Sunday, December 05, 2010

Osso Bucco

I've made Osso Bucco before, but with beef shanks, never with veal. The other day prowling the meat case at the coop, I saw three shiny and beautiful veal shanks sitting there, and so I pounced.

Osso Bucco is braised shanks, a humble cut of meat, and yet there is something celebratory about it. It's no more difficult than any other braise, and if you're having trouble thinking of something yummy to serve for the holidays (that might impress your guests), consider Osso Bucco. You can create your own recipe, in a way - you need to brown and then braise the meat, and you should probably add some vegetables. I braised mine in a mixture of chicken stock and fresh squeezed orange juice, and added sliced fennel and carrots. You can use tomato, wine, stock, any kinds of vegetables, whatever. The point is, brown the meat, cook it in the oven low and slow. Here's a bit more on how I did mine, which were pretty darn tasty, if I say so myself.

I usually season braising meats with salt and pepper at least 24 hours before I plan to cook them, but I didn't do that with this veal. I guess I figured that the meat would be rather delicate, and that I didn't want to over-season it. Veal and beef shanks have a white membrane on the outside that holds everything together. You should use kitchen shears to cut through it in a few places, and then some cooking twine to hold them together. I've skipped that step before, and for some reason the meat curls and twists while braising. It's worth using twine.

Dredge the shanks in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and then brown them on all sides in a heavy bottomed braising pot. Remove the meat, pour out the fat from the pot, and pour in a bit of acidic liquid. I used some orange juice. You can use wine, vinegar, whatever. Scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot, and then add 2-3 cups of liquid - I used a mixture of chicken stock and orange juice. Probably it's best to use veal stock. Good for you if you find veal bones and make veal stock.

Bring the liquid to a boil, add the meat back to the pot, cover with a damp sheet of parchment paper and a tight lid, and into the oven at 300 degrees for an hour. If you want to eat the marrow, turn the meat so the wider end of the bone is facing up.

Then add your vegetables - I used a fennel bulb that I cut into half in slices, and two big carrots. I also added a bay leaf, a few black peppercorns, and a bit of salt. Cover again with damp parchment paper and a tight lid, another hour in the oven, and life should be good. If you're using beef shanks instead of veal, you might add 30 minutes to each cooking segment, by the way.

While the veal was braising with the vegetables, I made a gremolata, a mix of chopped citrus zest, herbs, and garlic. I used orange zest because I used a bunch of oranges for the braising liquid, and I used those wispy fennel tops that look like dill, because I used a fennel bulb in the braise. You could use parsley and lemon zest, whatever you like. I also used just a little bit of garlic, less than a teaspoon, and some salt.

When the veal is as tender as you want it to be, remove it and the vegetables from the pot. Now you decide what you want to do about sauce. I simply turned up the heat on the stove top and cooked down my braising liquid until it was reduced by a bit more than half.

On a bed of rice, with some of the vegetables, the sauce, and topped with gremolata...yum. We spread the marrow on toast too, just because we could. And by the way, although my kids didn't eat it in this form, I shredded some of the leftover meat for them, mixed it with the chopped vegetables and even some gremolata, and they both ate it all up.

What to drink with this dish? I used orange juice and stock, and after reducing like that, there was an unmistakable orange scent to the sauce. I wanted a full bodied white wine, something with plenty of acid to cut through the rich meat, but also something with herbal flavors, maybe, to play with the fennel? Since I have no Italian white wine in the house, I opened a 2005 Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon, $33, Louis/Dressner Selections, which worried me with its alcohol and bulk two years ago, and has not improved, I'm sorry to say. If I could go back in time and prepare better, I'd open a Tocai from Friuli, perhaps by i Clivi.

Osso Bucco, baby! Don't even be a little bit scared, because you should definitely make this dish.


Anonymous said...

My wife used to make the world's best Osso Bucco, but, alas, decided to serve it at a dinner party when she was pregnant with our first. She got nauseous, and I had a sympathetic reaction. We haven't been able to taste Osso Bucco since, but now I'm tempted. Though, I thought the end of the story would be that it provided you with another excuse for drinking barbaresco. I should think it would pair well, but perhaps it's a bit overpowering?

Sean said...

BG!! Your new-found love is the osso bucco bullseye you've been seeking: Nebbiolo & osso bucco, a match made in heaven. I've been all over the map with my osso bucco/Nebbiolo pairings, so essentially any mature bottle you can put your hands on will do, but I'm partial to old-school Barolos from 2000 or earlier.

And for the record, if you find yourself hankering for shanks in the future, pop into Esposito's pork store on Court between Union & President & let them know you need 'em. They'll custom order them for you--gorgeous cuts. Pick up a sweet sopresatta while you're at it--you won't regret it!

jqmunro said...

I love Osso Bucco. Try polenta as a side instead sometime. It's fantastic!

Dean Sorensen said...

Ahh, Ossobucc! I started using beef shank when I couldn't find veal shank. I find that beef shank works well with red wine instead of white. A good Italian red like a Montepulciano adds a heartiness that works well with beef. I love it with a good risotto but a polenta works just as well.

Elements of Cuisine said...

This looks awesome! We love this with rissoto! Thanks for sharing! Miami Catering