While my darling wife S and I usually try to ensure that our dinner parties unfold smoothly and surely, sometimes mistakes just happen. A couple of years ago, we had planned a rather ambitious menu for a dinner party we were hosting. One of the courses was an oxtail ravioli, made entirely from scratch. I made the oxtail ragout while S made the pasta dough. We had a lot of fun making the ravioli the afternoon of the party, which we floured and stored in our fridge. Foolishly though, we took the ravioli out a little too early, letting our beautiful pile of ravioli sit in our way-too-hot kitchen for far too long. By the time I checked on the ravioli, just a few minutes before I had planned to cook them, to my horror, I discovered that the dough had softened and “melted” together. Instead of several separate and delicate little oxtail parcels, I found myself staring at one rather solid mess.
We had to serve something though. We still had a pretty healthy amount of oxtail ragout, so making a quick pasta — like a fettuccine tossed in oxtail — was definitely an option. But I had an idea, which when I told it to S, she reacted by throwing her hands up in the air, relegating the task of salvaging the course in question to me.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the States, but I really like the idea of surf and turf. Well, let me rephrase that. The idea of a steak served with lobster doesn’t float my boat. But I do like seafood and meat combinations. S, on the other hand, isn’t keen on the concept of combining the two, at least not on one plate or in one dish. The idea that I proposed, that drove S out of the kitchen but which really excited me was a lasagna combining our oxtail ragout with some shrimp and served with some lobster sauce that I’d had sitting in the fridge. I went ahead and made the dish. Which, fortunately for me, was received very well. Our guests heralded the lasagna as a great, surprising dish that combined classic flavours with some new ideas. It still isn’t one of S’s favourites among my many creations, but she does admit that it ain’t bad either. I, on the other hand, really do enjoy this slightly quirky but definitely yummy dish.
Surf and Turf Lasagne
1 portion oxtail ragout
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons tomato paste
100g baby spinach
250g shrimp, peeled
50g mozzarella, chopped
100g Parmesan, grated
instant lasagna sheets
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 large pieces of oxtail
300 ml red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat the olive oil in a small dutch oven over high heat. Salt and pepper your oxtail pieces generously and then sear them so that all surfaces are browned. Set aside. Lower the heat to medium and then fry the onion, leek and carrot, stirring constantly. When the onion is soft, add the tomato paste and keep stirring for 2 minutes. Then add the red wine and let heat until boiling. Add the oxtail pieces and then the chicken stock until the oxtail pieces are just submerged. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper so it sits inside the dutch oven, over the oxtail and liquid. Cover and place in the oven for 3 hours. When finished, take it out and let cool to room temp. Then debone the oxtail meat, shredding it and placing it in a container. Strain the sauce into the container and cover. Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours before you use it.
Before you make the lasagna, make a Bechamel sauce. In a high-sided sauce pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When it’s all melted, take the pan off the heat and toss in the flour, stirring vigourously. Put the pan back on the fire, lowering the heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add the tomato paste and stir. Pour in the milk slowly, stirring constantly to ensure that the mixture isn’t lumpy. Add all the milk in and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When you want to make the lasagna, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Use a 9inch by 6inch pan. Heat a fry pan and add the olive oil. Toss your spinach quickly in it. You want it just a tad wilted. Set aside. Reheat your oxtail ragout. Cook your prawns by either blanching or searing. You just want the exterior just cooked (for the version photographed above, I used little shrimp, but you can also you larger prawns). Place a layer of lasagna sheets at the bottom of the pan. Then add half of the oxtail ragout. Pour some Bechamel over this and add another layer of lasagna sheets. Then add in your spinach and the cooked shrimp. Add another layer of lasagna sheets and the rest of the oxtail ragout and some Bechamel. Cover with another layer of lasagna sheets, add the mozzarella and some more Bechamel and top with the Parmesan.
Pop this into your oven for 35 minutes and enjoy.
A Futuristic Dinner
Want S and I, plus a few other friends, like restaurateur Beppe deVito (of Il Lido) and Business Times food writer Geoffrey Eu to cook dinner for you? Want to experience an odd vision of the future of dining, as imagined by one of Singapore’s top contemporary artists, Heman Chong?
Click for Art is The Substation’s major fundraising event for 2007, and is an online auction of exclusive art works and experiences. Click for Art aims to raise much-needed funds to continue The Substation’s mission to nurture, promote and grow the arts in Singapore. Works are available for bid on eBay from 30 October to 30 November with an exhibition of selected works at Millenia Walk from 1- 9 November and lunch time performances from 12:30 to 2pm.
Artist Heman Chong is curating Dinner Tomorrow (Year 2020), a dinner for 6 which we have elected to help prepare. It’s for a really good cause, so log in and make a bid. I promise the dinner will be both unique and pretty amazing.
Singapore’s cookbook scene is getting a little hotter, not because of any new releases but thanks to the opening of 25 degree Celsius, the country’s first dedicated cookbook bookstore. This great and gorgeous little store is located on Keong Saik Road, just up the road from the equally trendy 1929 Hotel. 25 degree Celsius also serves food in a little cafe area towards the back of the space.
25 degree Celsius
25 Keong Saik Road #01-01
Tel: +65 6225 5986
An Event for Wine Lovers
One of my advertisers, uber-catering company The Hidden Host, has asked me to give a little shout out to all my readers about their upcoming event, the Singapore Beaujolais Nouveau Festival 2007. Held on 15 November 2007, this very popular outdoor festival celebrates French food, culture and, of course, the latest release of Beaujolais Nouveau. If you’re free, definitely check it out. Tickets are available through Sistic.
Behind the Scenes
Super-cool Aussie chef Chris Millar (from Poppi) is opening a new business. Later this year, he’ll be launching SweetSaltySpicy, an Asian grocery store/food market cum Modern Thai cafe. To run the latter, he’s brought in some guys from the very famous Sailors Thai in Sydney, so the food should be really fantastic. This neat new place will be in Upper Bukit Timah. From what Chris tells me, SweetSaltySpicy sounds like the perfect place to drop in on — to pick up groceries and also to grab a yummy bite. His partner is already one of Singapore’s top produce suppliers, so freshness is guaranteed.
Chris has shot a couple of short, home-made clips, posted on YouTube, that give us a behind the scenes look at this new food business. Watch Part One here and Part Two here.