I dunno about your part of the world, but over here in Tokyo it’s getting chilly and with my dutch ovens back in the kitchen, I’ve been busy warming the house with soups, stews, and braises. Last week I found these glorious veal shanks at my local butcher and I knew the instant I saw them that I had to make some Osso Buco.
Osso Buco literally translates to “bone hole” referring to the marrow filled leg bones used in the eponymous dish. When prepared properly it’s a carnivore’s delight with a wreath of tender, flavorful meat encircling a ring of bone, that’s filled with buttery marrow. Served atop a bed of Risotto alla Milanese it’s not just a striking contrast of vibrant fall colors, the creamy saffron risotto makes for a perfect foil to absorb the flavors from the savory sauce and braised meat.
While braised shank meat and bone marrow with a cheese infused rice may sound pretty substantial, it’s not nearly as cloying as it sounds, thanks in part to the vegetable laden sauce, as well as a culinary sleight-of-hand. “What form of edible sorcery is this” you ask? It’s called gremolata, and it’s what takes this dish from good to great. Parsley, lemons and garlic may not seem all that special on their own, but when you combine them into a gremolata, it forms a visually stimulating trinity that effectively lightens the taste of the dish with its herbaceous, vibrant and pungent flavors.
When braising a sinuous cut of meat it may be tempting to keep it simmering until all of the collagen breaks down into buttery gelatin. Usually referred to as “fall off the bone tender” this IS NOT how you want your Osso Buco. That’s because it’s the connective tissues that hold the meat to bone. If you braise it too long, you’ll just end up with a Ragù alla Napoletana. Worse yet, all the fat in the marrow will render out into the sauce, depriving you of the best part of this dish. That’s why I like to pull the pot from the oven once the meat is tender enough to eat, but while it still has enough structure to hold itself together. The resulting shank has a marvelous supple texture that’s tender, yet meaty enough to be satisfying.
for Osso Buco
- Put your oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 325 degrees F (160 C).
- Generously salt and pepper the veal shanks on both sides and then dust with the flour. You can tie some string around each shank to help hold it together if you want.
- Place a heavy bottomed pot(such as a dutch oven) that's large enough to accommodate all the shanks in a single layer, over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and then add the veal shanks in a single layer.
- Fry on one side until browned (about 5 minutes), then flip and fry the other side until browned. Transfer the shanks to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onions, carrot and celery to the pot. Turn down the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and steam the vegetables for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and turn up to the heat, stirring constantly until the vegetables start to brown.
- Add the white wine, chicken stock, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf and cloves and then return the shanks along with any collected juices back to the pot, cover with the lid slightly ajar and place the pot in the oven.
- Cook the shanks until they are tender when prodded with a fork, but not so tender that they fall apart (about 2 hours).
- Meanwhile make the gremolata by adding the parsley and garlic to a bowl and then use a Microplane to add the zest from the lemon. Stir to combine and keep refrigerated until the Osso Buco is done.
- Serve the Osso Buco with pasta or risotto covered with a generous sprinkle of gremolata.