To ALL my Osso Buco Lovers out there, this one’s for YOU!
I have rarely heard the comment, “I don’t like Osso Buco”. In fact, I have NEVER heard it and I will safely assume it is because Osso Buco can be made with ANY meat that needs to be slow cooked in a delicious array of vegetables, herbs, wine, and broth…hence my conclusion.
The first time I had this mouth-watering dish was with my Italian family in the mountains of Piedmont. Autumn was coming quickly and the air was changing from the warm summer days and nights to the crisp, cool, and, damper days of fall.
I can remember the excursion like it was yesterday….we had gone to see the original house of my relatives high in the mountains of Northern Italy. Most of the day had been spent trekking through tough terrain and rainy spells but the magic of standing in the stone house with 2 rooms and a root cellar and knowing where my ancestors had grown up made every challenge worth it.
After we wandered around the home and heard the stories from the elders who could remember the history and family memories, we were invited to the neighbor’s home for an evening of dinner and hopefully many more conversations of by gone days, at least, I hoped.
When we arrived, the aroma in the air of braised meat in the wood oven for hours, took over my senses and I was intoxicated. It was something I had never experienced and obviously something I will never forget.
As we visited and shared an aperitif, I just savored the enjoyment of the perfume in the air and the suspense of the surprise was heightening the fun of the evening as we talked more about my relatives and the history of the valley.
Finally, the dining moment arrived and we sat down on a beautiful, rustic table set with a mixture of family heirlooms, each one with its own story. I watched through the door to the kitchen as the host assembled the dish that had my senses so entranced.
First she ladled a beautiful mound of risotto Milanese, so golden in color it almost didn’t look real, and resting beautifully on top was a thick, oval piece of deeply braised meat covered in a shimmering dark red sauce. My mouth was watering as I watched the final touch of fresh parsley, lemon zest, and garlic flutter over the top. I had just witnessed the ensemble of my first Osso Buco.
And so there it was, a beautiful medley of perfection being served on a family heirloom plate with many stories and memories of the valley of my ancestors……
- For Osso Buco;
- 6 - 1-1/4 inch-thick beef or veal shanks
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup all-purpose flour for dredging
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 1 28-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped, juices reserved
- 1 cup low-salt chicken broth, more if needed
- 1 large sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- For Gremolata:
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- finely grated lemon zest of 2 lemons
- For Risotto Milanese:
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
- kosher salt
- 2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 2 large pinches saffron
- 4 cups chicken stock, kept HOT
- 1 to 1½ cups dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- pinch of turmeric, put in rice
- For Osso Buco:
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Tie the shanks around the middle with kitchen string (if they’re not tied already) and season them with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a dish. Dredge the shanks very lightly in flour, thoroughly shaking off the excess.
- Have ready a dutch oven or baking dish large enough to hold the shanks in a single layer (9x13-inch works well). In a large heavy skillet, heat 3 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Put three shanks in the pan and sear until nicely browned on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Move the shanks to the roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining three shanks.
- Carefully pour off the fat in the pan and wipe it out with paper towels (it’s fine if the browned bits remain in the pan bottom; just wipe away the used oil). Return the pan to medium heat and add the butter and remaining 1 Tbs. of oil. When the butter is melted, add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, oregano, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and cook, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon, until the wine is reduced to about ¼ cup, about 3 minutes
- Stir in the tomato paste. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the broth, thyme, bay leaf, ½ tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, and pour the contents of the pan over the shanks. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. (If using dutch oven, keep in same pan)
- Braise the veal in the oven until fork-tender, 1-1/2 hours, checking the liquid occasionally. If it has cooked down, add enough broth to keep the level about halfway up the shanks. To check for doneness, pierce a shank with a fork. The meat should pull apart easily. Taste a morsel—it should feel soft and tender. Do not overcook, or the shanks will fall apart.
- Gently brush most of the vegetable bits off the shanks. With a wide, flat metal spatula, carefully transfer the veal shanks to a dish. Strain the pan juices through a medium-mesh sieve into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids with a spatula to extract as much sauce as you can. Bring the sauce to a simmer
- Just before finishing the sauce and serving, combine the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest. Add two Tbs. of the gremolata to the sauce. Remove the strings from the shanks. Serve the osso buco over risotto milanese and topped with the sauce and a small sprinkling of the remaining gremolata
- For Risotto Milanese:
- Coat a large saucepan generously with olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and sweat them until translucent, about 5 minutes. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, letting the rice slightly stick to the bottom of the pan and scraping it off. It should also sound crackly.
- Add the saffron to the hot chicken stock; the stock should turn bright yellow.
- Add the wine to the pan until it covers the surface of the rice. Season with salt and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the wine has absorbed into the rice. Add the saffron chicken stock, 1cup at a time, to the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the stock has absorbed into the rice. Repeat this process with the hot saffron chicken stock.
- When the third addition of the stock has absorbed and the rice is very creamy, bite a couple grains of rice to be sure it is cooked perfectly. If it is still a little crunchy, add a little more stock and cook the rice for another couple of minutes. When the rice is cooked perfectly, remove it from the heat. (Want it al-dente)
- Toss in the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano and "whip it”. The rice should be creamy but still flow and hold its own shape.