An Education in Food | Braising Demi-Glaze, and Oxtail Sugo

Welcome to Day Three of Four in this weeks’s “An Education in Food | De-Mystifying Fancy Food Terminology.” In case you missed the last two posts, I recentely attended a winemaker’s dinner at Seattle’s Hotel 1000, which inspired a whole lot of culinary learning in this little foodie.

It was a delicious, five-course meal stuffed full of flavor and innovation, and a whole lot of terms I was only vaguely familiar with. With that in mind, I decided to spend this week breaking down terminology like the difference between tartare and ceviche, whether Cinderella pumpkins are real vegetables or simply Disney icons, and why some places serve sorbet in between courses.

Let’s review what we’ve covered so far:

Today’s deep dive is into the two main entrees of the meal, which included duck and oxtail.

Cocoa and Coffee Dusted Duck

spiced carrots, parsnip puree, cherry coffee demi
paired with: Upland Estates 2007 Syrah

coffee and cocoa roasted duck

A demi-glaze (or demi-glace) is a combination of one part beef stock with one part brown sauce (often including Madiera — yum!, or sherry). It’s cooked down until it’s reduced which highly concentrates the flavor. This is used either alone or as the basis for another sauce. This particular demi was done with coffee and cherry flavors and was rich and decadent and sweet and savory all at once.

Braised Oxtail Sugo

ricotta gnudi, leeks, lacinato kale, chanterelles, parmesan
paired with: Upland Estates 2008 Old Vine Cabernet

Braised Oxtail Sugo

This is going to be a fun one, with a lot to breakdown. Ready? Let’s go.

What is braising?

Braising is a cooking technique in which the main ingredient is seared (or browned) in fat and then simmered on low heat in a covered pot (source: The Reluctant Gourmet). I especially like this technique because it leaves the meat suuuuuuuper tender and also creates this sauce or gravy that’s so rich in flavor.

What’s an oxtail?

Here’s what I didn’t know (but should have, because, well, it’s just about exactly what it sounds like). I didn’t know what an oxtail was. For some reason, I thought it was poultry, until I tried it. Then I thought it was something like roast beef. Which, turns out was a better guess than poultry considering that oxtail is the tale of cattle. So, there’s that. (It’s really good, for the record).

What is a sugo?

A sugo, traditionally, is an Italian pasta sauce based on dried pork cheek (source: Wikipedia). Considering this is “braised oxtail sugo,” I’m going to put it together that this dish was Chef Roberts’ creative spin on that traditional pasta sauce and used the oxtail as the base instead of the dried pork cheek.

This whole dish was completely brand new to me (which I love).

Gnudi vs. Gnocchi

If you see those little white nuggets on the plate and then re-read the menu item and see gnudi, you might wonder (as I did): wait, gnudi? That looks like gnocchi. What’s the difference?

Gnocchi, literally translated as “lump,” is a small Italian dumpling that’s most commonly made from potato and flour is a dumpling made of potato or pasta, though it could be made from other ingredients such as sweet potato, ricotta, peas, or spinach.


Gnudi, on the other hand, is a “Florentine creation also known as gnudi ravioli (naked ravioli)… It’s usually made from…spinach or Swiss chard and ricotta, and very little flour…Think of them as loosely packed ravioli fillings shaped into little lumps…”. In the case of this entree, the leaves included were of lacinato kale (more information on this next).

gnudi  So, they’re pretty similar and it sounds to me as if the real difference is in how much potato or flour is used in the preparation of the little nuggets. All I know is that both take on sauces quite well, and both melt deliciously in my mouth.


I know what kale is. But specifically, what’s lacinato kale?

lacinato kale

Lacinato kale is a type of kale commonly used in Italian cuisine, which makes sense considering it’s pairing with the Italian gnudi.

It’s known by a variety of other names including “Tuscan kaleTuscan cabbageDinosaur kalecavolo neroblack kaleflat back cabbagepalm tree kale, or black Tuscan palm.” [source] It’s slightly sweeter than traditional (curly) kale.

Finally, what are chanterelles?

chanterelle mushrooms

Chanterelles are a type of mushroom (fungi). They’re popular, edible, and (according to Wikipedia) hard to cultivate. They were the absolute perfect addition to this dish.

What’s next?

Dessert! Stay tuned for a little Apple Tart Tatin and some information about Ice Wine.


Doniree is based in Portland, Oregon, where she is pretty damn thrilled about the Pacific Northwest's focus on local and seasonal food and great wine. When she's not at home, she's on the hunt for the best brunch, the best happy hour, and the best whiskey bar a city has to offer.

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