Saturday, 7 April 2012

The best Oxtail you’ll ever have… Quite Simply…

La Queue de Bœuf des Vignerons (Oxtail as cooked by the winegrowers) a la Elizabeth David.  

Elizabeth David

I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea turned 39 yesterday, and I decided that I want to cook this for my birthday dinner.  Yes, I know I said it in a the previous post as well, but this post won’t deal with the matter of my detox diet, which starts the day after my birthday, but with the recipe for Oxtail Stewed in White Grapes.  I found the recipe in the book, South Wind Through the Kitchen – The best of Elizabeth David.

My Copy of South Wind Through The Kitchen

The recipe first appeared in Elizabeth David’s legendary cookbook, French Provincial Cooking.  When I first read the recipe, I knew that this is something special.

I deviated very little from Mrs. David’s original recipe, and here is how I made it:  Steep 2 oxtails (cut in the usual 5cm lengths) in cold water so that the blood soaks out.  Drain well.  Cut a 200g piece of pancetta in cubes, peel 4 large carrots and cut in large chunks (4 cm).  Chop 3 celery stalks and 3 onions.  I could not find pancetta on Good Friday and used Parma Ham instead.  You want something like unsmoked bacon, salt pork or pancetta.  If you use ordinary bacon, the smokiness will overpower.

The Ingredients

Put the pancetta and a little olive oil in a large heavy saucepan/pot with a tight fitting lid over very low heat.  Add the vegetables and cook slowly for 10 minutes or till the fat of the pancetta starts to run.  Arrange the oxtails on top.  Add 4 2cm thick slices of beef shin.  Season with salt & pepper.  Add a bouquet garni made with sage, tarragon, bay leaves, thyme and parsley.  Add a little allspice.  Cover and cook slowly for 20 mins.

Take 1.5 kg sweet white seedless grapes off the stalks and crush the grapes slightly in a bowl.  Add on top of meat. Cover saucepan with a sheet of aluminium foil and press the lid on top.  Cook over a very low heat for 4 hours.  The shin most probably will have “cooked away” but the meat and marrow add a deep meaty richness to the gravy.  Transfer the oxtails to a dish and keep warm in the oven.  Put the rest of the ingredients through the finest mesh of the mouli-légumes. 

Put the resulting sauce in a glass bowl in a basin of cold water.  This will aid the process of the fat rising to the surface quickly.  Skim off as much of the fat as you can manage. Put the oxtails back in the saucepan/pot and pour the sauce over.  Heat thoroughly.  Make a gremolata with the rind and juice of a lemon, two crushed cloves of garlic and chopped fresh parsley.  Stir the gremolata into the stew and serve with white Basmati rice.

Oxtail Stewed in White Grapes

The tender richness of the oxtail, the deep savoury sweetness of the meat & grapes gravy are balanced with the gremolata and makes for a dish so satisfying, you will have to search far and wide for it’s equal.

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