About Beth

Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

« Fried Calf's Brains | Main | Honeycomb Tripe with Parmesan Cheese »

Oxtail, Vaccinara Style

Although I don't agree, I can understand why oxtail is classified as a variety meat. Variety meats are those parts of an animal that are left after the butchering process. So, technically, I guess the tail is a 'left-over'. But variety meats, by nature, are an acquired taste. Like coffee for someone who grew up drinking only tea. Or grits for anyone north of the Mason-Dixon. Oxtails are delicious at first bite, even for the variety meat novice.


Most variety meats are organs. They have tastes and textures that the average American of the late 20th century doesn't appreciate. If you grew up eating them well prepared, you are likely to enjoy them. If you didn't, you will probably need to learn to like them.

In generations past, variety meats were the parts that required the talents of creative home cooks who didn't have a choice. Because they didn't have the luxury of wasting even the sow's squeal, they figured out how to turn it into a nurishing meal. Maybe when that first cook put that first dish of chicken gizzards on the table, it wasn't greeted with relish. But, you can be sure it was eaten with gratitude.

Likely it took several years, even several generations, for chicken gizzards to become a favorite family tradition. But it eventually did. Because what you grow up eating, you grow up loving.

Now, back to my oxtail. A lot of ingredients and time go into preparing this dish, but it's worth it. If the richest flavors are closest to the bone, then the best of all surrounds the tail bone. After laying down the flavors of olive oil, lard, parsley, garlic, onions, and carrots, oxtails and fresh pork jowl are added to the pan and browned.


Then comes the wine, tomatoes, salt, pepper and water followed by some long slow simmering. After about 90 minutes, celery is added and the simmering continues for another 45 minutes or so. When the meat is fork tender, spoon off the excess fat, and you have Oxtail, Vaccinara Style.

We enjoyed ours with polenta, green peas, and some nice Barbera from Paso Robles' Castoro Cellars.


Our grandsons are growing up in a typical young American family. Busy parents with too many commitments and too little time to devote to developing their young palates. So I take every opportunity to introduce them to the unusual. You may remember this little guy from my post about Squid and Artichoke Soup. He declared that he loved the oxtail "Because I'm a carnivore, MeeMaw".


Oxtail is indeed delicious. So delicious that you won't want to waste a single morsel. So, I recommend that you set aside your knife and fork; drape a large napkin across your lap; and make use of the best utensils for the job.


Comments (4)

Marcella Hazan:

If the expression hadn't appeared recently here in a questionable context, I would say, Deborah, that I am proud of you. Let me say instead that I admire your style, your tone, your organization, your visual presentation, and your obvious cooking prowess without any reservation. (Correct that, Victor regrets that you go to California for Barbera.)

I am not persuaded that variety meats originally came to the family table as an economic alternative. In many instances they were chosen because they have more flavor than a slab of meat from the loin or thigh. Nor were they necessarily cheaper. For a long period of history, people judged food not by what it was called, but by how it tasted. You are dead right in questioning oxtail's characterization as a variety meat. It is meat, plain and simple, meat on the bone, than which there can be nothing better.

Deborah responds: Tell Victor that if he casts aspersions on one of my favorite Vinyards, I just may be forced to send him some bottles from there when I visit for our annual SuperBowl weekend in the Central Coast!

Michael Nunziante:

This recipe is one of my favorites. Although I had been making oxtails for many years, both with and without tomatoes, my reading of Marcella's books allowed me to perfect my use of aromatic vegetables in braised dishes such as this in which the celery is added later, rather than being part of the battuto. My understanding is that oxtails have always been dear, and were coveted for their richness of flavor. My mother used to complain, however that many of the organ meats were cheap when she was a girl, if not free, given by the local butcher to faithful customers. Soffrito for instance, now illegal in the US, was very inexpensive, as was tripe, until these dishes were elevated to delicacy status by daring cooks. She used to say that many of our favorite dishes were once considered to be "pasti dei poveri", i.e meals of the poor. A friend from Pisa is outraged that his mother still eats chicken feet because "we're not poor any more"...the same lament my uncle Vincenzo intoned every time my grandmother made polenta!
I must agree with Victor as to the wine.

Deborah responds: Chicken feet. I'd forgotten about chicken feet. My great grandmother used to love them. And in the bootheel of Missouri, roster fries are still a prized delicacy.
I'm curious about your uncle's polenta complaint, though. What did he suggest she substitute for polenta? It has no substitute.

Michael Nunziante:

Deborah, My grandmother was from southern Italy, where polenta is not used as often as it is in central and northern Italy. Also, she made it as a MUSH, on which she drizzled some ragù, and a bit of grated pecorino. During the depression, she apparently made it often because it was cheap. I myself liked it as a child. Now, thanks to Marcella's books, I make my polenta in a polenta pot, spread it on a board to form a one inch slab, then cut it into slices, the shape of which resembles biscotti. I warm it under a broiler and serve it with everything from bacalà in umido to chicken alla cacciatora. Or I use it to make Lasagne alla Bolognese. Mashed potatoes would be my uncle's "substitute", I guess.

Marcella Hazan:

In southern Italy, people refer to northerners as polentoni, no flattery intended.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 21, 2010 6:05 AM.

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