Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with the big, new kitchen. They often bring some of their market's choicest ingredients home with them, and cook up a feast. This is the third in a series of dinner-party recipes; they'll add one a week until they have a complete, multi-course fall menu.
For week one, Pete made mushroom rugula, a savory mushroom mixture that's rolled in pastry, baked and sliced. Last week, Pete prepared roasted squash risotto, a dish, he says, that's "hearty and warming and uses ingredients that are at their peak during the dark months." This week, Pete gets off on tail -- oxtail to be exact.
"For this recipe, we use a fairly standard braising technique, augmented by a truly wonderful piece of meat -- which is literally tail," says Pete. "The collagen in the tail's cartilage yields an unmistakable richness to the sugo, which is produced after several hours of low-temperature braising in the oven," he explains. "After we braise the meat, we carefully pick the succulent pieces out of the oxtails and reserve them," he continues.
Pete strains and de-fats the cooking liquid and makes a thick sugo with the remnants of the braised oxtail that Pete passes through a sieve. The Marczyks serve the dish with homemade buttered pappardelle noodles. "It's a super comforting dish that's great for the fall and winter months," says Pete.
For the oxtails and sugo:
3 pounds oxtails, preferably hand-cut 3 cups onion, coarsely chopped 2 cups carrot, chopped 1 cup celery, chopped 3 or 4 bay leaves ½ head garlic, cloves peeled and crushed 5 fresh tomatoes, or 1, 14-ounce can Handful of fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary or marjoram ½ bottle dry red wine (preferably a low-tannin wine such as Dolcetto) Salt and black pepper to taste Butter for the noodles
Method for the oxtails:
1. Season and brown oxtails on a flat grill or in a heavy pan. Because the tails are inherently uneven and hard to brown, you may also roast them in the oven at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. The key, says Pete, is to develop some color -- especially on the lean parts. This will form the flavor basis for the whole dish. 2. While the oxtails are browning, cook the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a braising pan, uncovered, over medium high heat. You'll want to lightly brown the veggies a bit before they start to break down. 3. When they've softened and browned, add the tomatoes and wine and bring to a boil. 4. Add the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the salt and pepper, along with the oxtails. 5. Season to taste. It should be moderately salted. Remember that the liquid will reduce. 6. Place covered braising pan in a 225 degree oven and cook for 5 to 7 hours, turning the oxtails every hour or so. 7. When the oxtails are just falling apart -- or when the little muscles (they look like tubes) slip out and shred easily -- the beef is done. 8. Pull the oxtails out, set aside and let them cool to where you can handle them easily and and pick out the meat. 9. Reserve the braising liquid and vegetables. Run liquid through a strainer and skim off the fat. 10. Push about 1/3 of the remaining veggies through the sieve, so that it forms a loose paste, which will be added to the liquid and form the sauce for the pappardelle.
Store-bought pasta is fine, says Pete, "but not nearly as messy or fun as making it yourself." If you go with dried pasta, Pete's favorite brands are Delverde, Rustichella d'Abruzzo or Maestri Pastai.
1 1/2 cups AP flour (if you can find King Arthur Special Bread Flour, do it; otherwise AP is fine) 1 1/2 cups 00 farina or semolina flour 3 whole eggs Water as necessary Pinch of salt
Making the pasta:
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SHOW ME HOW
1. Combine flour, salt and eggs on a bread board or in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. If necessary, add water until a thick heavy dough ball forms. Be careful not to add too much water, or else the pasta will be too sticky to work with. You can make small adjustments by adding more water or flour when using a mixer, but you'll need to nail it if you're kneading by hand. 2. When the dough is the proper consistency, knead the dough with a dough-hook for 10 to 15 minutes on medium low speed. The mixer will sound like it's straining -- that's because it is. 3. Cut the dough into balls about the size of your fist. 4. Wrap the balls is plastic and let sit for at least 30 minutes, which will allow the dough to relax; it will also be much easier to roll. 5. Take the dough balls and using the thickest setting on the pasta maker, run the dough through the past maker at least 12 times, folding the sheets in half each time and re-rolling. Once the dough is as smooth as a baby's bottom, you're ready to begin the rolling out process. 6. First, make a loop out of the dough while it's in the roller by overlapping about 3 inches. Progressively close the rollers one notch at a time until the dough is quite thin. Pete rolls it out usiing the last, or the next-to-last setting on the pasta machine. 7. Cut the dough so it's a long strip, flour it generously, cut the strips into desired lengths, fold over itself a couple times and cut into 1" wide strips. 8. Unfurl each strip coat with flour and set aside. 9. Using a colander or your hands, shake as much flour as possible off the pasta. 10. Add pasta to a large pot of salted water. 11. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. The pasta will start to float when it's done. 12. When pasta is cooked through, transfer to a large bowl or pan and toss with a couple tablespoons of soft butter.
Assembling the dish:
1. Add warm sugo to pappardelle and gently toss, thoroughly coating the noodles. 2. Garnish with chunks of oxtail. 3. Sprinkle dishes with Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and serve immediately.