I have quite a few food memories while growing up. My mom had an extensive repartee of meals she would cook — some of them sent me making the rounds to see which friend’s house I could invite myself to dinner, while most had me looking forward to dinner at home. There also were times that had me sitting at the kitchen counter, watching the preparation with anticipation.

Oxtail soup was one dinner that had me glued to the kitchen. Not only to enjoy the smells as it was cooking, but also because I knew that after the oxtails were cooked, my mom would remove the meat from the bones and hand them to my sisters and me to polish them off. It was a pre-oxtail soup dinner ritual.

Traditional oxtail soup is a consommé but in my house oxtail soup is somewhat of a misnomer as it was thicker — like gravy — with meat and mushrooms included, usually served over noodles or spätzle. I’ve also had it over rice and think it would work over pretty much any starch. It is thick and rich, so eating it alone as a soup would likely only work in small batches.

Photography note: When I make oxtail I always serve it over my favorite pasta, farfalle — also known as bow-tie pasta. When we were doing the shoot, I was informed by the food stylist, Alexis, that farfalle pasta was a kids pasta and we needed to make the dish look more sophisticated with egg noodles. The final image does look sophisticated but it won’t change the fact that when I eat oxtail soup, I’ll be eating it on my ‘kids’ pasta.

Oxtail Soup

  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 3h
  • Total Time: 3h 30m
  • Serves: 4

What's in it:

  • 4 lb oxtails
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 10 -15 mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Salt & Pepper

How to make it:

  1. Start by trimming off the fat from the larger bones. Place oxtails in a roasting pan and salt & pepper the bones generously. Put pan in an oven, pre-heated to 450 degrees, for about 20 minutes or until the meat starts to brown. Transfer oxtails to a pot, add the thyme, bay leaves, garlic and cover with water. (You can add a cube or two of beef bouillon to kick-start the whole thing.) Bring to a boil and simmer for 2.5-3 hours, adding water to keep the meat covered. Remove the oxtails and let cool. Strain the broth, let cool and then refrigerate overnight leaving the fat layer. Remove the meat from the bones while they are still warm and refrigerate the meat.
  2. After it cools for a few hours the broth will have a hardened fat cap, which can easily be removed. I use some of the fat to sauté the mushrooms and make the roux to thicken the broth in place of the olive oil and butter.
  3. Next, sauté the mushrooms in a very hot pan to give them some color before they release their water. Set mushrooms aside. Melt the butter (or fat) in the same size pot as the stock was made and add the flour to the melted butter, whisking constantly to make a roux. Once the roux is roughly the color of peanut butter, add the onions and stir together until onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms, oxtail meat and stock to the pot and bring to a slow simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the broth has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add a pour of sherry to bring out more flavor. Don’t bother with ‘cooking sherry’, make it a decent sherry. As with wine, if you won’t drink it on its own, don’t add it to your food.
  5. Serve over egg noodles, pasta, spätzle or any other starch you like.