After a lengthy run of 80-plus-degree weather, thanks to the seasonal Santa Anas; cool, clear fall weather has finally arrived and with it the time to embrace those slow-cooked dishes that I love to make, eat and share with friends and family.
One of my favorites is the old Italian classic ‘Osso Buco’ which literally means ‘pierced bone’. I don’t understand why other culinary cultures, including American, haven’t embraced this dish. Maybe it’s because it’s become so expensive. I can remember when this dish was on almost every decent Italian restaurant’s menu selling for less than $20, but like many other secondary and tertiary cuts, it’s increasing popularity allowed meat packers to slowly and steadily increase the price. Part of this is because it normally is only cut from veal vs mature cattle, but seriously, it’s just a cross cut portion of the shank or leg bone! I watched the same thing happen to skirt steak, once an inexpensive, flavorful cut of meat used for old school ‘London Broil’ or ‘Mexican Carne Asada’ that now can cost close to $20 a pound for choice grade!
When entertaining, braised dishes are not only satisfying to your guests but also great for the host since they can be made a little bit ahead of time and either kept warm or briefly rewarmed so the cook is not scrambling around the last minute. This dish is traditionally served with a saffron scented risotto but I like it with either a creamy Parmesan polenta or garlic mashed potatoes, both of which can also be made ahead of time and held warm. I like completing the dish with a medley of vegetables, usually: pearl onions, mushrooms, peas and carrots; but you can add whatever your favorites are. I like blanching the vegetables separately ahead of time, then reheating at the last minute so they keep their color and texture and look visually appealing when added to the dish.
You may have to ask your butcher ahead of time to prepare the shanks for you but I have found that Gelson’s market almost always have these available. While this isn’t a dish familiar to most Americans, I urge you to give this a try. It’s one of the easiest and most satisfying cool-weather dishes ever.
Recipe – Osso Buco (Braised Veal Shanks)
Note: Serves four
» 4 each Thick cut veal shanks
» As needed Kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder (equal amounts mixed together)
» ¼ cup Canola oil
» 1 each Carrot, diced ¼”
» 1 each Small onion, diced ¼”
» 1 each Celery rib, diced ¼ “
» 5 cloves Garlic, smashed
» ½ cup Hearty red wine
» 2-3 cups Beef or chicken stock
» 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
» 3 cups Mashed potatoes, prepared
» As needed Vegetable Medley
» 1 each Lemon
» 1/3 cup Chopped parsley
» 2 TBS Freshly grated horseradish
Twined & Ready
Set the shanks on a flat work surface and wrap each one around the center with butcher’s twine. Pull the twine tightly enough to squeeze the meat a bit and tie off securely. Next, season all sides of the shank with the salt, pepper and garlic blend. Heat oil in large, thick braising pan. I’ve found that an enameled version like Le Creuset works best. When oil is good and hot, carefully place the shanks into the pot and sear until very well browned on all sides. You’re looking for a good, dark brown here, not a light golden.
When finished, remove shanks and set aside on a plate. Pour out oil, then add 3 TBS more of oil or rendered bacon fat to the pot. Then add carrots, onions, celery and garlic; and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Next, add wine and using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all the caramelized meat juices and continue cooking until wine is reduce by half. Place the shanks in the pan and add enough stock to almost cover them. Add thyme, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and just simmer for about a 1 – 1/4 to 1 – 1/2 hours or until you can pierce the meat easily with a paring knife.
While braising the shanks, make the gremolata which is a traditional garnish used for this dish normally including parsley and some type of citrus often with other ingredients. It adds a nice flavor sparkle to a rich dish such as this. My favorite version is just lemon, parsley and fresh grated horseradish. With a zesting tool, zest the lemon into thin strips. Using a box grater, grate the horseradish medium-fine. Toss zest and horseradish together with chopped parsley: Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Carefully remove the shanks to a serving plate and cover. Strain cooking liquid then return to small sauce pan. Bring to boil and skim off all residual fat that rises to the top. Reduce until slightly thickened or thicken with a cornstarch slurry (equal parts cornstarch and water). Place mashed starch in center of a wide rimmed bowl then top with shank (clip off twine). Heat vegetables in saute pan and sprinkle around dish. Sprinkle gremolata on top of shank and serve with small cocktail fork or spoon to scoop out marrow.