a heavy bottle of red wine
brought up from the cold basement
in a basket of white laundry
William Carlos WilliamsWelcome to the last Cooking With Wine. Studies have shown that people with the name Anonymous absolutely hated this series, while the rest of you just seemed to tolerate it. But that is ok. I enjoyed it and until and unless this jobby starts making us some serious money, the guiding principle around here will be if we enjoy it, we do it.
Mad Max's last selection is another from the Highway 12 portfolio, this time the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is 100% Cabernet, with a dark, intense color providing the foreshadowing for dark berries and soft French oak nuances. The silky mouthfeel gives way to aggressive tannins - this is a big, bold wine. Which is why, with final chill of winter in the air, it seemed the perfect time to make a hearty beef stew. The wine retails for around $20, and you can find it at Swirl, Sylvain, Theo's, Dick and Jenny's, and Elio's.
Oxtail and Beef Stew
Braising gives the occasional cook a margin of error wider than the headwaters of the Mississippi. For this beef stew, I like to use two cuts of beef- the gelatinous, sticky oxtails and what is commonly sold as beef stew meat. The oxtails allow a rich, lip smacking sauce to develop while the beef stew meat provides enough tender, shredded meat to go around the table. I like to use bacon grease as my lipid of choice, mostly because bacon is the new black this award season.
Preheat an oven to 300 degrees.
In a large dutch oven, heat enough oil or bacon fat to coat the entire pan in a quarter inch layer of lipid. Meanwhile, pat the oxtails and beef stew meat dry with a paper towel. The dryer you get the meat, the better the sear. The better the sear, the better the stew. Coat the meat with salt and sear in batches until well browned. Once browned remove from heat.
After browning all the meat, toss in an onion, two celery sticks, and two carrots, all coarsely chopped. Sweat for around eight minutes. Then add, a tablespoon of tomato paste. Let this color - you are looking for a dark rust color. Once the roots are rusted, add some salt and pepper, a bay leaf, and a few sprigs of thyme. Now add one whole bottle of decent red wine. Bring to just under a boil, return the meat to the pan, cover, and pop in the oven.
You want to cook this for about three hours or until the meat of the oxtails falls off the bone easily. It is better to overcook here (hardly possible) than undercook. Meanwhile, trim a two cups of green beans, cut them in half, and blanch in boiling, salted water. When done, plunge in ice water. Once cool, drain, and dry on paper towels. Now, peel and slice two carrots into half inch thick rounds and treat just like you did the green beans. Finally, slice some mushrooms of your choosing and saute on high heat in a well buttered pan. Once browned, add in some chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir and remove from the heat.
I want you to remove the meat from the braising liquid. I realize this is sort of time intensive, but it is worth it. Then strain the braising liquid and reserve. (The leftover detritus of carrots, celery, onion, and shreds of meat is best with a sprinkle of chunky sea salt and eaten on crisp rounds of crusty bread or by the spoonful.)
Now, combine the meat with the strained sauce, the green beans, carrots, and mushrooms, and warm through. Taste. Adjust seasoning and serve in a big wide bowl. I topped mine with a gremolata - a fine dice- of preserved lemon, parsley, and garlic.