Autumnal, luscious and decadently simple. Odd boney bits of beef cooked for hours in a ragu of red wine and stock until the meat melts from the bone. Once the meat is removed, the cooking liquor is strained, reduced, thickened then reintroduced to the shredded meat. Finally punchy little bites of sweet/sour jammy vegetables are stirred in, which cut through the dark sauce turning it from a traditional braise into a sweet sticky delight.
This is an adaptation of the Oxtail Marmalade recipe from Bromberg Bros in NY. Their original recipe calls for 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of port to be used as part of a long braise in the oven. I’ve messed around with this recipe a couple of times now but could never bring myself to use (waste?) 3 bottles of booze on such cheap cuts of meat. I think I’ve found a good balance between frugality and flavour, saving some of the red wine to be poured into your glass, where it belongs.
I used a bag of Beef Neck bones in this recipe which are much cheaper but less trendy than oxtail. About 1kg of either oxtail or neck should comfortably feed 4 people. Though look at what you are buying and try to choose bones with more meat on them.
Season the meat with salt and pepper and brown the bones over a medium heat in a pressure cooker (with the lid off). Cook in batches, so not to overcrowd the pan, remove and keep aside when browned.
With all the meat browned and removed, there should be sticky little bits of residue stuck to the bottom of the pan. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and scrape all the bits off the bottom. Thinly slice 2 large white onions and add to the melted butter. Stir the onions in the butter, and make sure that they are all well coated. There should be small pool of butter still left in the bottom of the pan. If not add more butter. We are going to be caramelising the onions in the pressure cooker with the lid on so its important that the onions are not only coated, but that there is some liquid still in the pot. Add a teaspoon of baking soda. This reduces the acidity and increases the Maillard Reaction in the pressure cooker (hat tip to Modernist Cuisine) – improving the flavour and quickening the caramelisation. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes.
Release the pressure cooker lid (safely) – and you should have wonderfully caramelised onions. Stir in the beef neck bones, 2 celery sticks, a head of garlic (cut crossways into two), a good bunch of fresh thyme sprigs, couple of bay leaves, tablespoon of black pepper corns, and a star anise (hat tip to Heston). Pour in 3/4 of a bottle of red wine, approx 750ml of beef stock. Put the lid back on the pressure cooker and cook for approx 45mins (or until the meat falls easily away from the bones).
Take the bones out of the cooking liquor and leave to cool. When cooled, shred all the meat from the bones and keep aside.
Strain the cooking liquor to catch all the solids and pour the liquid into a saucepan and bring to the boil to reduce by half. This will take approx 45 mins to an hour. When it has reduced we are going to thicken it with a Beurre Manie. Mix together 2 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of butter, until it becomes a little ball of dough. Break off little bits of the dough ball and whisk into the liquid to thicken. Turn down the heat and keep it below a simmer.
Whilst this is reducing you can prepare the veg.
Cut 4 large carrots and 8 shallots into small cubes. In a large frying pan melt 3 large Tbsp of butter and soften the carrots and shallots for 10 to 15 mins. Add 100g of light brown sugar, 150ml of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon each of sugar and black pepper and the remaining 1/4 of the red wine. Reduce until all the liquid as been absorbed (appr0x 30- 40mins).
Pour the thickened sauce into the frying pan over the vegetables, and add the shredded meat. Taste and tweak seasoning as necessary.
Serve simply with some toasted baguette – or poured over some Colcannon.