Veal Osso Buco
Osso Buco means bone with a hole. It was one of my father's favorite dishes, primarily due to the incredibly rich and flavorful marrow that you can suck out of that hole in the middle of the bone. It's one of my favorite dishes too for the very same reason.
Osso Buco is simply thickly cut veal shank browned in olive oil and then braised in a flavorful liquid with mirepoix (diced onion, carrot and celery). Osso Buco Milanese is the classic preparation, made with just olive oil, mirepoix, garlic, marjoram and/or thyme, wine and stock, and finished with a sprinkling of gremolata (a mix of chopped parsley, crushed garlic, and grated lemon and/or orange peel). Most modern preparations add tomatoes, but I rather like the traditional Northern Italian preparation described here.
I do mess with the traditional (and, of course, significantly) by adding some pan–fried diced pancetta and using the fat rendered from the pancetta instead of olive oil to brown the meat and sauté the vegetables. The pancetta adds a nice salty-sweetness that complements the richness of the veal and stock without overpowering either. Don't substitute American style bacon for pancetta, though, as the smokiness of the bacon will completely overwhelm the subtle flavor of the veal. Of course, a really good dish might be to use this recipe, substituting smoked bacon for the pancetta and beef shank for the veal. Hmmmmmm...
Osso Buco is heavenly (as in to die for and the direction you hope to head after the coronary) served with Risotto Milanese. It also goes great served over a bed of soft polenta. Tonight we served it with just some good crusty sesame covered semolina bread and a side of Cavolo Capuccio alla Sarda (Cabbage Sardinian Style).
Serves four to six adults (one slice of shank per person)
Most supermarkets here in the Northeastern U.S. have offered cut veal shanks in their meat departments for as long as I can remember. If yours doesn't, just ask—that's what those people behind the counter are there for. If you can't get pancetta (or you really want to stick with the traditional recipe), use olive oil to brown the meat, but add some minced anchovies along with the garlic when cooking the mirepoix (don't wince at the fish—whatever fishy flavor there is disappears during the long cooking time leaving saltiness and a depth of flavor you just can't get from, well, salt).
Veal Osso Buco
Braised Veal Shanks
2 thick slices of pancetta, diced (about 1/4 pound at 1/4 inch thick each slice–don't bother if all you can get is the thinly sliced pre-packaged stuff)
1/4 cup olive oil (Only if not using pancetta)
2-1/2 to 3 lbs. Cut Veal Shank (4 to 6 pieces 2-3 inches thick)
1/2 cup diced carrot (approximately one large carrot cut to 1/4 inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced celery (approximately one large stalk of celery cut to 1/4 inch cubes)
1 cup diced onion (approximately one medium onion cut to 1/4 inch pieces)
2 tablespoons (about 4 cloves) chopped garlic
2 anchovy fillets, minced to a paste (Only if not using pancetta)
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 cup Dry white wine 1-2 cups chicken or veal stock (use low–salt if you're using canned) flour for dusting the meat before browning
Salt and Pepper
2 tbs. Minced flat (Italian) parsley
1 tbs. grated lemon zest (or whatever you get from one lemon)
1 tbs. garlic, crushed and minced (about two cloves)
- Turn on the oven to 325°
- Preheat a dutch oven (well seasoned or enameled cast iron is best, but any heavy pan you can cover and put in the oven will do) on the stove top over medium heat for about five minutes.
- Season the veal shank liberally with salt and pepper.
- Add the diced pancetta to the preheated pan, and cook, stirring occasionally so that every piece gets its turn. If you're not using pancetta, add the olive oil to the pan and skip the next step.
- When the pancetta is crispy and most of the fat has rendered (about 5 minutes of cooking), remove the pancetta to a plate covered with some paper towel. If necessary, drain off all but two tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
- Dredge the veal shanks through some flour, shake off any that won't stick like white lint to a black dress, and add the meat to the hot fat in the pan.
- Turn the heat under the dutch oven to medium high and cook the meat on each side until well browned (about 5 minutes per side).Remove the shanks to a plate.
- Add the mirepoix to the dutch oven. Cook the mirepoix, stirring frequently, simply because you really, really want to, until the onions are a bit translucent (about five minutes) and toss in the garlic and thyme (and anchovies if you're not using pancetta). Continue cooking until the vegetables just begin to brown (about 10 minutes).
- Add the shanks back to the pan. Pour in the wine, and then add enough stock or broth to come about half way up the side of the shanks (err on the side of more than half way).
- Cover the pan and put it in the oven to cook until the meat is as tender as the heart of a lovesick cowboy. The more braising time, the more tender the meat. It should take at least one hour, at which point you'll have a fine dish. More time is better, but start paying attention and checking that the liquid's still there after an hour and a half.
- To serve, use a large spoon or a spatula to transfer the shanks to a plate (already covered with some polenta or risotto if you got it) and spoon the sauce (and what may be left of the vegetables) all over and around.
© Copyright 2002, Richard L. Chase
Posted on Oct 27, 2002 @ 08:32 PM
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