May 29, 2012

Slow-cooked Ox Tail in Red Wine

This is by far one of my favourite dishes to cook. I once worked in a restaurant with a very clever chef who taught me his "Marinate Method" way of slow-cooking tough cuts of meat - and have never looked back since! The trick is to marinate your meat overnight with the same liquid and vegetables that you plan to slow-cook it in, which allows the savoury juices to permeate deep into the meat.

I would love to say this is a quick and efficient one-pot wonder, but unfortunately, the straining and reducing required means there will be that extra little bit of washing up to do! However, all is forgiven once you see the magic that is created - juicy meat, so tender that it literally falls apart in your mouth, and a sauce so gelatinous and luscious that you'll be asking yourself why you didn't make this sooner!

For this recipe, I used ox-tail, but the method also works beautifully with other secondary cuts of meat like beef shin, ox cheek or lamb neck.

Serves 4-6
1.5kg ox tail
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, bruised
3 bay leaves
8 thyme sprigs
15cm zest of an orange
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bottle red wine (my favourite to use is shiraz)

½ cup plain flour, seasoned with 1 tsp sea salt
1 tbs olive oil
125g pancetta, chopped
2 cinnamon quills
1 tbs tomato paste
1L cold water

2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
4 thyme sprigs

To serve:
Knob of butter
Mashed Potato
Orange Gremolata (combine ¼ cup chopped parsley, grated zest of 1 orange and ½ tsp chopped garlic)

Place the oxtail, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, orange zest and black peppercorns in a large container or non-reactive saucepan. Pour in the red wine to cover everything and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.

Drain the marinating liquid and set it aside to use later. Separate the vegetables from the ox tail. Pat the ox tail dry with a paper towel and roll into the seasoned flour. Shake off any excess flour.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and seal the meat, over a medium-high heat, until golden brown. Do this in batches if needed, wiping the pan clean between each batch. Overcrowding the pan will decrease the temperature and the meat will start to "stew" instead of brown. Set the ox tail aside.

Add the pancetta to the pan and sweat over a medium-low heat, for 5 minutes, or until it is fragrant and leaking of juices. Set aside with the ox tail.

Add the drained vegetables and herbs to the pan, along with the cinnamon quills, and cook on a medium heat until the vegetables are softened.

Add the tomato paste and cook it out for 2-3 minutes.

Return the oxtail and pancetta to the pan and pour in the reserved red wine marinating liquid. If the liquid does not completely cover the meat and vegetables, pour in enough cold water to cover everything.

Bring to the boil, then cook on a gentle simmer for at least 4-5 hours, until the meat is tender and almost breaking apart.  Regularly skim off the oil and residue that rises to the top.

Carefully remove the oxtail from the saucepan. Set it aside and cover with foil. Strain the cooking liquid and discard the vegetables, pancetta, herbs and cinnamon. Return the liquid to the saucepan and cook on a gentle simmer, until it reduces to your desired saucy consistency.

This next step is optional, but I always do it to give the sauce extra flavour and fragrance - and also because I love my vegies! Simmer the freshly diced carrot, celery and thyme sprigs with your sauce for at least 30 minutes to cook the vegetables.

TIP: To prevent fibrous celery, use a vegetable peeler to peel away the "stringy" bits on the outside before dicing. Simple, but very effective :)

Return the meat to the saucepan with the sauce and stir in a knob of butter, which gives the sauce a wonderful richness, without being greasy. Serve right away, with mashed potato and a sprinkle of orange gremolata.

Slow-cooked Ox Tail in Red Wine

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