This poutine was the highlight of my day yesterday.
I worked from home, which per the usual, turned me into a mole person who remains glued to the couch avoiding the sun for the entire day. Around 5:30 pm I finally pried myself away from the hazy blue glow of the laptop and shut it down like Liz Lemon would do. I popped a Terra chocolate-covered espresso bean (because: California) on my way out the door, and headed out for a stroll around the 'hood. It's worth mentioning at this point that I live in a neighborhood of San Francisco that is not my favorite. What I mean is, when it comes to having feelings about our neighborhood, I'm a solid meh. That's not to say that it isn't a pretty sweet spot, though, because it definitely is with its all it’s lil nouveau chic places to wine and dine, shop, and get jacked up on good coffee. There's even a semi-permanent piece of structural art in the tiny retro-fitted strip park where we walk our kitten, Mo (oh yes, we do, we fly our freak flag high). It's just that everything in and around our little valley is so damn fancy. And the folks that visit regularly are really fancy too. Large concentrations of fancy makes me sort of nervous, though it does make for excellent people-watching material.
So yesterday, while strolling and fancy people watching, I was thinking about what to make for dinner. Eventually, I ended up at my local butcher, Fatted Calf, which let me just say, is exactly the kind of fancy I can get down with. The folks at Fatted Calf do their thing so well and often end up convincing me to try something new when I come in with all my meat-related questions (girl's gotta learn about all those different beef cuts somehow). This day was no exception to say the least, and don't know if it was the coffee bean or what (it probably was), but when I saw oxtail sitting front and center in the display case, I just had to go for it. I had seen this video a while back and it stuck with me because fries are everything to me; they're my desert island food. Cheese fries are even more special, if that's possible. Fries with gravy and cheese send me to another dimension. "Yeah, let's go with the oxtail," I heard myself say.
I'll admit, this was an aggressive recipe for a weeknight (which was my coworker's exact response to my picture of it, ha!), but the decadence of it all was so completely worth the time spent. The final product is restaurant quality in all the right ways, most noticeably so in the liberal use of heavy cream. Practically speaking, this dish would work well as a dinner party appetizer, but I ate mine with leftover roasted Brussels sprouts on the side while watching the season finale of Bob's Burgers with my main squeeze. It was sort of ridiculous, it was sort of amazing. It was Wednesday night adulting with flare.
A few observations:
I scaled the recipe way down from the amount that the Bon Appètempt version calls for because I knew we would only eat it once, so leftovers were out.
Plan to cook the fries as close to serving as possible. Trust me on this one, if only because I followed this rule and it worked out perfectly. That extra little crisp in the fries helps them hold up well under the blanket of gravy, woven through with silky onions, that you will heap on top of them. In the interest of recipe testing (heh) I ate a handful of cold fries as a desk snack today and it reminded me again of how much more I love them fresh out of the oven.
I deviated slightly from the temperature and cook time recommendations, cooking my oxtail for only 1 hour. In the interest of bringing the gravy and fries together with good timing, I turned the oven temperature up once the meat had cooked for roughly 40 mins. The fries needed to cook at 450 and had already been boiled, so I was wary of letting them sit too long before roasting. I took the meat out when the temperature got closer to 400, which brought the cook time to almost exactly an hour. It worked out just fine, but I had to boil the gravy on the stove for longer to get it thick enough. Recipes for cooking tougher meat like tail generally call for a longer cooking time at a lower temperature. I reflected that below.
Poutine with Oxtail Gravy and Homemade Fries, adapted from Bon Appétempt who sourced it from Nigel Slater’s Tender
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5-2 lbs oxtail (I used two large and 3 small parts)
1 yellow onions
2 bay leaves
1 cup of white wine
1 scant cup of heavy cream
1 heaping tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 cup (give or take) of cheese curds or grated cheddar (I used mozzarella because we had it on hand, I think a sharp cheddar would be really nice, and of course curds would be delicious as well as the most true to authentic poutine.)
I used this recipe for the first time, and it was perfect as printed.
Preheat the oven to 325.
Heat up the olive oil in a large dutch oven or other heavy pot. Pat the meat dry and sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides. Once the pan is hot and the oil is shimmering, lower the meat into the pan and brown it on all sides. Meanwhile, slice the onion into very thin half moons.
Once the oxtail is nicely browned on all sides, remove it to a plate and add the onions to the pot. Sauté the onions until they are slightly golden. Tuck the meat back under the onions and add the bay leaves and the wine. Lay a piece of oiled parchment paper over the meat and onions, then cover with a lid. Bake for one and a half hours, checking at least at the halfway point to make sure that it doesn’t get dry. Add more liquid if you need to. I added about a half cup of water at the halfway point.
Remove from the oven. Lift the lid and remove the meat to a plate. Stir the cream and mustard into the reduced wine and check the seasoning. Bring to a boil until it thickens to your liking.
You can add the gravy directly on top of the fries and top that with cheese, or melt the cheese on the fries first and add the gravy on top like we did. I already had some chives on hand so I chopped those up as garnish. Green onions would have also been nice.