Justin Smille’s Chicken Thigh Ragù with Pappardelle

Serves: 6

Justin Smille is a New York Times three-star chef and this genius chicken ragù is total proof. Bold, rustic, slow-braised wonderfulness when you want a ragù that isn’t pork or beef.

The chicken doesn’t overwhelm the light tomato and olive sauce and my goodness.

It is a bit of a labour of love, though worth every step.

Lock in Saturday afternoon and live the good life. Champagne from 3pm will make it go faster (and I know this from experience)!

Ingredients

20gm dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp sugar
2 red onions, chopped
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250gm pancetta, cut into 1cm dice
1kg skinless chicken thighs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tbsp finely chopped sage
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 c sherry vinegar
3/4 c dry white wine
2 c chicken stock
1 c pasata
1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
750gm fresh or dried papardelle
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serv
ing

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the porcini mushrooms and sugar, cover with hot water and let the mushrooms soak for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms have soften. Drain discarding the water and chop.
  2. Meanwhile, in the food processor, combine the onions, fennel, celery, carrot and garlic and pulse until finely chopped.
  3. In a large, heavy casserole pot, heat the oil over a moderate heat. Add the pancetta, stirring until browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside.
  4. Season the whole chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the casserole. Cook over a moderately high heat until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a platter.
  5. Add the chopped vegetables, a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to the casserole. Cook over a low heat until the vegetables are softened, the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables are just starting to brown. Stir in the rosemary, sage, tomato paste and porcini.
  6. Add the vinegar and cook over a moderate heat until almost evaporated. Add the wine and cook, stirring until reduced by half. Add the stock and pasta and bring to the boil.
  7. Return the chicken thighs to the casserole. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender: about an hour.
  8. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let cool slightly. Shred the chicken and stir into the sauce with the olives and pancetta. Season and reduce until you have a ragù consistency.
  9. Cook the papperdelle al dente, drain well and toss gently with ragù. Serve with the freshly grated cheese.
  10. Enjoy.

Gordon Ramsay’s Slow Braised Beef Cheeks (Ragu) with Pappardelle

Serves 6

Credit where credit is due.

This is an amazing dish; an amazing braise. And I didn’t even cook it.

Nat did. For my 36th birthday.

A good ragu is about the length of the cooking time and this is where Nat nailed it. Six hours in, there was a ripple of fear that the beef cheeks hadn’t broken down, still solid and in one piece each; two hours later and a light tap, and they collapsed into moorish, unbelievably tender meat.

And why not keep cooking on a low heat, right up until dinner? Which is what we did. Time is your friend and beef cheeks love to sit and braise away.

During my childhood and teen years, my mother cooked Pork in Milk for my every birthday; it was my annual request and 20 or more years on, I can still taste it.

This ragu has now replaced my annual pork offering and I can’t wait to cook it – or have it cooked for me – again and again and again.

Ingredients

Olive oil, for frying
1kg of beef cheeks (in this instance, don’t substitute another cut of beef; or try lamb shanks if that is all you can get)
1 onion, peeled and roughly cut
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly crushed
1 bay leaf (or two dried if you can’t get fresh)
400ml red wine (you can safely use a bit more here)
1x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock
500gm dried pappardelle
Handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pan; season the meat and brown on all sides. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, brown the onions, garlic and bay leaf until just softened and starting to brown a little.
  3. Return the meat to the pan and add the wine to deglaze.
  4. Allow it to reduce a little and add the stock and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down.
  5. Stir occasionally for the next four hours, ensuring the meat is not drying out and adding water as need be. The meat is ready when it falls apart; keep cooking as long as you want. Time is your friend!
  6. Cook the pasta in salted water.
  7. Gently stir through the sauce with the pasta and garnish with parsley.
  8. Happy birthday.