As we slowly meander towards the shortest day of the year, the dearth of daylight and the cold temperatures make me long for a slow-cooked, rich sauce on a bed of pappardelle pasta. This is a dish from the old country, where not a single part of the cow was ever wasted.
There are two parts of the cow that are extraordinary for braising....the tail and the leg. Either one will do for this recipe, although I seem to find it so much easier to source shanks than oxtail. These cuts of beef are rich with fat, collagen and marrow...all of which melt away in a slow braise and render the beef and vegetables into the most tender and delicious, melt-in-your-mouth sauce you will ever taste.
5 pounds of oxtail or beef shanks
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Flour, for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 whole celery ribs, chopped
1, 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed
3 cups red wine
2 rosemary sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 300º.
- Pat the meat dry with paper towels then dust with the flour, tapping off any excess. Season with salt and pepper on all sides.
- Place a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when glistening, add the meat (metal tongs come in handy here) and sear on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding.
- Transfer the meat to a plate. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, garlic and nutmeg. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
- Add the meat and enough water to just barely cover meat. Return to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 4 hours, until the meat is fork tender and falling off the bones.
- Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pieces of meat to a plate. Skim any visible fat from the surface of the sauce. Pick the meat from the bones, pulling away and discarding any pieces of fat, and then return the meat to the pan. Pluck out the bay leaves, and sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
- Serve atop pappardelle.