It’s Adventure Time!
I shop at Sam’s Club often enough that the package of ox tail has intrigued me several times. I finally bought some.
I did quite a bit of online research into cooking ox tail, and my only criteria for the purposes of this blog is that it be done on a BBQ grill. Lots of people braise ox tail, which means cooking it in a pot with liquid after a sear. I am going in reverse: Start in a pot on the BBQ, then finish with a series of sears on the BBQ grill surface, alternated with dunks in the reduced braising liquid.
I notice two things right away. First, this meat seems really tough, similar to some pork spare rib meat. Second, there is a ton of fat on the big pieces. I trimmed what I could.
On the fly, I’m making a sauce for these things to simmer in. How about a… oh, let’s say a 12 oz bottle of Schlafly Pale Ale, about 1/4 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce, 1/4 chopped white onion, and half a peeled garlic bulb. As it evaporates, I may pour in some more beer, or hot sauce, or water… whatever.
On to the grill it goes over semi-direct heat, with lots of coals. I’ll leave it be for a little over an hour and see how things have gone.
90 minutes or so later, the liquid had reduced quite a bit. I added 2 cups of water, stirred it up, and put the grill cover back on. This looks and smells appetizing, though in mixing them with a spoon it seems clear that the ox tail pieces are still fairly tough. More cooking is needed.
Three hours after going on the grill, I pull the ox tail segments and give them some direct grilling. I let each side sear for a little bit, followed by some dunks in the sauce, then back to the grill. This is a common chicken wing technique. I got lots of nice blackened grill marks on the tail bits.
I wound up adding another cup of water an hour after the first water add. In total, these things cooked on the grill for about 3 1/2 hours. I pulled them and scraped all of the sauce / meaty bits / garlic & onions onto the plate. They look and smell amazing.
NB: I had to cook these in secret. I quietly plated them and set the platter on the table next to the grilled chicken. My wife is pretty much the opposite of an adventurous eater. She begrudgingly took a bite in front of the kids at the table, which prompted them to try it. My son, the oldest, devoured them. The moral of the story is to try new things. I doubt, though, that she tries beef tongue when I get around to experimenting with that protein.
The meat is sticky-fatty, and there isn’t too much meat on each segment. The seasoning and braising methods left them incredibly tender with a nice, spicy finish. Get some kind of ale / lager for this. I am using a Belgian White Ale to accompany my ox tail.
You need to eat quite a few tail segments to get what I would consider a full serving of meat. This may be more of an appetizer than entree. Still, we served it with box mashed potatoes and canned lima beans.
I have to say that this was a worthwhile experiment. It was rich & flavorful, something I would make again with no hesitation.