Oxtail and Barley Soup Recipe
During the past few years, chefs have taken everyday meats that were historically considered poor man’s cuts and glamorized them with special treatments. Inspired by this trend, we used the budget cut of oxtail to make this soup. A take on Scotch broth (made with lamb, barley, and vegetables), this recipe simmers up oxtails for a rich broth and then adds barley and turnips for a filling meal.
What to buy: Oxtails are rarely from an actual ox anymore; now the term generally refers to beef or veal tail, which can be found (precut) at most supermarkets and butcher shops.
Special equipment: You will need a fat separator for this recipe in order to defat the broth. Fat separators can be found at cooking stores or at some grocery stores.
Game plan: If you don’t have a fat separator, start this soup a day in advance to allow the broth to chill thoroughly.
For the broth:
- 3 1/2 pounds meaty oxtails, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 9 cups water
For the soup:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small turnip, peeled and cut into medium dice
- 1 medium carrot, medium dice
- 1/2 medium white onion, medium dice
- 1/3 cup pearl barley
- 1 medium bay leaf
- Pat oxtails dry with a paper towel and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid. When oil shimmers, add oxtail pieces (without overcrowding—you will need to do this in batches) and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate.
- Wipe any excess oil from the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat. Deglaze the pot by adding the wine and using a spatula to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom to incorporate into the sauce. Reduce wine until the pot is almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add water and reserved oxtails along with any accumulated juices and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and gently simmer until oxtail meat is tender and separating from the bones, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Check periodically and adjust the heat so the liquid does not boil.
- Remove oxtails to a plate and, when cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones and tear it into bite-size pieces. Use a fat separator to remove the fat from the broth. (Alternatively, discard the bones and refrigerate the meat. Let the broth cool, then refrigerate overnight or until the fat solidifies on the surface. Once the fat has formed a hard layer, scrape it off and discard.)
For the soup:
- Melt butter over medium heat in a large pot. When it foams, add turnip, carrot, and onion. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until onion has softened, about 12 minutes. Add reserved oxtail meat and broth, barley, and bay leaf. Season with salt. Simmer over medium heat until vegetables just give when pierced with a fork and barley is tender, about 30 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
Beverage pairing: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, England. The barley in the soup naturally cries out for barley in the beverage, in this case dark-roasted malted barley. This hearty soup also needs a hearty drink, and the dark stout will contrast the soup in texture while equaling it in flavor and body. It’s a warming combination on a winter’s night, so don’t serve the beer too cold.