Tale of the tails

Frank on food

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In the world of food, it's not uncommon for an earnest, determined cook to travel far in search of a food item. Indeed, tracking down a certain ingredient, or better yet, locating the whereabouts of a new or unusual ingredient, is all it takes to send any self-respecting gourmet galloping on his way.

I didn't actually gallop, but I did make a mad dash last week to Bobak's Sausage Company when I heard they had fresh veal oxtails. Confused by veal and ox being used together? Don't be. Although oxtail once referred specifically to an ox's tail, the term today refers to both beef and veal tails. Both distinctly delicious.

Beef oxtails are more readily available at this time of year, but veal oxtails are hard to come by and more expensive. Take my word for it?#34;they're worth every penny. Deliciously rich, with a distinctive flavor, they're best when slowly braised in the oven and left to sit overnight to let the flavors fully meld. This recipe is how I prepare this rare classic.

Bobak's is the only place I've found that has veal oxtails on a regular basis. More than a sausage company, they have a terrific fresh meat selection and a large deli counter as well, featuring all sorts of Polish specialties. Bulk items, such as sauerkraut, various cuts of pickled herring, and dill pickles are all available in barrels, and you can even eat at their all-you-can-eat restaurant/buffet.

Bobak's closest location is at 5275 W. Archer Ave., three blocks east of Cicero Avenue. Make the mad dash!



Serves 4

3 pounds veal oxtail

3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 large onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika

1/2 cup flour

3 cups chicken stock (or water), heated

1 cup dry vermouth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to tastePreheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Season oxtails with salt and pepper.

Heat the lard or oil over moderate-high heat in a 6-quart Dutch oven or large casserole.

Brown oxtails (without crowding) on all sides and remove to a plate.

Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent.

Add the paprika and cook for 1 minute.

Add the flour and cook for 1 minute more.

Turn off the heat and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes.

Bring the stock or water to a boil and stir into the onions.

Add the wine, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper.

Bring to a simmer.

Add the oxtails back to the pot.

Cover and place in the oven for 2 to 3 hours (just until fork tender).

Remove the pot from the oven and let it sit at room temperature until cool.

Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day, remove the fat that has risen to the top.

Reheat slowly to a simmer, remove bay leaf and adjust seasoning (add more water if too thick).

Serve with buttered noodles, steamed rice or mashed potatoes and good bread and butter.

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