Softening onions in oil before stewing is another procedure that may not make much difference to the finished dish.
I have also grown reluctant to throw away flavoursome ingredients. The onions, having imparted their flavour to the sauce, are expendable; but it is a shame to waste the fat. The home cook has an advantage over the restaurant chef, who, largely for aesthetic reasons, must skim sauces.
Oxtail is particularly fatty. Oxtail stew with mashed potato may be a wintry treat, but, with unskimmed sauce, is too rich. Plain, boiled potatoes are fine; or rice.
A little sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
1 ladleful beef (or chicken) stock
Sprig of thyme
1tbsp tomato ketchup
Splash of Worcester sauce
1/2 star anise (since writing the previous recipe, I've decided that a whole star anise is too assertive)
Anoint the oxtails with a little oil, and arrange them in a casserole. Surround with the onions, garlic, star anise, and herbs; pour the stock around, and add the tomato and Worcester sauces. Add salt to taste.
Cook in a low oven for three to four hours. My Le Creuset casserole will simmer very gently on a gas mark S/130C heat (but may take a good hour to get to simmering point); your oven and dish may behave differently. Turn the oxtails from time to time.
Remove the oxtails, and sieve the sauce into a saucepan. Return the oxtails to the casserole, and cover. Taste the sauce, and reduce it if you like. Serve the oxtails with the sauce poured over.