Coda alla Vaccinara
Stewed Oxtail with Celery
This dish is called alla vaccinara, which in Roman dialect means, "butcher style", supposedly because originally it was prepared in the inns and restaurants near the slaughterhouses.
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
Cut the oxtail across into pieces 1 1/2-in. long. Cover with cold water and let rest for 30 mins. Boil and simmer for 5 mins. 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 with broiled or fried polenta.
Note 1: White wine may be substituted for red because the stew cooks for a long period of time and the sauce may become too dark using red wine.
Celery strings must be removed; some cooks like to par-boil it, as celery has a tendency to turn dark as it cooks.