Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beef Necks Be Good

I wanted to cook a dinner for some recently affianced friends, so I took a stroll through the snow up to Harvestime. Lucky for me, they'd just gotten a big load of beef necks, so I grabbed some, a few short ribs, and a couple of pig trotters. These joined onions, carrots, garlic, soffrito, guajillo, serrano and a ton of other aromatics in a slow cooker after a good sear, and they all had a nice hot bath in stock and wine all night long. In the morning, I threw some pasta dough together, strained the braised goodness and left the bones and meat in the broth to cool in the fridge.
When I got home that night, they were there waiting for me, wonderfully gelatinous and jiggling like a fat man's belly. I picked the meat and made a quick tomato sauce--onion, garlic, tomatoes and a bit of that gelatin which, upon hitting the pan, melted right into a thick stock. I pureed it all, then fried some maitake, cremini, and nameko mushrooms in butter.
I added the beef I picked from the ribs and neck bones; slowly adding some of the stock, then some tomato sauce as it reduced, for about an hour. Everything got rich and deeply colored and flavored as we rolled out some pasta "rags"--misshapen little sheets of pasta, usually left over from cutting circular ravioli, in this case done to order as I craved big chunks of toothsome pasta.The quick finish: boil the pasta, give the sauce a touch of the pasta water, then toss everything. Finish the plate with shaved fennel, parm, parsley, pomegranate (that wonderfully tart fruit responsible for Persephone, Demeter, and Hades' plunging the earth into winter each year), grapefruit (both zest and wedges) and olive oil. A really hearty winter dish--for engagements or otherwise.