This is August Escoffier’s famous recipe for oxtail soup.  Apparently this was also chosen by Gordon Ramsay as his favorite recipe.   Not just a favorite, the favorite of his, which is quite a compliment.  The recipe comes from a 1909 translation into English of the original French version of Auguste Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire. Metric conversions added.  If you haven’t read Escoffier and you are serious about French cooking, you are missing out on a lot, as he codified nearly every French recipe for use at the Ritz Carlton Paris.  However, the book can be a bit daunting for home chefs as it presumes that you have a grasp of the basics, which these days, probably only comes with a graduation from culinary school for most.

At the time of this post in 2013, oxtail was $6.49/lb in the United States, so it is a bit pricey considering much of that weight is bone, but it is worth the cost for the delicious and tender meat and morrow.

Serves 10

  • 1.8kg of oxtail, browned in the oven
  • 900g gelatinous bones, broken small and browned in the oven
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions
  • one faggot [a bundle of parsley, bay leaves and thyme, tied together]
  • butter
  • 2.5 litres ordinary broth [stock]
  • 1 litre water
  • 450g lean beef mince
  • 1 leek
  • ½ an egg white
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small dice
  • arrowroot if required

Brown the oxtails and the gelatinous bones in a roasting tin in the oven. Remove and cool.

Garnish the bottom of a small stockpot or stewpan with one finely chopped carrot and two medium-sized onions cut into thin rounds and browned in butter and one faggot.

Add the oxtails. The tails should be cut into sections, each of which should contain one of the caudal vertebrae. Also add the 900g of gelatinous bones, broken very small. Add 2.5 litres of ordinary broth [stock] and one of water. Set to boil very gently for 4½-5 hours.

When this is done, strain the broth, which should be reduced to 2.5 litres, and completely remove its grease. Transfer the largest sections of the tails, by means of a braiding needle, one by one to another saucepan. Cover them with broth, and keep them warm for the garnish.

Finely chop 450g of very lean beef. Put this mince into a saucepan with the white of a leek cut into dice and half the white of an egg, and mix thoroughly. Add the broth, the grease of which has been removed, set to boil, stirring constantly the while, and then leave to simmer for one hour, which is the time required for the beef to exude all its juices and for the clarification of the broth.

While the clarification is in progress, cut a small carrot in brunoise [small dice] fashion, or turn it by means of a very small spoon. Cook this garnish in a little water with butter, salt, and sugar.

A few minutes before serving, strain the oxtail broth through a napkin, put the sections of oxtail and brunoise into the soup tureen, and pour thereon the prepared broth.

This soup may be flavoured with port or sherry, but this is optional. Please note: if a thickened oxtail soup is required, add to the broth per every litre of it 10g of arrowroot diluted with a little of the broth or some cold water.