Surf and Turf was a popular and ‘posh’ dinner in the 60s and 70s, usually consisting of a garish combination of steak and lobster. Thankfully it has largely gone out of fashion, but if chosen carefully a combination of meat and fish can still be well worth the effort. The French Laundry cookbook is easily in my top five books of all time, and offers its own three star Michelin take on surf and turf: monkfish, oxtails, salsify and cèpes. Monkfish and cèpes are ingredients at the costly end of the spectrum, and salsify is almost impossible to come by, so for student cooks this recipe is perhaps not ideal. However, well written cookbooks are there to teach us proper technique and to inspire us. Oxtail is inexpensive and easy to cook if you have the luxury of a free oven for a few hours, and if cooked with good stock will also provide its own sauce. As for the fish, skate and ray wings are both cheap and in season at the moment. They have a great flavour, plus their texture will complement the oxtail nicely. For the garnish you could either continue down the same soft pathway and make a smooth mash, or provide a little textural contrast- something with a little bite will give the dish a bit more backbone. Gnocchi would be great, ideally home made (there are countless recipes online), but a good quality shop bought brand would be good as well. For final touches a herb oil or some chopped parsley are perfect.
Recipe:‘Surf and Turf’- Roasted Skate Wing, Braised Oxtails and Gnocchi.
2 Skate (or ray) wings
1 onion, 1 carrot and a quarter of a leek
Thyme, garlic, black peppercorns
200ml each of fresh beef (as usual veal is better!) and chicken stock
Enough homemade or good quality gnocchi for 2.
Get the oxtails on early. Begin by seasoning lightly and then searing in plenty of oil until nicely coloured on all sides. Then transfer to an oven dish with a lid. Add the roughly chopped vegetables to the pan and colour without burning, then add the thyme, 2 cloves of garlic (whole is fine) and 5 or 6 black peppercorns. Next add the two stocks to the pan, scraping off anything stuck to the bottom. Pour this on top of the oxtails, put on a lid and put in an oven at about gas mark three. Four hours is good, five hours is better. When the oxtails are completely cooked and falling off the bone, remove them and strain the remaining liquid through a fine sieve into a sauce pan. Skim and discard the fat from the top of the liquid and reduce what’s left by half. Pick the oxtail meat from the bones, removing any large pieces of fat, and add to the reduced sauce. Continue to reduce until the sauce has thickened and the meat looks shiny and glazed, chill and reserve until you are ready to cook the fish.
Season the skate liberally with salt, and heat a large amount of oil in the pan over a high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the skate wings and reduce the heat to medium high, cook for 1-2 minutes depending on size, then turn over and add a few knobs of butter. Transfer to a hot oven (Gas mark 7) for 2-3 minutes. While the skate is in the oven, heat the oxtail through and check the seasoning. Brown your cooked gnocchi in butter and oil over a medium heat. Remove the skate, baste with the butter and rest for a minute.