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Chinese-Style Braised Oxtails with Baby Bok Choy

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Serves 6

  • by from The Great Meat Cookbook

Chinese cooking makes frequent use of under-appreciated fattier cuts such as pork belly, pork shoulder, and oxtails. In this recipe, licorice-flavored star anise gives the meat its characteristic flavor. You can use oxtails from traditional grain-finished beef or grass-fed beef, which, though leaner, will have ample fat. This dish is best made ahead.

  • 4 lb. oxtails, most external fat trimmed
  • 2 cups homemade beef stock, canned low-sodium chicken broth, or water
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 6 1/4-inch rounds fresh ginger
  • 2 cups halved and sliced onions
  • 8 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Chinese brown bean paste (also called ground bean paste)
  • 12 baby bok choy, washed
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and light green parts)
  • Steamed rice (I use jasmine rice), for serving
Tip:
Possible substitutions: beef or bison shanks for the oxtails; snow peas, sugar snap peas, Napa cabbage cut into 6 wedges, Chinese broccoli (gai lan), regular broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, or Chinese mustard greens for the baby bok choy. Snow peas and sugar snap peas need only 1 to 2 minutes of  cooking, while broccoli will need 5 to 6 minutes.

Arrange the oxtails in a large Dutch oven. Add the stock, star anise, ginger, onions, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and bean paste, making sure the oxtails are covered in liquid; if necessary, add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 3 hours, or until the meat is almost falling off the bone. If not tender, continue to cook, checking every 30 minutes. At this point, the oxtails are best if cooled and refrigerated in their liquid for up to 3 days so that the surface fat congeals and the meat develops a rich, savory flavor.

When ready to serve, remove the congealed fat and bring the oxtails to a simmer. Heat for 10 minutes. If the sauce is thin, remove the oxtails and boil the sauce to reduce until it becomes flavorful. Don’t overreduce, or the sauce will become too salty. Discard the star anise and ginger. Return the oxtails to the pot and rewarm while you cook the bok choy.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the bok choy and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

To serve, place 2 bok choy in each of six shallow soup bowls. Ladle over the oxtails and sauce and sprinkle generously with the scallions. Serve steamed rice on the side.

Leftovers

Turn leftovers into chow mein: Remove the meat from the bones and cut into chunks or shred. Cook Chinese egg noodles until just tender. Toss the noodles with the meat, some scallion pieces, and slivers of yellow onion in a little oil in a wok or large skillet, moisten the noodles with just enough braising sauce to create a light sauce, and heat through. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions and serve.

Photo: Luca Trovato

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