Sooooooo our one in a million trip to New York City was postponed by a one in a million super storm known as “Sandy.” We are now scheduled to visit NYC and dine at Top Chef Kitchen in two weeks and will be there during our two-year wedding anniversary! What are the odds?!? For the record, I would now like to stop saying, “What are the odds?” in reference to this trip because I do not want to be saying, “What are the odds that the plane crashed and we survived?!”
Because Top Chef Kitchen is a pop-up restaurant and the chefs change weekly, it appears that we’ll now be enjoying dinner prepared by chefs Antonia Lofaso and Fabio Viviani. In honor of that, we celebrated Top Chef Night this week with a dish from Antonia’s past — ricotta gnudi with oxtail sauce (original recipe here). Here’s how we made it into a crock pot (aka slow cooker) and home cook-friendly dinner.
Serves two *very* generously.
Get yourself an oxtail. We generally get ours from a vendor at our local farmers market. They’re super cheap because they’re not exactly considered a sought after piece of meat. I can’t imagine why this is.
2 medium carrots
2 celery stalks
1 small onion
2 TB garlic
1 TB thyme (dried or two sprigs fresh)
1 TB rosemary (dried or 1 sprig fresh)
2 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
1 TB tomato paste
1 cup red wine (we used Cabernet Sauvignon)
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
1 large container chicken stock*
2 TB veal demi glace*
* If you don’t have veal demi glace on hand, substitute the chicken stock for beef stock and skip the demi glace.
Rough chop the carrots, celery and onion. Saute in a large pan with extra virgin olive oil over med-high heat until slightly softened and just browned. Add garlic and saute until just browned. Put in crock pot (slow cooker). Deglaze hot pan with the red wine and brandy (or cognac). Let simmer for about two minutes just to burn out the alcohol and the sharp taste. Add to the crock pot. Add herbs, tomato paste and veal demi glace (if using) to crock pot. Heat a bit more olive oil and put oxtail in the pan, saute until browned on both sides.
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
salt, to taste
Blend basil, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt until smooth. Set aside. Wash and dry a small handful of arugula, toss with a bit of the pesto. Reserve remaining pesto.
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs (we used panko)
1 TB fresh Italian parsley
1/2 tsp lemon zest
Use a food processor to pulse bread crumbs, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.
Before making the gnudi, use a ladle to remove 1 cup of the cooking liquid from the crock pot. Strain into a small sauce pan and reduce by half and let thicken (you may need to skim some fat/oil from the top). Remove oxtail to large plate and separate fat, collagen and bones from the meat. When the sauce has reduced, add the meat to the sauce and keep warm.
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
approximately 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Mix ricotta, egg, nutmeg, salt, pepper and Parmesan in a medium/large bowl. Add flour, little by little, until mixture holds together and isn’t sticky. Remember to add the flour! Failure to do this will lead to a pot full of ricotta bits (this was our first unfortunate batch). Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop large spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture into the water. When the dumplings float on the surface, let them boil for 30 seconds longer, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on a paper towel.
Place the gnudi dumplings on a plate and spoon the oxtail and sauce over. Drizzle everything with pesto, place the arugula on top and dust the entire plate with gremolata. Boom — dinner.
We love oxtail. We LOVE it, have I mentioned that? It’s rich and tender and melt-in-your-mouth wonderful. The ricotta gnudi were fluffy and cheesy and the fresh basil and tart hits of lemon offset the full-bodied flavors.
Would we make this again? Yes. The ricotta gnudi is a great alternative to the traditional pasta or potatoes and we’ll never turn down the opportunity to have supple oxtail.
Make oxtail. You won’t regret it.