmalade. (Give it a taste. This stuff is a-ma-zing!)

thickened meat glaze

Part 3: The Jammy Bits & Pieces

Dice the carrots and shallots. (I’m not a big mise-en-place gal, but do this in advance if you want. It’s a lot of chopping.)

carrots cut into quarter inch dice

chopped shallots

Melt the remaining 5 Tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

butter melting in a pan

Toss in the diced carrots and shallots. Stir to coat in butter.

carrots and shallots in a pan

Saute over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the veggies are starting to get soft and translucent.

sauteed carrots and shallots

Toss in the kosher salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper, and the white and brown sugars.

sugar, carrots, and shallots in a pan

Pour in the remaining 3 cups of port and all the red wine vinegar. Stir to combine.

pour in the port

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid has completely evaporated. This will take about 45 minutes.

carrots and shallots simmering in port

bubbling port wine

reduced port

When they’re done, your veggies should be completely cooked through. And…when they’re done, you’re ready (finally!) to put it all together!

marmalade components

Part 4: The Miracle of the Marmalade

Toss the chopped oxtail meat into the pan with the veggies.

oxtail meat, carrots, and shallots

Add the thickened braising liquid to the pan. (As it cools, it will get a little thicker. That’s just fine.)

thickened meat glaze with spatula

add the meat glaze to the pot

making oxtail marmalade

Mix the whole thing together.

pot of oxtail marmalade

And…voila! You should be looking at a big pan of oxtail marmalade.

oxtail marmalade close up

spoonful of oxtail marmalade

Keeps well in the fridge, tightly wrapped, for about 4 days.

oxtail marmalade on toast

(If, of course, it lasts that long.)

bite of oxtail marmalade

Enjoy!

Oxtail Marmalade

Yields About 4-5 cups

Think about the best beef stew you've ever had. For me, that's beef bourguignon. Intensify the flavor like, a kabillion times. Balance the flavors perfectly with sugar and acid. Make it so thick and sticky that you can stand a spoon up in a bowl of it. Then you'll start to approach the goodness that is oxtail marmalade. Here's my cheat sheet for making oxtail marmalade. For full, step-by-step details, see my full post.

Save Recipe

Ingredients

4 pounds oxtail, trimmed of fat
6 cups port wine
6 cups dry red wine
4 quarts veal or chicken stock
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1 Tbls. whole black peppercorns
8 Tbls. butter
3 Tbls. flour
4 cups carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
4 cups shallots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 lb.)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Part 1, The Meat: Simmer the seared oxtails in red wine, port, garlic, peppercorns, and fresh thyme for about 3 hours, until the meat is so tender you can mistake it for barbecued, shredded beef. Remove all the meat from the bones, dice it up, set it aside.
  2. Part 2, The Sauce: Strain the braising liquid, reduce it, then thicken it with a big hunk of beurre manie, a paste of equal parts butter and flour. Set that aside.
  3. Part 3, The Jammy Bits & Pieces: Saute carrots and shallots in butter, then add red wine vinegar, more port, and both brown and white sugars and cook until the liquid evaporates. (The vinegar and sugar makes a sort of gastrique, which is a piquant reduction usually served with meats.)
  4. Part 4, The Miracle of the Marmalade: Combine the oxtail meat, braising liquid, and sauteed veggies together. This is where the magic happens. (Where you exclaim, with your mouth full, "Oh, this was totally worth it.") Mix well.
  5. Serve with roasted marrow bones & challah toast
http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2010/04/14/oxtail-marmalade/

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, I can’t believe you tried this at home. But I had Blue Ribbon’s version last time I was in NYC and I was not impressed. It was OK but I thought the entire experience was overrated. If you enjoyed your version, I wouldn’t waste time going to Blue Ribbon.

  2. I stumbled onto this and must try it at work… So its served cold? How would you describe the texture of the marmalade once its cooled? Because I’m not completely convinced that gelatin from the marrow is pleasing on the tongue when cold… am I missing something?

    I think i might try it with a smaller cut on the vegetables and hope not to eat to much of the oxtail before its marmalade LOL

    I really do hope this turns out to be a carnivores dreams when I make it. Your descriptions made me hungry enough lol. Thanks as always.

    ~ J

    • Oh no, serve it warm or at room temp. I mean, it’s good when it’s cold, but it’s definitely better when it’s warm. Let me know what you think!

      +Jessie

  3. Hi there,
    I am thinking of making this, but was wondering exactly how much this would yield… would it be too much as an appetizer for a dinner of four? What about as a cocktail party appetizer or small bite at a larger gathering. I’m not sure what the best setting to serve would be.
    Thanks!
    Tania

    • Hey lady,

      The recipe yields 4-5 cups of marmalade, which is probably waaaay too much for an appetizer for 4, unless you’re serving giants. 😉 It’s pretty rich. I’d do it more as a cocktail party appetizer or a small bite at a large party.

      Let me know how it turns out? Good luck!
      +Jessie

    • having had something very similar at The Cosmopolitan hotel in las vegas, I can tell you that 4 cups and a loaf of bread is pretty much dinner for 2 or 3. I think they gave us a quarter to a half cup as an appetizer and I was rather embarrassed to be licking the plate clean in the middle of a lovely french bistro.

  4. I made this last Saturday.. WOW!!! UHHHMAAAZING!! One of the coolest dishes I’ve ever served. The yield was phenomenal as well and I sent home at least one cup with guests. Can I freeze the rest? I don’t want it to go to waste.

  5. Looks yummy-just my kind of food.
    My question is, do you use ruby or tawny port? Each would give a different flavor.
    So, this is served as an app?? Like a crostini? Hmm, that could be good…

  6. I te this at blue ribbon brooklyn last night. Possibly one of the tastiest things to pass my lips. mmmmmmmmmm i am obsessed. AND the rest of the meal was amazing

  7. It’s 12:30am, just finished my marmalade, now I have to stop eating it! Used already prepared shredded carrots and roughly chopped them-saved a little time and worked well. Can’t wait for supper tomorrow!

  8. I have to say that reading this makes me thoroughly fine with paying $26 at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn for this. Now I feel like they should charge more!

    One day, I’ll try to do it myself, especially now that I don’t live in BK anymore. Thanks for the breakdown!

  9. Just found this recipe and can’t wait to try it! I’ve had Oxtail Marmalade once and it was incredible.

    With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m thinking it would be a great dish to bring to dinner. My extended family is large and Thanksgiving dinner usually has 15 to 20 people. Would the yield for this recipe be substantial for an appetizer or side-dish for that many people? Should I double it?

  10. Jessie:

    I have to make this!

    Our favourite soup is Oxtail. By far the best part of the cow.

    I make my soup over two days. You could do the same.

    I always let my broth sit overnight and then slip off the hardened fat from the top.

    I wonder??? With a water bath if this would be a good shelf item.

    Oh when you get your oxtails, go to a butcher and ask for the entire tail, cut up.

    Have a Joyful Day :~D
    Charlie

    • I just made this for the 2nd time in a year, It is a superb appetizer to a special meal with friends. I have to admit, I also love your duck recipe and instructions. It transformed duck into a preferred meal. Thank you for your insights.

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