Profile: Film Executive Lejo Pet
Lejo Pet is a very good cook. Consider the multicultural upbringing that contributed to his culinary skills: He was born to Filipino parents in Southern California but spent his childhood in Japan. “My dad was in the Navy and was stationed on a naval base near Nagasaki,” says Lejo. “We were going back and forth between San Diego and Japan for 7.5 years.” He was naturally exposed to food from both countries, and at home, Lejo’s mother—a great cook who significantly influenced his cooking, and with whom he still prepares Christmas dinner every year—made Filipino food. She insisted on the communal aspects of eating: sitting down and sharing every meal as a family.
“I started cooking seriously as a college freshman, when I was on my own for the first time and had to feed myself” remembers Lejo. “My dad got me a rice cooker, and my mom’s kitchen lessons finally kicked in.” He enjoyed cooking for and entertaining his friends and briefly considered becoming a chef. Today, Lejo works in movie distribution in Hollywood, but he loves nothing more than to throw a dinner party for 30 people. On weekend trips with friends, he is always the designated chef in charge of all the meals.
Age 32 — Hometown San Diego, California — Where do you live? Los Angeles — Occupation Film executive — Signature dish Oxtail Ragu — Who taught you how to cook? My mother — Favorite kitchen tool Can't choose between my food processor and my Dutch oven — Always in your pantry Banana ketchup — Go-to snack String cheese and beef jerky — Favorite cuisine Asian and Italian — Do you diet? I try to stay away from rich foods — Food addictions Noodles — Food allergies Peanuts — Food fad pet peeve Taking photos of food during a meal — Who’s your sous chef? My girlfriend — Drinking while cooking? Only always. Vodka Martini or Old Fashioned — What’s for dinner tonight? Chinese chicken salad and sesame wings — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Two problems here—1. I am lactose intolerant, 2. I've been tear free since 2003. — Best meal you ever had Tasting menu prepared by Matsuhiro Morimoto
Oxtail Ragu with Gnocchi
Oxtail is just that: a cattle tail that has been skinned and cut into cylinder-shaped chunks, with a bone in the middle. It is ideally suited for braising, like in this recipe (adapted from Bon Appetit), which calls for vegetables, red wine and herbs, resulting in a bafflingly satisfying sauce—an amalgamation of deep, rich, earthy, moist flavors and textures.
“This is my go-to dish for special occasions” says Lejo. “The last time I made it was for my girlfriend, as our anniversary meal. I love oxtail—it’s used in many Filipino dishes, such as kare-kare—and Italian is my favorite cuisine.”
Make it one or two days ahead and let the flavors develop; it will taste better. Serve it with gnocchi or other pasta.
- Serves 6–8
- 5 pounds of oxtails, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces
- All-purpose flour
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 5 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups red wine
- 1¼ cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 cups beef stock
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the meat on all sides with salt and pepper, then flour. Heat the oil over high heat in a Dutch oven or heavy, ovenproof pot. Brown the oxtails on all sides until brown. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the celery, carrots and onion to the pot and sauté until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes and garlic, and cook until thick, about 5 minutes. Tie the parsley, rosemary and bay leaves with kitchen string and add to the pot.
- Arrange the oxtails in the pot in a single layer, and add the stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Place the pot in the oven and braise until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
- Transfer the oxtails to a plate and let cool slightly. With your hands, pull the meat off the bone. Set aside.
- Remove the herbs from the sauce. With a potato masher, crush the vegetables in the pot to make a coarse sauce. Return the meat to the pot, and taste for salt and pepper.
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