Elegant Osso Buco Recipe
Have you ever tasted pot roast so succulent that it filled your mind with haunting strains of Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra, overwhelming you with the euphoria of a climber who's just reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro? What was that? No, did you say? Then you haven't tasted Italy's famous comfort food osso buco.
What qualifies a dish as "comfort food"? Perhaps it evokes memories of pleasant times past, such as Sunday supper at Grandma’s house. The answer also depends upon where you were raised. In Britain, one might think of a creamy shepherd’s pie, in France a saucy Beef bourguignon and in Italy an osso buco. What do these dishes have in common? All are meaty, robust and flavorful.
What is osso buco? Literally meaning “bone with a hole”, it refers to the marrow hole in the center of the bone. But don’t be intimidated by the exotic-sounding name. Actually a simple meal, it’s very similar to American pot roast in ingredients and method. Both include the following three elements: an inexpensive/tough cut of meat, aromatics and/or vegetables and some type of liquid. And both employ the same foolproof technique for tenderizing a tough cut of meat: braising.
Simply put, braising is a dry and moist heat cooking method familiar to any home cook who has prepared a pot roast. So are you ready to crank up pot roast a notch? Are you ready for a meal that's easy, yet elegant enough to make your guests feel special? Then osso buco is for you!
So how do you prepare osso buco? Start with a shank from a young animal, usually veal or lamb, chosen from the top portion of the thigh where there is a higher proportion of meat to bone. Then add carrots, celery and tomatoes, a few herbs and several glugs of wine and you'll have an unforgettable meal. I highly recommend garnishing with gremolata, a fancy word for a tasty condiment of equal parts lemon peel, garlic and parsley. It's like pot roast on steroids! Before serving, osso buco can be nestled in a pool of risotto, pasta, polenta or my favorite, mashed potatoes.
- Use a thick-walled pot for searing and braising.
- If the lid isn't tight-fitting, line with aluminum foil to prevent loss of cooking liquid.
- Choose shanks 1 ½–2 inches thick, about 8–10 ounces each.
- Allow meat to sit on the counter for about half an hour before searing, so that it returns to room temperature.
- Season with salt and pepper before searing on medium-high.
- The two keys for a perfect sear are: Don’t crowd the meat, and be patient! Sear for about 3 minutes on each side, allowing the sugars to caramelize and a crust to form.
- If you’re concerned about an attractive presentation, tie the meat to the bone. If cooked properly it will be fall-off-the-bone tender.
- If you prefer not to use the oven, simmer shanks on the stovetop. Check periodically to make sure liquid doesn't boil out.
- If you don’t like the sharpness of garlic in the gremolata, substitute orange peel.
- You could also substitute lamb shanks for the veal. If you choose to cook with lamb, substitute white wine for the red wine listed in the recipe.
- Don't forget to enjoy the marrow! Considered a delicacy, it can be scooped out and eaten as-is or spread on bread.
Savory Osso Buco Recipe
- 6 veal shanks, 8–10 ounces each
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup olive or peanut oil
- 2 cups red wine
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 4 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- OR 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon rosemary (dried or fresh), minced
- 1 teaspoon thyme (dried or fresh)
To finish the sauce:
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
For the gremolata:
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
- Zest of one lemon (or strips of lemon peel, minced)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit or 180 celsius.
- Pat veal shanks dry with paper towels. Tie the meat to the bone with twine, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat oil until smoking. Add shanks and brown on all sides. Remove shanks and set aside.
- Add chicken broth and deglaze, scraping up delicious bits of meat. Pour broth into a bowl and reserve.
- Lower heat to medium. Add onions, carrot, celery and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about five minutes.
- Add wine, tomatoes, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme. Season with more salt and pepper. Return browned beef shanks to pot, as well. Add enough of the broth so the liquid covers about 2/3 of the shanks. Reserve the rest of the broth for later use.
- On medium heat, bring shanks to a simmer.
- If the lid isn't tight-fitting, cover pot with aluminum foil and then lid. Place in preheated oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Check meat first at 1 1/2 hours. If not fork-tender, continue checking every half an hour until ready to serve. Keep adding liquid so it always covers shanks 2/3 of the way up.
- While shanks are braising, combine minced parsley, lemon peel and garlic to make the gremolata. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Remove tender shanks from pot, set aside on a plate. Cut off twine and cover shanks with foil.
- Add 1/2 teaspoons oregano to pot and simmer broth/wine until it is reduced slightly. Salt and pepper to taste. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice to brighten the sauce and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
- To serve: spoon mashed potatoes onto a plate or shallow bowl. Top with beef shank, drizzle reduced sauce over the top and finish with a sprinkling of gremolata.
What is your favorite accompaniment for osso buco?
© 2012 Vespa Woolf