Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Leftover Parts

Our neighbors raise grass fed cattle. When we pop over to help with a roundup or vaccinate (or sometimes for no reason at all) we often find a butcher paper wrapped package for our freezer. One of the great joys of whole steers nearby is the ready availability of cuts not generally seen in the grocer's case. The kind of tasty fare that peppers European menus, thrifty housewives once cooked with love and butchers keep for themselves.
Tonight's specialty, oxtail. was one I have never cooked before though I've enjoyed it in soups and stews across Spain and Italy. I opted, as I often do, for an Italian preparation -- coda alla vaccinara, a Roman dish where the meat is long stewed with peppery pancetta and fresh tasting celery.
First I simmered the crosscut pieces in water for 10 minutes to make 2 cups of broth for the stew. I stirred 2 TB of tomato paste into the reserved stock and set it aside. Next, in a dutch oven, I sautéed the pancetta in olive oil and then added in the pieces of oxtail to brown on all sides. When the meat was browned I removed it from the pan briefly to make room to sauté chopped onions (I didn't have any carrots so I used both sweet and brown onions), parsley, and 4 cloves of garlic. When the vegetables were browned I added the meat back in and poured about 3/4 of wine into the pan. When the wine was reduced by more than 1/2 I poured in about 1.2 cup or so, S&P and the reserved stock. The stew simmered, covered,  for 2 hours until the meat was moist and tender. As a last step I stirred 6 chopped stalks of celery and let the pot simmer, covered for 15 minutes more.
While the pot simmered I took a idea from boisterous Italian chef Mario Batali and mixed up a quick salad of celery leaves, chopped celery, lemon zest, chili flakes, cinnamon, and S&Pfor a bit fo fresh brightness to top our hearty stew.

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