Thursday, November 3, 2011

And That's Why...You Always Double-check What You Order

My Marin Sun Farms CSA shipment comes once a month, frozen and packaged in a big box. I get a random selection of cuts, but I can put in orders for specific additional things as well. This month, they emailed us saying they were having a sale on oxtail, 30% off. As I may or may not have mentioned, I've been fascinated with reading about offal cuts of meat that have fallen out of favor in the American diet. Usually they are cheaper and much more nutritious than regular, mid-muscle cuts. Many times they need some more specialized cooking techniques, but I've become gradually less frightened and intimidate by this over time. I mean, I have a crockpot! What can't I do?

For those who don't know, oxtail is exactly what it sounds like: the tail of the cow. It's long and bony, but has a surprising amount of meat and fat wrapped around it. Offal-enthusiasts, paleo and otherwise, also highly regard it for its high gelatin content. A recent post at Mark's Daily Apple discusses the health benefits of dietary gelatin (makes us wonder if Jell-o is actually good for us). Since the cow is using the tail all the time, swishing flies and whatnot, the meat is very tough, so most oxtail recipes call for long, slow cooking and rich sauces.

So for my shipment this month I decided to get myself some grass-fed beef butt in addition to my usual shipment.  When I logged on the website, though, I saw that they had two options for oxtail: whole and segments. Oxtail is usually cut into these nice, round, transverse-cuts. My uncle, though, makes an oxtail sauce for the beef wellington he makes every Christmas, and my recollection of it is that the meat is in big chunky pieces, rather than rounds. So I assumed that whole pieces were the rounds and segments were like the scraggly-bits that didn't cut neatly into rounds. The whole pieces were listed as $13, no weight given, and the segments were $6 a pound. It seemed a little pricey for what is supposed to be a cheap cut, but I figured it was due to MSF's (necessary) higher prices and oxtail becoming more popular as of late. So, I decided to give it a shot, ordering two whole orders and one pound of segments.

When I picked up my box today, it was a lot heavier than I was expecting. When I opened it up to see what the meat-fairy had given me, I realized my mistake.

This is what they meant by pieces (the exact beautiful rounds I had been salivating about):

And this is what they meant by whole:

Yep, those are two FULL SIZED COW TAILS. They're split in half, and the halves are a foot long, so that's four feet of tail. The stickers on the package were cut off so I can't see what the exact weight of each one is, but my guesstimation hand-weighing, comparing it to my hand weights and other meat in the freezer, puts them  at about 2 or 3 pounds, each. My first response was shock and embarrassment, but that rapidly evaporated once I realized how much grass-fed meat I had gotten for $26. Whoever packed my box must have thought I was an idiot, though, for ordering a shitload of full sized tail and just one order of pre-cut tail.

So, I hope I like oxtail recipes, because I'm going to be cooking a lot of it this winter. Also this finally gives me the kick in the ass I need to get my knives properly sharpened, cause I'll need them to break through these.


  1. Please, oh please tell me that the title is an Arrested Development reference. You've captured my loyalty forever :)