Langoustines with braised ox cheek and Parmesan risotto
For the braised oxtail
- olive oil, for cooking
- 1kg/2lb 4oz ox cheek cut into chunky pieces
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 bulb garlic, cloves separated and roughly chopped
- 500ml/18fl oz red wine
- 1 litre/1¾ pint veal stock
- 1 litre/1¾ pint brown chicken stock
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the langoustine stock
- 1kg/2lb 4oz langoustine heads and shells
- 2 bulbs fennel, roughly chopped
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 1 leek, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 dried kombu leaves
- few Parmesan rinds
- 100g/3½oz bonito flakes
For the langoustine bisque and tails
- 6 extra-large raw langoustines
- olive oil, for cooking
- 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
- 1 leek (white part), roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 lemongrass stick, crushed with a heavy pan
- 1 red chilli, cut in half lengthways, seeds removed
- 50g/1¾oz root ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 100ml/3½fl oz brandy
- 1 litre/1¾ pint fish stock
- 1 litre/1¾ pint full-fat milk
- 500ml/18fl oz double cream
- flaked sea salt and black pepper
For the Parmesan risotto
To make the braised ox cheek, preheat the oven to 150C/130C Fan/Gas 2. Heat a little oil in a wide ovenproof pan. Season the ox cheek with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then fry it, in several batches, in the hot oil, searing each side for about 2 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove the browned ox cheek to a large plate and set aside.
Add a little more oil to the pan. Tip in the onions, carrots and garlic and fry, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until golden-brown. Pour in the red wine and let it boil until the volume of liquid has reduced by half. Return the browned ox cheek to the pan and pour in the veal and chicken stocks. If the liquid does not cover the ox cheek, top up with a little water. Add the thyme and bay leaves, then cover the pan with a lid or foil. Transfer to the oven and braise the ox cheek for 5–6 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Remove from the oven and leave to cool enough to handle, then shred the meat.
Strain the ox cheek braising liquid through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan. Boil over a medium heat until reduced in volume to a rich, sticky glaze. Take the pan off the heat and add the shredded meat to the sauce, stirring to ensure that the meat is well coated. Cover the pan and set aside, ready to reheat for serving.
To make the langoustine stock, put the langoustine heads and shells, the vegetables, bay leaf and seeds into a large saucepan and pour in 2 litres/3½ pints of water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any froth or scum from the surface. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan with a lid and leave to simmer gently for an hour. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool completely.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables and langoustine shells to extract the juices. Bring the stock to a simmer, then add the kombu and Parmesan rinds. Remove from the heat and let the stock infuse and cool to about 50C (check using a cooking thermometer). Stir in the bonito flakes, then leave to cool completely. Strain through a fine sieve into a measuring jug. Set aside or keep in the fridge until needed.
To make the langoustine bisque and tails, separate the langoustine heads and claws from the tails. Set the heads and claws aside. Straighten 2 tails and tie them together with kitchen string with the undersides touching so that they will remain straight during cooking. Repeat so that you have three tied pairs of langoustine tails.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil and have a large bowl of iced water on the side. Blanch the langoustine tails in the boiling water for 10 seconds, then immediately lift them out and immerse them in the iced water to stop the cooking process. Leave for 2 minutes, then remove and untie the pairs.
Peel off the shells (do this carefully as the tail meat has not been cooked through at this point and it is very delicate). Reserve the shells. Place the tails on a plate or tray lined with a kitchen towel, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until ready to cook.
Heat a little oil in a saucepan, add the reserved langoustine heads, claws and shells, and fry, stirring occasionally, for 4–5 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove them to a plate and set aside.
Add a little more oil to the pan followed by the onion, carrot, celery, leek and garlic. Fry for 8-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened, stirring every once in a while. Add the lemongrass, chilli, ginger, and coriander and fennel seeds and stir to mix. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the tomato purée and fry for a couple of minutes. Return all but a few langoustine heads, claws and shells to the pan and lightly crush them with a wooden spoon or a rolling pin.
Deglaze with the brandy, scraping the bottom of the pan well, and simmer until the volume of liquid has reduced by half. Pour in the fish stock, milk and cream. If the liquid does not cover the ingredients, top up with a little water. Bring to a simmer, then cook gently for 20 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for 20 minutes.
A ladleful at a time, pass the bisque through a mouli (hand-operated food mill) into a bowl, crushing all the vegetables, langoustine heads and claws to extract the flavourful juices. Strain the bisque again through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan. Return to the heat and boil until the volume of liquid has reduced by half, or to the desired intensity – you want the bisque to have a deep, rich langoustine flavour with a hint of spice in the background. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool, then set aside until needed.
To make the Parmesan risotto, heat 700ml/1¼ pint of the langoustine stock in a small saucepan. Any remaining stock can be saved for another recipe or for reheating the rice if you are preparing the risotto in advance (see Recipe Tip).
Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a separate heavy-based pan over a medium heat, add the shallots and fry, stirring frequently, for 5–6 minutes, or until they begin to soften and become translucent. Tip in the rice and increase the heat slightly. Stir for 1 minute to coat the rice grains with oil and shallots.
Pour in the white wine and simmer, stirring, until the volume of wine has reduced by half. Add a ladleful of the hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the stock has almost all been absorbed by the rice. Continue to add the stock, a ladleful at a time, making sure that the rice has absorbed each addition before adding the next. It should take about 15 minutes to cook the risotto. When ready it should be thick and glossy, with the rice ‘al dente’ (tender but with a slight bite of texture – you may not need all the stock). If you want to serve the risotto straight away, stir in the Parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper. See ‘Recipe Tip’ for how to prepare the risotto in advance.
To cook the reserved langoustine tails for serving, you can use a ridge grill pan, frying pan or barbecue. Spear the tails lengthways on metal skewers, then brush them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill them on a hot pan or barbecue for 1½–2 minutes on each side or until they are opaque, firm and just cooked through. Leave the tails to rest for a couple of minutes.
Before serving the bisque, reheat it with the small number of reserved langoustine heads and shells, then strain again. Use a stick blender to froth the bisque.
For each serving, spoon some risotto into a warmed serving bowl, then arrange some braised shredded ox cheek around the bowl. Spoon over a little ox cheek braising sauce. Arrange the langoustine tails on top of the risotto. Froth up the langoustine bisque with a stick blender and add 2 tablespoons of the froth to one side of each bowl. Serve immediately.
If preparing the risotto in advance, as soon as the rice is al dente (before adding the Parmesan), spread it out on a wide baking tray to cool down quickly, then cover with cling film and put the tray into a blast chiller if you have one, or the freezer for a short time followed by the fridge. Reserve the remaining langoustine stock in the fridge. Before serving, reheat the risotto and heat the remaining langoustine stock in another saucepan. A ladleful at a time, add the hot stock to the risotto, stirring until the stock has been absorbed – add only enough to loosen the consistency. Add the Parmesan and seasoning.