Tuhod y Batoc Ragu (Knee and Neck Ragu)

I am a pack rat. I save everything from old credit card receipts to sappy poems written by boys of summers long gone. I hardly ever throw anything away. I have my paid and validated phone bills from years back tucked away in dark corners of my office. Random scraps of paper, scrawled with hurried to-do lists, litter the nether regions of my purses. Proof of this “endearing” habit currently lay in boxes that block our front door and most of our new foyer.

It’s also evident in our fridge and freezer – much to C’s frustration (as if the unpacked boxes of stuff isn’t frustrating enough right?). I keep every drop of bacon dripping, the end slices of sliced bread, every last bit of leftover food. I can’t abide by food waste so all this gets stashed for future use. To my credit, they do, in fact, get used, and for the most part quite successfully.

This dish came together one slow day when I was in the middle of the contemplative work of stock-making. Beef stock making to be specific. I had scored a gorgeous shin bone which I had cut down to kneecaps and marrow pieces (did that sound too serial killer-ish?). To add more meatiness to the stock I threw in a hunk of beef neck. There was quite a bit of neck meat there, which slowly cooked down to a melting softness, and I thought it would shame it to let it go to waste. So I took it, along with the now tender kneecap tendon, and did this.

Tuhod y Batoc Ragu (Knee and Neck Ragu)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 small white onions, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Italian mix seasoning
  • 1 chorizo, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 800-gram can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked, deboned beef neck (shredded) and kneecap (the soft, gelatinous tendon part, chopped)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup beef stock
  • Sea salt & freshly cracked black pepper

- Heat a couple of generous glugs of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. When the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic, and bay leaf and sauté until onions are soft and translucent. Add Italian mix seasoning and stir well, letting the dried herbs release their scent.
- Add the chorizo and cook until it releases its oils. Deglaze the pot with red wine, scraping all the brown bits stuck to the pan as you go. Cook until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore.
- Add the tomatoes, clove, cinnamon, and paprika. Let this simmer until the water has evaporated a bit.
- Add the beef and beef stock and simmer again until it all melds together into a thick and pulpy sauce.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.

You would think that something that had been cooked for hours would have lost a lot of its flavor but the neck meat, which has a lot of flavor to begin with, held up pretty well. The aromatics and spices (and the chorizo) then added whatever was missing. All in all, pretty savory and not at all a dish you would think came from the leavings of something else. It is rich and hearty and stick-to-your bones comforting. You could of course make this with neck and kneecap directly simmered in the tomato sauce until tender, without waiting for a beef stock making session. We had it with a scalloped, shell-like pasta touted as gnocchi on that package. In any case, it worked a charm, catching the hearty sauce in its crevices. It would also go wonderfully with a good thick pasta noodle like a papardelle.

I feel unashamedly smug when I put every last bit of something to good use. Especially when something great comes of it. I only wish it was that easy for those boxes.

Note: It's a bit late to announce but I have some dishes in this month's (September) issue of Yummy magazine :) All made with local cheeses! This isssue is a great one -- chock-full of Filipino recipes, or dishes with local ingredients. There is a spread of different adobo recipes that I know I am going to be trying soon!