Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jason, Medea, Aietes, and Some Delicious Fire Breathing Bulls

This recipe came out of a year long seminar on Jason and the Argonauts in Greek and Latin poetry. So, we enter the story where Jason has sailed to the Black Sea and asked Aietes for the Golden Fleece. Aietes says that Jason has to yoke Aietes' fire breathing bulls. Jason, as is his wont, becomes sad. But luckily for Jason (well ... at least for the time being) the king's daughter, Medea, has fallen in love with him. Here is where it gets fun. Apollonius says that she gave him a substance to smear on his body (a nasty root thingy grown from the dripped blood of Prometheus, nasty I tell you) so he could yoke the bulls. Horace, however, says that this magic subsance was garlic! Then, garlic besmeared, Jason yokes the bulls. Needless to say, Aietes is now mad. So, I figure that Aietes got so mad that he would have killed and eaten those bulls in anger. So I tried to figure out what that would have tasted like. For the recipe, what I figure is that Jason got that garlic that he had smeared all over his body onto those bulls when he was wrastlin' that yoke onto them. And, they are fire breathing so I figure they would be pretty hot. So, I made a beef dish that is garlicky and hot. And we need a tough cut to slow cook because those bulls, I figure, worked hard and were not tender. So, lets eat those bulls.
Aietes' Fire Breathing Bulls
a couple big beef shanks (one to represent each bull, perhaps)
a carrot
an onion
3 heads of garlic
couple stalks of celery
olive oil
a bottle of red wine
crushed red pepper
1) I love beef shanks. 
2) Now, get all your ingredients all together!
3) This is a wonderfully easy dish to make, all you need is time. First, dredge both sides of the shanks in flour and shake off the excess. Then, in a pot, heat a quarter cup or so of olive oil on medium heat.
4) Add shanks and brown both sides. This will make some roux to help make some pretty texture for the sauce later. And this step is fun and smells good.
5) Now add everything else! Yep, add the bottle of red wine, chop the vegetables and add them. Do not forget to add all the garlic! A rough chop is all you need because we are going to puree the sauce later. And, add a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper. I know that crushed red pepper is not ancient. To be really ancient, use only black pepper and garlic to generate your heat. However, since we are talking about cooking fire breathing bulls here, perhaps a little license can be granted. So, use whatever heat generator you like. Heck, use habaneros! But, I like crushed red pepper. 
6) Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for as long as you can (beef shanks are tough and need at least four hours - but the more the better). At around the 6 hour mark, magic will start to happen. At this point, pull out the pieces of meat and bone and puree the sauce with a stick mixer if you have one or in a blender. Then put everything back into the pot and keep cooking. You can cook this until the whole thing becomes this marvelous paste of goodness. Or, you can stop cooking earlier than that and still have chunks of meat that have fallen off the bone and sauce.
7) I like to serve this one with roasted garlic and flatbread. More garlic, yes! 
And, um, beware of king's daughters who fall in love with you on first sight. Don't listen to Horace and his hatred of garlic (epode 3)! This dish is a real celebration of garlic. Enjoy!


Lew said...

I made this yesterday. Quite delicious of course.

I skipped the pureeing the sauce step because after six hours of cooking, who can tell if it's been blended or not anyway. The vegetables are mostly dissolved by that point. The carrot pieces are just intact enough to give the dish a little color.

I didn't have three garlic heads, so I put in what I had, more or less two. I wish I had more. Three garlic heads is not too much at all, because it mellows so much as it cooks. Interesting note: my wife is a bit allergic to garlic, but she could eat this just fine, I guess because whatever one is allergic to in garlic is completely broken down after six hours.

Use a lot of hot pepper, because that mellows too. And minced parsley at the end, again, mostly for color, which is no joke when you're making a dish that can look like undifferentiated gray glop. But it's good!

Jake Morton said...

Thanks for the report on how the cooking the dish went! I encourage such things! If anyone cooks something from this blog, tell me about it. Also, if anyone cooks anything ancient, tell me about that too!

Jake Morton said...

Also, if you take pictures of what you make, send them to me and I will post them!