Portland chef and sandwich artist Gabriel Pascuzzi warned us this was a beast of a recipe. What he failed to mention is that this was also going to be the best French dip we’ve ever had. Rich braised oxtail is topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms and a red onion gastrique before getting covered in Havarti cheese and served on a toasty hoagie. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the rich braising liquid available for your dunking pleasure.
We know this may seem like a lot of work, but it is so worth it. The key to the sandwich is taking the time to properly braise the oxtail. That means getting a good sear on the meat and allowing enough time for the oxtails to become tender in oven. Once you have perfectly tender oxtail, season it with the red onion gastrique, which adds sweetness and acidity to the rich braise.
To learn more, read “The French Dip Revolution.”
Braised Oxtail French Dip Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Gabriel Pascuzzi, Stacked Sandwich Shop, Portland, OR
Yield: 4 sandwiches
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours and 5 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours and 35 minutes
For the Braised Oxtail:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2½ pounds (10 each) oxtail
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 red onions, quartered
2 garlic heads, halved crosswise
2 cups red wine
4 cups chicken stock
15 thyme sprigs
4 rosemary sprigs
For the Red Onion Gastrique:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, medium dice
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
For the Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the French Dip:
4 hoagie rolls, halved lengthwise and toasted
8 slices Havarti cheese
1. Prepare the braised oxtails: Preheat the oven to 300º. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Season the oxtails liberally with salt and pepper, then sear, turning as needed, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the oxtails to a plate.
2. Add the celery, carrots and onions to the pan, and cook until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more. Pour in the red wine, stirring constantly to deglaze the pan, then return the oxtails to the pan and add the chicken stock, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the oxtails are tender, 2½ to 3 hours. Raise the oven to 350º.
3. Meanwhile, make the red onion gastrique: In a 10-inch skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and cook until lightly caramelized, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar and red wine vinegar to the pan, and bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced to a syrup, 16 to 18 minutes, then set aside.
4. Make the caramelized onions and mushrooms: In a 10-inch skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions to the pan and continue to cook until caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the butter to coat and season with salt and pepper.
5. Assemble the French dip sandwiches: Once tender, remove the oxtails from the pan and place in a bowl. Once cool enough to handle, pick apart the meat and transfer to a medium saucepan, discarding the bones and any cartilage. Strain the remaining contents of the pot, reserving the liquid and discarding the vegetables. You should have 3½ cups of braising liquid; keep warm.
6. To the saucepan with the picked oxtail meat, add 1½ cups of the braising liquid. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the liquid has reduced to a glaze on the meat, 16 to 18 minutes. Stir in half of the red onion gastrique, adding more to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
7. On a baking sheet, open and lay out the toasted hoagie rolls. Divide the braised oxtail between the rolls, then divide the onions and mushrooms over the oxtail. Top each sandwich with 2 slices of Havarti cheese and place in the oven. Bake until the cheese has melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Press each sandwich closed, then halve crosswise and serve alongside the braising liquid for dipping.