Oxtail and Oysters. Beef and Seafood. Two products Ireland has a globally recognised reputation for quality. Not that they’re not respected at home, it’s just just that we lean towards the aspirational cuts and somehow have never fully embraced seafood. Irish cooking, according to wikipedia, has been a peasant cuisine, where historically every part of the pig was eaten but the ‘oink’. These days though you’d be lucky to find more than a couple of cuts of pig being used on a frequent basis in most Irish kitchens. This isn’t going to become a polemic on Irish food, but it has been in the back of my mind recently.
I was hoping to make it to this months Speaking Suppers, and as the theme is ‘What does it mean to be Irish’ I was going to develop my thoughts on being Irish and our relationship with food. But it conflicts with a community enterprise meeting to help develop creative ideas into action, and if you’ve ever met me you’ll know that I have plenty of ideas to share. I had a blast at the last Speaking Suppers though, and if you’re at a loose end on Thursday night (15MAR) do try it out. Uniquely terrifying and hugely entertaining. You don’t have to speak if you don’t want to. But if you live with a black dog, it’s nice to get out there and give it a run once in a while.
This recipe was the result of leftovers (I was making an Oxtail & Guinness pie and had lots of meat leftover) and adapted from an Tony Bilson recipe. I used Guinness in my braise to make it more traditionally Irish, and instead of pickles dressed the baby chard leaves in a sharp vinaigrette to balance the beef and brine. Oxtail and oyster. An unusual mix of flavours which work incredibly well together. Beefy oxtail braised in an intense gelatinous ragu is offset by sea-fresh oysters and brine, which lend an luxurious creamy indulgence. Oxtail is a perfect example of an underused cut of meat that is cheap and flavoursome that we should use more in our kitchens.
Thoroughly brown the pieces of oxtail in a little oil. Use a large roasting tray on the hob to brown them. Cook in batches so you don’t over crowd the pan. Remove when browned and to the pan add two carrots, an onion, two sticks of celery, and one leek – all roughly cut. These are going to break down into the sauce so you don’t need to worry about finesse – just make sure the chunks aren’t too big when cutting. Saute the veg slowly until they have started to soften and caramelise. Put the browned oxtail in with the veg, crush 3 cloves of garlic, 3 bay leaves and 5 sprigs of fresh thyme. Pour over a bottle of Guinness and a pint of stock to cover. Fit tin foil over the top to cover and bake in a lowish oven (175°C) for approx 3 hours until the meat falls from the bones easily.
Take the oxtail out of the oven and flake the meat off of the bone and reserve. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve. Refrigerate the strained liquid until its firm (an hour or two). Take the reserved oxtail meat and put in a small ramekin in the fridge to set also.
After the liquid has set, scrape off the fat from the top and warm the jellied stock in a pan. Whisk in the white of an egg and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat until the egg white floats to the top and the stock clarifies. Strain the stock through a muslin-lined sieve into a bowl an put back in the fridge to set (1-2 hours).
To serve, take out your jelly and set oxtail and let come to room temperature. Plate the oxtail on some leaves (I used baby Rainbow Chard leaves dressed in a mustard vinaigrette) with a raw oyster on top. Dot the plate with little spoonfuls of the Oxtail consommé jelly. Pour over the brine from the oyster to finish.
Oh and as this is a roundabout St Patrick’s Day post there is also a competitive element , so this is my contribution!