How to make a perfect sauce for roast beef.
Time (plenty of time)
Red Wine – I like a mid range burgundy in this.
Onion & Garlic
Salt & Pepper
Have the butcher chop your oxtail into small rounds. Toss these in a bit of oil in a roasting pan, add two cloves of garlic, whole, don’t skin them. Roast the Ox-tail for an hour at a fairly high heat until fully cooked through.
Leave your unopened bottle of wine in the kitchen to ensure it is at room temperature for later on.
Transfer the meat and oil to a stew pot. Discard the garlic. Deglaze the roasting pan to get all the flavour, and add the juices to the pot. Add the bouquet garni and a roughly chopped onion. Top up the pot with plenty of water. Bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat to a really low simmer. Simmer the meat for about 4 hours like this, topping up the water only if it gets very low. By the time you are finished the meat should have fallen off the bones, and should have a soft mushy consistency. At this stage it is best to leave the stock to cool down in the pot overnight with the bones in.
In the morning skim off any heavy deposits of beef fat from the stock. Ideally the stock will have set into a jelly. Uncork your red wine and allow it to breathe. Heat up the jelly until it is liquid again. Put it through a strainer to remove the bones, onion, herbs and chunks of meat. Bring the stock to a rolling boil and reduce it until it has thickened to a gravy consistency.
Check your schedule and make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere for the rest of the day. Pour a little of the red wine into a glass, hold it up to the light, swirl it round a bit and have a good smell. Make sure it is not corked. Taste the wine. Make sure it is up to standard. It should be perfectly good to drink if you want to cook with it. Check again with another sip. OK, ready to go.
Gradually add red wine to the stock, keeping it on a boil and reducing it gradually back to gravy again. You may notice that the drop of wine in your glass evaporates a little in the heat. No matter, just top it up from the bottle. Make sure the wine at the bottom of the bottle is of the same or better standard than the wine at the top. Over the course of an hour or so add in the bottle of wine to the gravy this way.
Chop up a good chunk of butter, maybe a quarter of a pound. Add the chunks of butter to the wine gravy allowing them to melt and mix gradually. This will make the consistency of the gravy very silky.
Taste the gravy to see if it needs any adjustment. You may need salt, especially if you use an unsalted butter. You can also add soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce for a bit more umami. I like a good dose of black pepper too.
If at this stage you find you have a large pot of greasy water, you may have drunk too much wine, or you didn’t follow my instructions on reducing. Remember I said to reduce to gravy consistency! OK, a little cheat. If your gravy is too watery, but tastes great, all is not lost. Just use some cornflour to thicken it. If you don’t have cornflour a spoonful of instant gravy powder will work too, but kind of defeats the whole purpose of this recipe.
The gravy is ready to serve immediately. But if you forgot to cook the dinner don’t worry. It will keep in the pot and you can even cool it down and store it overnight in the fridge in a hermetically sealed plastic box. I just use a bowl with some cling film, but I can’t guarantee 100% sterile conditions. I rely on the wine to provide germ protection, and I’m not dead….yet.
So after all that effort, is it worth spending 2 days making great gravy? I think it is.
Gravy ; by Raymond Carver.
No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.”