Let’s Make Dinner: Osso Bucco
By Mac Millhone
Serves four ~ Osso bucco. A dramatic way to say veal shanks. It means ‘hole in the bone.” I think it loses way too much in translation. Some of the most flavorful cuts of meat are disguised as tough and hard to work with. Trust the force here. Things like shins and tails and short ribs have big flavor and sublime textures if handled well. They contain lots of collagen, which translates to great tastes and rich sauces. The tricks are low heat, enough time and correct moisture.
The technique is called a braise. It is pretty easy to do without much hands-on activity. It works well for many tough cuts, but it can’t be rushed. Veal shanks are easy to find at a well-stocked grocery or can be ordered from your butcher. For individual servings, look for cuts 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick and reasonably sized. Too thin and they cook to quickly, too big they are hard to work with. Plan to serve one per guest. Custom calls for this dish to be served over risotto and that is a great choice. Mashed potatoes, polenta or large egg noodles are also an excellent base. Tradition further calls for a strange and pungent little mix called gremolata to be scattered over the dish prior to serving. I recommend it and have included a recipe.
One other tip is to tie the individual pieces around their perimeter with kitchen twine. This will help hold their shape during lengthy cooking.
As always, you need good olive oil, kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
4 nice veal shanks 3 1/2 to 4 lbs. total
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbs. butter or more divided
1 medium onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
1 bay leaf
5 branches thyme tied into a bundle
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef stock or broth
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
Preheat oven to 300 F.
Salt and pepper the shanks well, then dredge in flour until lightly coated. Discard remaining flour. On the cook top heat 2 Tbs. butter and 2 Tbs. oil in a six-quart or larger Dutch oven or heavy braising pot with lid. When the oil is hot, sear the meat one piece at a time till nicely browned on both sides. Five minutes or so per side. When one is browned transfer it to a plate and continue with the remaining pieces. You may need to adjust oil -butter level or temperature. When all the meat is seared, cover it and check the oil. If there is any burned residue, remove it with a paper towel, leaving the fond or browned bits in the pot. Add butter and oil as necessary and put pot over medium heat. When fat is shimmering add onions, carrots and celery. Cook until translucent about eight minutes then add garlic and herbs. Cook for a few minutes and add wine. Let wine reduce by half then add stock and tomatoes. Let this all boil for about 10 minutes to reduce and concentrate the liquid. Adjust seasonings and add the veal with the large side of the bone facing up. Cover with a heavy lid and slide into the oven. This will take two hours, but three will not hurt. Baste every 40 minutes or so. The liquid should be slowly turning. If it is boiling, turn it down. Remove meat to a platter and cover to rest while you check the sauce. You may like it just the way it is. If you want it thicker, just put the pot back on the burner and reduce it. Remove thyme twigs and bay leaf and serve over your starch choice. I prefer egg noodles.
3 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parley
2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
2 Tbs. fresh lemon zest
Mix ingredients together and scatter over plated osso bucco. Warm sauce will bring out the wonderful aroma and make this great meal even better. Oh, that weird stuff in the middle of the bone is marrow. Try it, it’s quite good.
Mac, a retired airline captain, is currently living in Annapolis. He enjoys researching food, cooking and baking. He can be reached at [email protected]
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