2 lbs. oxtail
3 oz. lard
1 head of celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic
1 peperoncino (optional)
1 cup red wine
1 lb. peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
How to make Coda alla vaccinara:
Cut the oxtail across into pieces 1 1/2-in. long. Cover with cold water and let rest for 30 min. Boil and simmer for 5 min. Drain and dry. Chop the lard, half of the celery, with garlic, onion and carrot, salt, pepper and peperoncino. Cook until lightly brown and then add the oxtail and brown. Add the wine and tomatoes. Braise on top of the stove at medium heat for about 4 hours. Moist occasionally as it dries. When oxtails are tender remove it and keep aside.
Strain the braising juice, de-grease and adjust seasoning. Return oxtails to sauce and bring back to simmer. Clean and peel the remaining celery, dice finely and add to the oxtail. Serve the coda alla vaccinara with broiled or fried polenta.azione
A bit of history.
For several thousand years, right up to the Second World War, teams of oxen plowed fields and pulled loads around Rome. The great oxen retirement home was the slaughterhouse, where their skins became leather, their horns a variety of accessories and their meat stews.
The women and men whose job was to slaughter, butcher and skin the oxen were called vaccinari, from the word vacca, meaning cow. They were paid in kind with skins, unwanted organ meats, and oxtails. This engendered a style of cooking associated with the neighborhood where the slaughterhouse and tanneries were located, Testaccio. It flanks the Tiber on the southern end of Rome.
In Italy and elsewhere in Europe, the custom of raising beef for meat, as opposed to raising oxen for plowing and transportation, is relatively recent, dating back to the 1800s. That’s why, in English, we still refer to “oxtails” and not to “beef tails,” though there are practically no true oxen left anywhere in the Western world. Most butcher shops and supermarkets in America actually sell the cut as “beef oxtails.”