Friday, December 31, 2010

Braised oxtail with gnocchi

Braised oxtail is soooooo good, and it's pretty easy to make. Gnocchi, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult. There are a number of gnocchi recipes on the web, so I won't put anything specific here, although there are a couple of things worth noting when it comes to gnocchi making. One of the objectives of making gnocchi is to have it as light and "cloud like" as possible. This, I found, involves a trade off in structural integrity and appearance. Basically, the lighter the gnocchi, the more you have to coddle it as you prepare it.
The basic ingredients in gnocchi are potato, flour, and egg. Egg is a binder that helps all the ingredients stay together. More egg, along with kneading the dough more, will give the gnocchi more structural integrity. It will also make the gnocchi heavier. Less egg and less kneading will lead to lighter gnocchi. I tried adding a minimal amount of egg (real pros can get away with no egg) and kneading, and while the gnocchi was very light, the first batch basically fell apart or was squashed into flat little discs when I tossed it in the pan.

Here's the recipe for the rest of this dish.

-oxtail (~3 lbs)
-1/2 bottle red wine
-1-2 cup veal or beef stock
-1 carrots, diced
-1 stalk celery, diced
-1/2 onion, diced
-1 small can crushed tomatoes or 1/2 small can tomato paste
-1-2 bay leaves
-1 Tbs black pepper corns
-1 clove
-2 cloves garlic, smashed
-1 sprig rosemary
-2 sprigs thyme
-canola oil
-salt and pepper

Season the oxtail with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Heat up 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven large enough to hold all of the oxtail in a single layer. Sear the oxtail on all sides at medium high heat. Remove the oxtail and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook the vegetables, over medium heat until soft. You don't want to brown them.

Add the wine, stock, tomato, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, clove, and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and place a cheesecloth over the top of the braising mixture. Put the oxtail on top so that it is partially submerged in the liquid, but separated from the onions, etc.

Cover and place in a 250F oven for 3 hours. Remove, the oxtails, strain out the solids in the braising liquid, and then reduce the braising liquid until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. While the braising liquid is reducing, use a fork to remove the oxtail from the bone and break it into small chunks. Toss with the reduce braising liquid and let simmer.

While the oxtail is simmering, heat up a nonstick skillet, add butter, and the gnocchi. Brown the gnocchi, then add the oxtail. Toss everything together and let sit in the warm pan for a minute or so. Place in a serving bowl, garnished with grated parmesan cheese, parsley, and olive oil.

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