This dish really doesn't need a lot of work, but it does need a fair bit of time. If you can’t wait, you can shorten the process, but I think this dish is at it’s very best when made over a three-day period. On the first day you prepare the marinade and leave it overnight to do its stuff. On the second day you cook the dish in a relaxed manner and then chill it overnight. On the third day you reheat and enjoy it.
This is an Anglicised version of a ch’ti recipe from just across the channel. The original recipe would have used genièvre and a local beer (a bière ambrée) but gin and a pale ale will do nicely instead, if they’re easier to lay your hands on. You can use other beers, but avoid any that are very bitter.
This dish would normally be served simply with a little pasta or boiled potatoes, I think, but mashed potatoes, roasted celeriac or rice would be just fine too. This is a very warming and comforting dish for a winter’s day. Eat this and imagine yourself in a little estaminet somewhere near the coast of the Pas-de-Calais with good company and steamed-up windows. Hopefully, I'll be the badly dressed bloke in the corner studying a ‘Learn To Speak Ch’ti Without Tears’ book.
This will serve 2 but it will feed one or two more if accompanied by enough pasta, rice or veg. À chés fêtes !
600 g – 750 g oxtail, in thick slices
For the marinade:
2 carrots, chopped into small chunks
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 juniper berries
2 sprigs rosemary
1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar (not authentic, but it works)
2 tbsp tomato purée
100 ml gin (or genièvre, if you happen to have some)
150 ml beer
A little salt and a generous sprinkle of pepper
80 g smoked lardons
140 g mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dark brown sugar
200 ml beef stock
A little lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped chervil or parsley
Day one: Simply mix all the marinade ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and add the oxtail. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
Day two: Preheat the oven to 150 °C, remove the oxtail from the marinade and pat it dry. Add the lardons to a large, dry frying pan and fry them over a medium heat until the fat begins to run. Add the oxtail to the pan and brown it lightly on all sides. Strain the marinade to separate the vegetables from the liquid (but keep both). Discard the rosemary. Add the strained vegetables to the pan together with the mushrooms. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes more. Sprinkle the sugar over the pan and pour in the reserved marinade liquid. Bring the liquid to simmering point and add the beef stock. Bring back to a simmer. Transfer the dish to a ovenproof casserole dish and place in the oven for 2 – 3 hours until the meat is very tender.
Allow the casserole to cool, at least until you can handle it. Remove the meat from the bones and break up into fairly small pieces. Discard the bones and any remaining chunks of fat. Return the meat to the casserole and put it in the fridge.
Day three: Skim off most of the fat and reheat the casserole in a low oven. When it’s nice and hot adjust the seasoning and add a squeeze or two of lemon. Sprinkle with a little chopped chervil or parsley if you fancy and serve with your chosen accompaniment.