When it comes to questions of what to eat and seasonality around February, you will often find it accompanied with the phrase - 'Well, it's a funny time of year really.'
Because it is.
However, given recent events, news and changes to our constitution (and without getting overly political here), it does feel like this particular saying has gone into overdrive for 2020. It doesn't just feel funny. It feels totally muthaflipping, batschnit, insane in the membrane, radio rental out there.
Yet in times such as these, perhaps food is the best way forward for keeping a level head and here at Turner & George, we often say that there is hardship in everything. Except in eating steaks.
Furthermore, after asking Richard H. Turner what cut he would he would recommend for the shortest month of the year, he came back with this:
'Whichever way I look, I see the wheels falling off. Be it Brexit, exotic flu or bush fires. Indeed ‘Now is the Winter of our discontent’ might be apt right now. But when things look a little grim I turn to comfort, and comforting cuts such as bone-in shin, ox cheek and tail, or maybe mutton, anything in fact, that I can braise in lashings of Turner and George Beef Bones gravy, (other brands are available...).
And we liked the tone in that sentiment. When 'you know what' hits the fan - you can always turn to soft, yielding and gelatinous cuts of quality meat to get you through the day. We also suspect a Fernet-Branca is good in this instance too.
Out of those cuts, the suggestion of ox cheek shined through. Already packed with flavour, you might say that this muscle need very little doing to it. But an overnight bath in red wine and herbs, a quick flash in the pan for browning and a glug of Madeira at the end will really make it sing.
This recipe is a bit of a mix up between St John and Ottolenghi. With the latter influencing a decision to serve celeriac, smoked whole on the BBQ and sliced into wedges. Yotam had tonnes on the go at Meatopia 2018 for his shawarma and this was really just an excuse for getting out into the open. If you don't fancy doing that, then mash will suffice.
The main idea is that you let this dish transport you off to somewhere else for a little while. At least until this all blows over.
Best order a lot of ox cheek in then.
- Place the ox cheek pieces into a bowl and cover with the red wine, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme and honey. Cover with cling and leave in the fridge overnight.
- Next day, strain and remove the ox cheek, vegetables and herbs from the bowl (reserving the braise) and pat dry with kitchen towel. Add some beef dripping to a casserole and place over high heat and sear the cheeks all over.
- Take the cheeks out and turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and garlic to gently fry in the residue fat, stirring for about 15 minutes.
- Add the red wine vinegar to deglaze and make the onions go all sticky. Then put the cheeks and herbs on top and then pour in the red wine braise, along with the beef bones gravy and add some seasoning.
- Bring to a simmer and then cover, turn the heat right down and cook gently on the hob for 3 to 4 hours. Until the cheeks are tender.
- Remove the ox cheeks and keep warm. Strain the gravy into a clean saucepan, add a glug of Madeira and reduce by half.
- If you fancy serving with smoked celeriac, place into your smoker and smoke using a light wood flavouring - alder is good. Brush with oil seasoned with crushed coriander seed every 30 minutes. A whole one takes about 3 to 4 hours to cook through. Alternatively, peel and chop into cubes and place into a saucepan with a good dollop of butter over a medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes before mashing and seasoning.
- When ready to serve, carve up or spoon the celeriac on a plate, top with ox cheek and then pour over the thickened gravy. Serve with greens.