Sunday, 14 March 2010

Oxtail Ragu & Parmesan Polenta

I recently had a dish with polenta in and it was so good I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was creamy and comforting and I was kicking myself for not having discovered it earlier. Typically Italian, it is made from cornmeal and is known for being 'peasant food'. Perfect for me then. It's a very bland base, so it needed something rich and meaty to flavour each mouthful.

The oxtail was braised ever so slowly for four hours. Thankfully for my sanity I left my housemate to babysit the simmering pot as the flat filled up with the tantalising smells. Once cooled, the meat was taken off the bone - or, rather, ripped apart with my hands, flinging my kitchen in oxtail sauce - for a further simmer in a reduced sauce before being plonked atop some herby, cheesy polenta. It may be termed as peasant food, but I was richly awarded.

Oxtail Ragu

Serves 3

1 whole oxtail, jointed
2 small white onions
2 sticks of celery
2 carrots
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 fat cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato puree
Chicken stock
1 large glass of red wine

Brown the oxtail in a frying pan. Meanwhile, dice the onion, celery and carrot and fry in a large saucepan. Roughly chop the garlic and add them in. Once browned, add the oxtail and top with chicken stock to cover. Add the bay leaf, rosemary and tomato puree. Simmer for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool (or overnight), pour off the fat and remove the meat from the bones. Sieve the remaining mixture, pushing the vegetables into a mush. Heat this up, add the wine and simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the meat back in, adding a little water if needed. Simmer this for half an hour before serving.

Parmesan Polenta

Serves 3

100gr coarse cornmeal
1 handful of grated Parmesan
1 handful of chopped flatleaf parsley
10gr butter
Salt & pepper
500ml vegetable stock

Bring the stock to the boil and using a balloon whisk, add the cornmeal to the stock stirring all the time. Turn the heat down low and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 - 15 minutes. If it's looking little dry, add some water to it; I like it a little runny, like a honey-like consistency. It should have lost it's graininess by this point, but if not it may need a little more cooking and stirring. Take off the heat, throw in the butter, stir the finely chopped parsley through it and add the Parmesan. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Any leftover polenta can be spread on a baking sheet to cool which you can then slice and fry.


S said...

i really, really love oxtail. do you find your cornmeal every becomes too sticky? i have good days and bad days with cornmeal. rather odd. your polenta looks plump a perfect egg-yolk yellow. a really lovely combination of flavours you have here, Lizzie. x shayma

Ollie said...

I also loved the look of Rowley's oxtail ragu in the Allens hamper - I added some speck to mine which made the dish horribly over-salty, and I had to chuck it out (weep). Yours looks fab, and the polenta is inspired.

Jo said...

Wow! this looks increds! I did an oxtail dish last year where I soaked it overnight in red wine before I cooked was amazing!

The Grubworm said...

This must have been close to a perfect combination of textures - slippery, unctuous meat and wobbly, smooth polenta - great balance of rich and simple, meaty and plain.

I cooked some ham hocks last night and this has given me a great idea of what to serve with the super meat, salty remains this week. Thanks for posting.

Unknown said...

Lizzie - this looks great - I love polenta and oxtail so I think as a combination it sounds perfect. I agree with you that the problem with slow cooking is the amazing smells that make you super hungry even a few hours before dinner will be ready.

Paunchos said...

Looks awesome. I love oxtail and never really think about cooking polenta... but it seems like a good choice.

PDH said...

OMG yes actual Oh my good, this is pretty close to my favourite meal. I love Beef Bourguignon with Parmesan Polenta. Will definitely be trying this with Oxtail! Looks beatiful


An American in London said...

Polenta is definitely one of the national treasures of Italy (and yet another reason why skiing in northern Italy is so fun).

I use a Mario Batali recipe when slow cooking polenta, and it doesn't call for much stirring. What results is a bit of burn along the bottom of the pot, but the rest of the polenta is outstanding and it's a lot easier to make if you don't have to stir it constantly.

Kavey said...

I've never been a fan of polenta, something about the texture I think. Would rather have potato or rice or noodles or most other starch sides!
That ragu looks FANTASTIC!

Dan said...

Lizzie - this looks frigging superb. Love polenta, and with nice indeed.

Patrick said...

I had this exact dish at Magdalen in London Bridge - it was so good and the first time I'd had polenta.

I've tried to make polenta a couple of times since and all of them have been a disaster. The first stuff I bought was the instant stuff which wasn't good. The second one just wasn't that tasty but I think I didn't add enough parmesan and butter.

It's interesting to see you use veg stock with yours. All recipes I've seen seem to vary greatly in methods and ingredients. The River Cafe books tell you to cook very slowly for about 1.5hrs with water, Arbutus cookbook says about 30 mins in a mixture of half milk, half water. I'm going to give this another go I think.

I'm going to wear long sleeves when I do it too - exploding polenta bloody hurts!

Hollow Legs said...

Shayma - I didn't find it getting too sticky, this is the first time I've cooked it so perhaps it was beginners' luck!

Ollie - Oh no! That's such a shame. I hear a raw potato dropped in and removed after it's cooked helps take away saltiness.

Jo & James - thanks! Overnight marinating sounds lovely.

the Grubworm - It was a very pleasing combination. It would work fantastically with ham hocks too, I'd imagine.

GC - thanks! From now on I will definitely be making the housemate babysit my meat ;)

Paunchos - thanks. It's the first time I've cooked it, but definitely won't be the last.

Paul - Thanks. It sounds ideal to have with stew too.

AAIL - I will definitely be looking out for that Batali recipe; I have heard there is a slow-cook method.

Kavey - Thanks.

Dan - you're too kind :)

Patrick - It was actually in Magdalen I had that polenta dish - it was with rabbit and pigs trotter, if I remember correctly. I never knew it was such a tricky beast to cook - it did make some very amusing fart noises so I imagine if the heat were any more ferocious it would spit like hell...

PheasantPlucker said...

that is a seriously creative dish, I agree with fellow commentators that this is an inspired combo - definitely going to try that

Bedsit Cinema said...

Mmmmm, meat. Still reaping the rewards from the butchery?

Kerri said...

The oxtail looks lovely. I often eat polenta when I'm out but have never cooked it at home, I really should give it a go but I'm loathe to add yet more packets of stuff to my already over-full cupboards!

Anne said...

Looks really tasty, I love oxtail and I've been getting into polenta over the last year or so and think parmesan makes a very good pairing to it. Must remember to get some oxtail next time I visit the butchers!

Unknown said...

Sounds fantastic. I have a pile of oxtail in the freezer I've been trying to decide what to do with. And for a while have been meaning to get round to polenta. Perfect dish for both!!

Su-Lin said...

Gorgeous stuff - might get me to try polenta again. My first go wasn't so hot and then I never tried it again... vegetable stock might be the answer!

Anonymous said...

Aack, that looks obscenely delicious! My most recent ragù was full of chicken livers.

Helen said...

There is only one way to get that oxtail off the bone and that is with your hands! I love polenta too but I don't eat it very often - criminal. This must be rectified. I actually prefer it to mash.

Jess said...

Delicious! I was inspired a few weeks ago to make a ragout after reading your blog. I also made mine with polenta:

It is fantastic way to serve polenta and I will definitely try it with parmesan in the future :D

amytutters said...

Hi Schmoof

I made this on Sunday, but made it into a kind of open lasagne as OH detests polenta with home made pasta, and it was gorgeous - thanks so much for the recipe!

Unknown said...

I had this exact dish presented on about a 15 inch plat in a restaurant just on the outskirts of Rome, was heaven and you have perfected the Roman style, Oxtail Ragu and Parmesean Polenta superbly! Thanks for sharing!

Team McKinley said...

Tried this recipe tonight. It was amazing! My guests were thrilled with the tenderness of the meat as well as the richness of the sauce. Thank you!

Martin said...

Only just made this, but it was absolutely amazing. A long wait, but that just built up the suspense, the whirling smells making it all the more tantalising.

Great recipe, great outcome, although I've noted down an extra ingredient - a big glass of red to balance out the unctuous richness. Simply superb.