I recommend doing this step days or even a week before you will need it. It takes some time but may be done in stages.
Liberally season the oxtail with salt and pepper and brown in an appropriately sized Dutch oven (we will use this same dish to braise the meat in the oven.) Remove the oxtail from the pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until the onions are just starting to brown evenly. This should take about ten minutes and is important for developing flavor. Add the red wine and reduce in the pan by half. Add the veal stock, bring to a simmer, and then add the oxtail and fresh thyme. Cover the Dutch and place in a pre-heated 325F oven.
Check the oxtails after 1 1/2 hours. The meat should easily separate from the bone and surrounding connective tissue. If they need more time, place in the oven for another 20-30 minutes. This is a pretty forgiving piece of meat which shows poorly if undercooked so be patient. When cooked, remove the oxtail from the pan and set on the counter to cool. Strain the stock through a strainer to remove the vegetable matter.
It is important at this point to let the stock sit so the fat can separate from the remaining liquid. This will happen on the counter top in about a half-hour, at which point you can use a ladle to remove and discard the fat, or you can let it sit in the fridge overnight and skim the solidified layer of fat from the top and discard. Reduce the remaining broth by about half. It should have some body to it but not be over-reduced as this will result in tacky mouth feel and may become too salty. Combine the stock and chopped oxtail and reserve until you are ready to make your risotto.
It is easier to pick the oxtail from the bone when warm. If you have saved this step for the next day as well, warm the meat in a microwave for two minutes, only a touch more if needed. Separate the dark, leaner meat from the bone, larger pieces of fat, and connective tissue. Discard all but the leaner meat and chop this into pieces small enough to fit on a spoon (Risotto is generally not a knife and fork affair.)
Heat the oxtails with their liquid in a sauce pot and keep it handy. Sweat the onions and two pinches of salt in two tablespoons of whole butter until the onions are translucent. Add the rice and combine to thoroughly coat the grains with butter. Add the two cups of dry, red wine, bring to a simmer, and stir every couple of minutes until the wine has been absorbed by the rice. Add the half of the chicken broth and continue to stir until the stock has been mostly absorbed.
At this point, check the rice’s bite; you still need to add the cooked oxtails with their cooking liquid so be careful about adding more chicken broth at this point. There are many schools of thought on perfect risotto, but aim for rice that finds that medium between crunchy (undercooked) and gummy (overcooked.) Al dente is a common term but implies a range, so enjoy the discovery of your own happy medium.
Once the rice is ready, add the oxtails and some of the reduced veal sauce, bring back to a simmer, and check for seasoning. We still need to add the grated cheese (minutes before serving and a quick stir) and the addition of the oxtail and cooking liquid has probably elevated the flavor as well. Plate the dish and garnish sparingly with some grated Parmesan and a drizzle of reduce oxtail jus.
About Bistrot Zinc
Get the taste and feel of Paris, right in the heart of the Gold Coast! Opened in 1998, Bistrot Zinc is an authentic French bistrot, serving traditional “neighborhood” French food. The moderately-priced, classic and contemporary cuisine is served amid the authentic bistrot ambiance of tile floors, tin ceilings and a beautifully handcrafted zinc bar. Find them in the prestigious 2011 Chicago Edition of the Michelin Guide. Bistrot Zinc is located at 1131 North State Street Chicago, IL60610