Each of the past few years Yotam Ottolenghi’s books (Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi; Jerusalem: A Cookbook) have topped my Christmas wish list. This year’s re-issue of this first book, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, I was totally prepared to have it also topping my list. But before I could even get the title typed out, my friend Jessie surprised me with it for my birthday! Talk about a friend who knows me well! Ironically our friendship began when a mutual friend introduced us to one another over email so we could gossip about Friday Night Lights, which led to yakking about anything Joss Whedon and each season’s new tv shows. Is there anything better than someone who understands your more nerdy obsessions? And who brings you the hottest new cookbooks? I just wish I could have shared this dish with her (she lives in NYC), as I am pretty sure she would have loved it!
The first thing to stand out about Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is that, unlike the other 2 books, it has a huge baking section. Truthfully, I thought I would be trying a recipe from that section first as I am really blown away by the scrumptious selection of baking recipes. But my mom was coming to visit, and as soon as I saw there was an oxtail stew I knew I would be making it for her.
I had oxtails I was waiting to use, but I was concerned about having enough food for everyone so I added short ribs as well. Everyone but Sammy, my little budding “vegetarian” who loves bacon and sausage but nothing else, liked this. Alex loved the meat but for whatever reason was not as keen on eating the “broth.” My mom, John and I all agreed that the gremolata really pushed the dish into the seriously yummy category, although we also all agreed the stew needed to be simmering hot when you add it to avoid any raw garlic stomach discomfort (the super hot broth will “cook” the garlic enough to tone down its effects).
- 2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 lbs braising cut of beef; I used oxtail and shortribs
- 4 large shallots, chopped
- 3 large carrots, finely chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups red wine
- 28 oz canned chopped tomatoes
- 15 sprigs thyme (tie the thyme and rosemary in a bundle)
- 5 sprigs rosemary (tie the thyme and rosemary in a bundle)
- Zest of an orange, peeled in long strips
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks (mine were about 5 inches)
- 2 whole star anise
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces
- 4 medium onions, sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup packed chopped flat leaf parsley
- grated zest of 3 lemons
- 3 fat cloves garlic, minced
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Salt and pepper your meat on all sides.
Heat a large, heavy pot (I used a 7 qt Dutch oven) over medium high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil. Brown the oxtail pieces (or short ribs or chuck pieces, etc) on all sides and transfer them to a large bowl. Do this in batches to ensure browning instead of steaming.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot and add the cinnamon stick and star anise. Let them roast briefly, maybe 2 minutes or so, until fragrant. Add the shallots, carrots and garlic with some of the wine, a few tablespoons, to deglaze. Also add a pinch of salt. Cook over medium high heat for 10mins or until golden, stirring from time to time.
Add the rest of the wine and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits from the bottom. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes, herb bundle, orange zest and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Place the oxtail (or short rib or chuck, etc) pieces on top and cover with a large piece of parchment paper placed directly on the oxtail. Place a heavy, tight fitting lid onto the pot and place in the oven.
Let cook for 2 hours for chuck or short ribs and more like 3 hours for oxtail (I was surprised at the difference, but there was one, for me anyway). Remove from the oven and add the butternut squash chunks into the liquid. Add the chicken stock. Scatter the onions over the top of all of this, and replace the parchment paper and heavy lid. Place the pot back in the oven and let cook for another hour.
In the meantime, make the gremolata by mixing together all of the ingredients.
The stew is done when the meat falls away from the bones and the butternut squash is cooked through. If your meat is particularly fatty (lately my short ribs have been) you can try to skim some of the fat off the top or, even better for the leftovers, let it chill and then remove the fat which rises to the top and solidifies.
Place chunks of meat (oxtail, chuck or short ribs) into shallow bowls. Ladle the stew around the meat when it is quite hot, so that the garlic in the gremolata will cook a bit in it (raw garlic kills my stomach, but the gremolata was amazing in this dish, so I highly suggest you not skip it, and instead let the garlic cook in the still almost simmering stew). Sprinkle some gremolata over each serving.
We really wished we had served this with crusty bread, so I highly recommend that as well.