Greetings my favourite faves, and welcome back to a very rich and meaty instalment of Will It Sous Vide?, the column where I make things with my immersion circulator.
Photos by Claire Lower.
This week’s project has me so excited, I was tempted to do an engagement-style photo shoot of myself and our meaty subject, and then turn it into a slideshow set either to Nick Cave’s “Breathless” or Jonathan Richman’s “You’re The One For Me”. Not only could I not decide between the two songs, but I realised that a romantic slideshow of my face and some meat wouldn’t be very helpful to any of you, so I ended up sticking with the usual format.
As you have probably gathered by now, oxtail received a fair amount of enthusiasm this week. I called a whole bunch of grocery stores and asked for tail until I found a meat department that had some. Whole Foods had just a bit, so I asked the nice young butcher to please not give it to anyone else until I got there.
I ended up with about 1kg of tail, which is enough for two very hungry people. I salted it, patted it off with paper towels, and then gave it a quick sear in the cast iron because, though I am committed to using primarily sous-vide cooking in this column, I’m also a living, breathing woman living in the real world who understands that all meat needs a little browning.
I’m not about to miss out on this action.
Once everyone had some good colour on them, it was time for the bag. Not wishing to add any liquid to our dish, I made a super-flavorful paste of five cloves of minced garlic, three very healthy squirts of Trader Joe’s Umami paste, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of roasted chicken Better Than Bouillon. (Beef or mushroom would work too, I just happen to have chicken.) Both of these umami bombs add body, flavour and a little acidity without any moisture, which is what makes them perfect for our closed-off cooking system.
"Umami", also known as "the fifth taste", is a flavour that is kind of hard to describe. It's savoury, but not salty, though it is usually accompanied by salt. It's been described as "meaty", "mushroom-y" and "brothy", but I prefer to describe it as "that flavour that makes you eat an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting".Read more
Oxtail is full of collagen, making it an ideal candidate for an extended hang in our swirling, low and slow culinary hot tub. I gave the meaty little guys a full 24 hours in a 85C bath, which I hoped would be plenty of time for that tough, rubbery connective tissue to break down into silky gelatin.
This guy’s role is purely ceremonial at this point.
After a day-long stay in the bath, the bag was full of some very juicy meat.
Don’t toss that gorgeous liquid.
I drained off the beautiful jus, setting it in a measuring glass for a later, delicious use, and transferred the hot, sexy tail to a platter.
I think you guys already know the answer, but the question still needs to be asked: Will oxtail sous vide?
The answer: I don’t know that there’s a positive enough word to describe how I feel about this oxtail. If the goal here was rich, impossibly meaty, not-at-all dry, falling-off-the-bone oxtail, then we have achieved that goal, my dearest friends, and I doubt I will ever cook oxtail using any other method. Not only were the results delicious, but the method was almost too easy. In fact, if you took just 15 minutes or so to sear the tail on Sunday night, you could come home Monday evening to the most satisfying weeknight meal ever, and who doesn’t want to be satisfied after a long mundane Monday at the office?
And, my word, is this stuff succulent. With a gentle tug from my fingers, the meat simply fell away, leaving behind one of the cleanest bones I’ve ever seen.
I tried the same strategy with a bigger piece, and was rewarded with equally delicious results.
That connective tissue had melted alright, rendering the oxtail into some of the most tender, best-pot-roast-of-your-life meat I had ever had, with a mouth-coating richness that was downright decadent. The fatty portions of the tail lacked any chew at all, they simply melted in my mouth with a texture similar to perfectly roasted bone marrow.
I was so pleased that I ate three pieces of tail in rapid succession, standing over the platter with my camera still hung around my neck. Then I got a hold of myself, wiped my fingers, went to my computer, and typed this as fast as I could, because you guys need to know about this. Everyone needs to know.