Nothing fancy here: just an heirloom recipe that qualifies both as comfort food and as food that's good for you. The comfort comes from the deeply satisfying warmth and complexity of flavor of this soup and the sumptuous mouthfeel that comes from the slow cooking of beef bones, which breaks down the collagens into gelatin. The healthy part comes from the fact that as satisfying as this bowl is, it contains only 114 calories, 4 grams of fat and 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving (not including the garnish).This is true slow food: long cooking on a low flame completely reduces and transforms cheap bones and meat to richly flavored broth, overnight refrigeration allows the nearly complete removal of fat, and making the soup a day or two ahead allows the flavors to meld. It's the kind of recipe that I do on the back burner while I'm preparing today's meal on the front.
The fritter garnish adds a bit of fun: it's a little trick I adapted from a recipe in my 1975 edition of "The Joy of Cooking."
8 servings, 1 cup eachIngredients
- 2 pounds oxtail pieces
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 2 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1/4 cup (packed) parsley, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup uncooked barley
- 1 small tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, cut up
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup dry sherry or red wine
For the optional garnish:
- 1 egg, beaten until light in color
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage (or 1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried sage)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
1. Brown the oxtail pieces in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot. When some of the fat has melted add the onions to the pan and continue to brown the meat, stirring.
2. Add the water, 1 teaspoon salt and the peppercorns to the pan. Simmer on very low heat, uncovered, 4 - 5 hours.
3. Add the parsley, carrots, celery, bay leaf, barley, tomato and thyme. Simmer another half hour.
4. Strain the soup. Separate the meat from the bones, chop and reserve, refrigerated. Discard other solids.
5. Refrigerate the broth, covered, overnight. Remove and discard all solidified fat from the soup.
6. Melt the butter in a pan large enough to contain the broth. Let the butter foam for a few seconds on medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, another minute.
7. Add the broth and the reserved meat and stir to combine. Warm gently on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.
8. If possible, refrigerate for a day before serving, then reheat gently, stirring occasionally. Stir in the wine or sherry just before serving.
Optional fritter garnish:
1. Mix the egg, salt, paprika, sage, flour and milk until smooth.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan to 365º.
3. Drop the batter through a colander into the hot fat and fry until golden brown. Drain in a sieve over paper towel.
(Fritters may be made up to a day ahead of time and, when completely cooled, stored in a sealed plastic pouch.)