Finding Ecstasy in Bones with Holes -
The famous Northern Italian OSSO BUCO (seen also as Osso Bucco), is one of those most revered among regional dishes. This magnificent dish hails from the region of Lombardia. The beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Milan is often given credit for it, and you’ll often find it as OSSO BUCO ALLA MILANESE, reflecting the city’s influence. It is an old dish that dates back to the late 19th century and is one of those peasant dishes that has so much flavor you can literally almost taste it in your dreams. It is a braised meat dish – more specifically a cross cut veal shank that is browned and then simmered for hours, a giving forth a wealth of flavor and offering one of the delicacies of the “Italian Table – the marrow bone.
I first heard of this dish when I was a child after my parents had returned from a trip to Italy. My mother, who had a curiosity and interest in Italian regional food, was especially excited about this recipe. It was not something that her family or my father’s Neapolitan family had made. She enjoyed it in Italy and talked endlessly about it. Ironically, it was one of the first Italian dishes I served to guests shortly after I was married. It is a simple dish, full of simple ingredients, each a singular movement of aromatic splendor, coming together to complete a sonata of flavor that plays on in one’s memory. OSSO BUCO is a triumph!
Strangely, I had not made it in a long while. A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying a beautiful preparation of this dish at the home of our good friends, Peter and Katrina Costa. Katrina’s Osso Buco was so lovely and hit all the right notes which continued to sweetly replay in my mind for days afterward. It brought back so many delicious memories that I knew I had to bring this classic dish to your attention.
Things that make this dish so special: I already mentioned the marrow but it deserves a revisit. Generally the shanks are cut to about 1 1/2 inches revealing a round and generous bone filled with succulent marrow. This marrow mingles with the sauce to give it a rich flavor. In “knowing” restaurants, this dish is served with a special narrow fork that fits perfectly into the “hole in the bone” to dig for the delicious marrow treasure.
The classic technique for the dish is braising – a method seemingly invented for it.The meat is browned and then simmered with an assembly of fresh aromatics. It is one of those recipes that MUST be prepared a day ahead for the flavors to bond. Don’t you love it when that happens?
Each lucky guest receives one veal shank, the perfect size for each person. The shank is topped with gremolata, a fresh mixture of parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and sometimes anchovy. It is sprinkled on top like fairy dust giving the meat and sauce a touch of brightness and beauty.
There are several ways to serve it. Some like it with mashed potatoes – some like pasta. The classic accompaniment, Risotto Alla Milanese, a beautiful gold colored risotto, kissed with saffron and simply prepared, seems almost divinely inspired. This is the way I like it best. Watch for this Risotto recipe here on the blog next week!
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hrs. 15 min.
4 Veal Shanks (shins) cross cut with the bone left in
Flour for dredging with some salt and pepper
3 Tbsp.Olive oil
2 Tbsp. Butter
5 Baby Carrots – chopped finely
1 Stalk Celery – chopped finely
1 onion – chopped finely
3 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely
1 c. Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine
1 Tbsp. Marjoram leaves – chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
6 San Marzano Tomatoes – from the can without juices – tomatoes only chopped coarsely
1/2 c. Chicken Broth
1 Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
A slice of lemon to throw in the pot
Salt & Pepper to taste
Veal shanks ready for this dish can be found in many markets now. If you can’t find them, ask your butcher to get them for you.
*Make this dish one day ahead.
Dredge the shanks in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
Brown the shanks in the oil and butter – a couple of minutes each side. Then remove the meat to a platter and reserve.
In the same pot, cook the chopped carrots, celery, and onion for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook another minute being careful not to burn it.
Place the veal shanks back in the pot on top of the vegetables and add the wine, scraping the bits off of the bottom.
Add the herbs to the pot.
Chop the tomatoes coarsely with a knife and fork, and add them to the pot. Mix them in.
Pour in the chicken broth and add the squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the lemon slice.
Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. A couple of times during the cooking process, carefully turn the veal shanks over in the sauce.
When finished, cool and put the pot into the refrigerator until the next day. Before serving heat on top of the stove or in the oven.
Serve one veal shank per person with a sprinkle of Gremolata. Some like to mix the Gremolata into the sauce. This is fine but sprinkling it on the top makes for a prettier presentation.
Mix together and sprinkle on top of each serving:
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely
1/2 c. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped
1-2 Anchovy fillets – chopped finely
The OSSO BUCO can actually be served with either white or red wine depending on your preference. If you choose white, select something dry like a Langhe Arneis. My personal preference is the red – an Amarone Valpolicella Ripassa, or Barbera d’Alba. All of these wines are from the North, where this dish originates, and any one of them would be a match made in heaven for this beautiful dish.
Watch for the next recipe “RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE” – If ever a dish had a soul mate, this one is it!
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography